Toolkit for Women


Current and Upcoming Issues

UN Documents

Other Intergovernmental Forums

NGO Documents

Other Major Groups Documents

News & Information

Good Practices



Networking Opportunities













International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)

[ Back to Population Summit ]
[ Previous Chapter ]    [ Next Chapter ]

Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development

Chapter 1 : Preamble

1.1. The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development occurs at a defining moment in the history of international cooperation. With the growing recognition of global population, development and environmental interdependence, the opportunity to adopt suitable macro- and socio-economic policies to promote sustained economic growth in the context of sustainable development in all countries and to mobilize human and financial resources for global problem- solving has never been greater. Never before has the world community had so many resources, so much knowledge and such powerful technologies at its disposal which, if suitably redirected, could foster sustained economic growth and sustainable development. None the less, the effective use of resources, knowledge and technologies is conditioned by political and economic obstacles at the national and international levels. Therefore, although ample resources have been available for some time, their use for socially equitable and environmentally sound development has been seriously limited.                                                 [ UP ]

1.2. The world has undergone far-reaching changes in the past two decades. Significant progress in many fields important for human welfare has been made through national and international efforts. However, the developing countries are still facing serious economic difficulties and an unfavourable international economic environment, and the number of people living in absolute poverty has increased in many countries. Around the world many of the basic resources on which future generations will depend for their survival and well-being are being depleted and environmental degradation is intensifying, driven by unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, unprecedented growth in population, widespread and persistent poverty, and social and economic inequality. Ecological problems, such as global climate change, largely driven by unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, are adding to the threats to the well-being of future generations. There is an emerging global consensus on the need for increased international cooperation in regard to population in the context of sustainable development, for which Agenda 21 1/ provides a framework. Much has been achieved in this respect, but more needs to be done.

1.3. The world population is currently estimated at 5.6 billion. While the rate of growth is on the decline, absolute increments have been increasing, currently exceeding 86 million persons per annum. Annual population increments are likely to remain above 86 million until the year 2015. 2/

1.4. During the remaining six years of this critical decade, the world's nations by their actions or inactions will choose from among a range of alternative demographic futures. The low, medium and high variants of the United Nations population projections for the coming 20 years range from a low of 7.1 billion people to the medium variant of 7.5 billion and a high of 7.8 billion. The difference of 720 million people in the short span of 20 years exceeds the current population of the African continent. Further into the future, the projections diverge even more significantly. By the year 2050, the United Nations projections range from 7.9 billion to the medium variant of 9.8 billion and a high of 11.9 billion. Implementation of the goals and objectives contained in the present 20-year Programme of Action, which address many of the fundamental population, health, education and development challenges facing the entire human community, would result in world population growth during this period and beyond at levels below the United Nations medium projection.                                                          [ UP ]

1.5. The International Conference on Population and Development is not an isolated event. Its Programme of Action builds on the considerable international consensus that has developed since the World Population Conference at Bucharest in 1974 3/ and the International Conference on Population at Mexico City in 1984, 4/ to consider the broad issues of and interrelationships between population, sustained economic growth and sustainable development, and advances in the education, economic status and empowerment of women. The 1994 Conference was explicitly given a broader mandate on development issues than previous population conferences, reflecting the growing awareness that population, poverty, patterns of production and consumption and the environment are so closely interconnected that none of them can be considered in isolation.

1.6. The International Conference on Population and Development follows and builds on other important recent international activities, and its recommendations should be supportive of, consistent with and based on the agreements reached at the following:

(a) The World Conference to Review and Appraise the Achievements of the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality, Development and Peace, held in Nairobi in 1985; 5/

(b) The World Summit for Children, held in New York in 1990; 6/

(c) The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992; 7/

(d) The International Conference on Nutrition, held in Rome in 1992; 8/

(e) The World Conference on Human Rights, held in Vienna in 1993; 9/

(f) The International Year of the World's Indigenous People, 1993, 10/ which would lead to the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People; 11/

(g) The Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, held in Barbados in 1994; 12/

(h) The International Year of the Family, 1994. 13/

1.7. The Conference outcomes are closely related to and will make significant contributions to other major conferences in 1995 and 1996, such as the World Summit for Social Development, 14/ the Fourth World Conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace, 15/ the Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), the elaboration of the Agenda for Development, as well as the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations. These events are expected to highlight further the call of the 1994 Conference for greater investment in people, and for a new action agenda for the empowerment of women to ensure their full participation at all levels in the social, economic and political lives of their communities.

1.8. Over the past 20 years, many parts of the world have undergone remarkable demographic, social, economic, environmental and political change. Many countries have made substantial progress in expanding access to reproductive health care and lowering birth rates, as well as in lowering death rates and raising education and income levels, including the educational and economic status of women. While the advances of the past two decades in areas such as increased use of contraception, decreased maternal mortality, implemented sustainable development plans and projects and enhanced educational programmes provide a basis for optimism about successful implementation of the present Programme of Action, much remains to be accomplished. The world as a whole has changed in ways that create important new opportunities for addressing population and development issues. Among the most significant are the major shifts in attitude among the world's people and their leaders in regard to reproductive health, family planning and population growth, resulting, inter alia, in the new comprehensive concept of reproductive health, including family planning and sexual health, as defined in the present Programme of Action. A particularly encouraging trend has been the strengthening of political commitment to population-related policies and family-planning programmes by many Governments. In this regard, sustained economic growth in the context of sustainable development will enhance the ability of countries to meet the pressures of expected population growth; will facilitate the demographic transition in countries where there is an imbalance between demographic rates and social, economic and environmental goals; and will permit the balance and integration of the population dimension into other development- related policies.                                                                                     [ UP ]

1.9. The population and development objectives and actions of the present Programme of Action will collectively address the critical challenges and interrelationships between population and sustained economic growth in the context of sustainable development. In order to do so, adequate mobilization of resources at the national and international levels will be required as well as new and additional resources to the developing countries from all available funding mechanisms, including multilateral, bilateral and private sources. Financial resources are also required to strengthen the capacity of national, regional, subregional and international institutions to implement this Programme of Action.

1.10. The two decades ahead are likely to produce a further shift of rural populations to urban areas as well as continued high levels of migration between countries. These migrations are an important part of the economic transformations occurring around the world, and they present serious new challenges. Therefore, these issues must be addressed with more emphasis within population and development policies. By the year 2015, nearly 56 per cent of the global population is expected to live in urban areas, compared to under 45 per cent in 1994. The most rapid rates of urbanization will occur in the developing countries. The urban population of the developing regions was just 26 per cent in 1975, but is projected to rise to 50 per cent by 2015. This change will place enormous strain on existing social services and infrastructure, much of which will not be able to expand at the same rate as that of urbanization.

1.11. Intensified efforts are needed in the coming 5, 10 and 20 years, in a range of population and development activities, bearing in mind the crucial contribution that early stabilization of the world population would make towards the achievement of sustainable development. The present Programme of Action addresses all those issues, and more, in a comprehensive and integrated framework designed to improve the quality of life of the current world population and its future generations. The recommendations for action are made in a spirit of consensus and international cooperation, recognizing that the formulation and implementation of population-related policies is the responsibility of each country and should take into account the economic, social and environmental diversity of conditions in each country, with full respect for the various religious and ethical values, cultural backgrounds and philosophical convictions of its people, as well as the shared but differentiated responsibilities of all the world's people for a common future.

1.12. The present Programme of Action recommends to the international community a set of important population and development objectives, as well as qualitative and quantitative goals that are mutually supportive and of critical importance to these objectives. Among these objectives and goals are: sustained economic growth in the context of sustainable development; education, especially for girls; gender equity and equality; infant, child and maternal mortality reduction; and the provision of universal access to reproductive health services, including family planning and sexual health.                                                              [ UP ]

1.13. Many of the quantitative and qualitative goals of the present Programme of Action clearly require additional resources, some of which could become available from a reordering of priorities at the individual, national and international levels. However, none of the actions required - nor all of them combined - is expensive in the context of either current global development or military expenditures. A few would require little or no additional financial resources, in that they involve changes in lifestyles, social norms or government policies that can be largely brought about and sustained through greater citizen action and political leadership. But to meet the resource needs of those actions that do require increased expenditures over the next two decades, additional commitments will be required on the part of both developing and developed countries. This will be particularly difficult in the case of some developing countries and some countries with economies in transition that are experiencing extreme resource constraints.

1.14. The present Programme of Action recognizes that over the next 20 years Governments are not expected to meet the goals and objectives of the International Conference on Population and Development single-handedly. All members of and groups in society have the right, and indeed the responsibility, to play an active part in efforts to reach those goals. The increased level of interest manifested by non-governmental organizations, first in the context of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development and the World Conference on Human Rights, and now in these deliberations, reflects an important and in many places rapid change in the relationship between Governments and a variety of non-governmental institutions. In nearly all countries new partnerships are emerging between government, business, non-governmental organizations and community groups, which will have a direct and positive bearing on the implementation of the present Programme of Action.

1.15. While the International Conference on Population and Development does not create any new international human rights, it affirms the application of universally recognized human rights standards to all aspects of population programmes. It also represents the last opportunity in the twentieth century for the international community to collectively address the critical challenges and interrelationships between population and development. The Programme of Action will require the establishment of common ground, with full respect for the various religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds. The impact of this Conference will be measured by the strength of the specific commitments made here and the consequent actions to fulfil them, as part of a new global partnership among all the world's countries and peoples, based on a sense of shared but differentiated responsibility for each other and for our planetary home.

[ UP ]

[ Previous Chapter ]    [ Next Chapter ]


[ Home ]          [ E-mail ]          [ Site Map ]

Go to UNED Forum