World Population Day: The Centrality of Family Planning

Jane Roberts

Family planning has finally come to the forefront of worldwide discussions on  population, development, poverty, the environment, and peace.

July 11, 2009 is World Population Day. Family planning has finally come to the forefront of worldwide discussions on population, development, poverty, the environment, and peace. Women’s intimate link to all of these questions has also taken center stage.



On the home page of the United Nations Population Fund we find 3 articles: “Family Planning in Kenya: Not for Women Only”, “The Unfinished Agenda of Family Planning”, and Family Planning and Reproductive Health Have Fallen Off Global Development Radar—World Bank, UNFPA”.  We also see that from June 30 through July 2 in New York, there was an “Expert Group” meeting on “Reducing Inequities: Ensuring Universal Access to Family Planning”. 

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Thoraya Obaid” “Providing voluntary family planning services is a cost effective intervention that must be prioritized. Family planning alone can reduce maternal mortality by 25-40 percent and result in government savings in the long run.  Each additional dollar invested in contraceptive services will save up to $4 in cost on maternal and newborn health and up to $31 in social spending such as housing, sanitation, education.”


On May 24, The Times of London carried a headline “Billionaire Club in bid to curb Overpopulation.” Convened by Bill Gates and including David Rockefeller, Jr., Warren Buffett, George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, Ted Turner, and Oprah Winfrey, the meeting 

seemed to reach a consensus that their wealth could be used to slow the growth of the world’s population and speed up improvements in health and education.


The year 2009 is the fifteenth anniversary of the ICPD (International Conference on Population and Development) where universal access to reproductive health including family planning were enshrined as human rights. From the UNFPA web site: “The Cairo Consensus placed individual human beings at the very heart of the development process. It argued that if needs for family planning and reproductive health care are met, along with other basic health and education services, then population stabilization will occur naturally, not as a matter of coercion or control.  And it made commitments for meeting those needs, so that individuals would have genuine choices about the spacing, timing and number of their children.”

The Cairo Consensus has been more honored in the breech than in the implementation. The current global economic downturn has exacerbated the difficulties of both target and donor countries to prioritize women and their empowerment. The ability to choose whether and when to have children is at the very core of women’s full participation in the life of their communities, countries, and world.

On this World Population Day let us rejoice that FAMILY PLANNING is taking center stage in the conversation. Let us renew out commitment to promises made. When the world takes care of women, women take care of the world.

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