World Population Day: The Centrality of Family Planning

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”. 


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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  • invalid-0

    More human lives are never a problem. Environmental doom-mongering and sustainable orthodoxies across Western institutions and public life have succeeded in turning a cause for celebration into a horror story. Thankfully there are humanists who are not prepared to let the UN World Population Day remain unchallenged. Don’t let the UN exploit the issues of girl child education, family planning and women’s health to support the notion that there are too many people on this planet. Check out this video at , made by young volunteers at the feisty UK charity WORLDwrite, for some sober discussion of why celebrating more human life on the planet is an essential demand for humanists today. Three Cheers for 7 billion

  • invalid-0

    Well said, Jane! Look forward to being in touch.

  • crowepps

    Considering that we are running out of air, water, food, space, other animals, and patience with each other, your idea of a ‘celebration’ may turn into a funeral for humanity.


    80% of that 7 billion make less than $3,700 a year.  16% of that 7 billion people are hungry.  42 million children die annually.  The planet isn’t going anywhere, but we may have already irrevocably changed our environment so that we won’t be around.

  • invalid-0

    per the: Journal of the American Enterprise Institute Stephen Moore “Guess Who Really Pays The Taxes” Nov/Dec 2007

    in the U.S the top 1% of earners earn 19% of the income but they pay 37% of the taxes

    Let’s assume crowepps stats are correct. If the rest of the world taxed that way there wouldn’t be anywhere near those numbers of people living with poverty, hunger or high childhood mortality. A big part of the problem in the third world is corruption in the third world.

    I’d also like to point out another factor that should be considered in light of the family planning that is now available. China is a radical example but its also a quarter of the world’s population. The vast majority of Chinese people under 29 have one mother, one father and no brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles or first cousins to help them care for four aging grandparents. So, elder care is going to become a major human rights issue over the course of the next few decades. First in China then Europe and other parts of the world failing to replace themselves in the next generation.

  • crowepps

    It’s true that extended family has been the traditional caregivers for the elderly, however how well did that actually work in the past?  Usually the care of the elderly was dumped on one of the daughters, who had to sacrifice her own health and wealth to do that care, and who was never repaid for doing so once the parents had died.  In addition, there were recurrent problems with elder abuse.  Perhaps its time for society as a whole to care for society as a whole, instead of demanding all the sacrifice be made by daughters?

  • invalid-0

    I have no problem with that and I certainly never demanded that all (or any) sacrifices be made by daughters. In fact that would be almost totally unrealistic in China. They’ve been aborting their daughters in phenominal numbers since at least 1980 so they are not there to do it anyway and if they are, they are probably caring for more than one elderly relative anyway.. The elder care issue will still need to be adressed somehow though.