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World Population Day 2012: Focus on reproductive rights

arton4018In 1989, in its decision 89/46, the Governing Council of the UNDP recommended that 11 July should be observed by the international community as World Population Day, in order to bring awareness about population growth and related issues. Under the theme “Universal Access to Reproductive Health Services,” World Population Day 2012 was observed.

All around the world, including by the UNFPA and its national partners, activities and campaigns were organized in order to lobby for international attention to the essential part that reproductive health plays in creating a just and equitable world.Activities ranged from exhibitions, essay contests and TV and radio programmes and debates, to poster and billboard campaigns, underscoring the need for universal access to reproductive health services, especially voluntary family planning.

The vision of UNFPA is to see a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. The world population has drastically increased from around 2 billion in 1950 to over 7 billion in 2012, and currently about 1.8 billion young people are entering their reproductive years, often without the knowledge, skills and services they need to protect themselves. “More than 200 million women and adolescent girls have no access to contraceptives, and voluntary family planning programmes are starved for resources almost everywhere,” said the UN Secretary-General in his message for World Population Day 2012.

In UNFPA’s message for World Population Day, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA Executive Director, stated that family planning was a basic human right. Meeting the reproductive health needs of the 222 million women who want to delay or avoid pregnancy but have no access to modern contraceptives would help prevent 21 million unplanned births, 79,000 maternal deaths and 1.1 million infant deaths. The World Health Organization estimates that maternal deaths could be cut by a third if all women wishing to avoid future pregnancies had access to effective contraception. In particular, unmarried, young, poor, migrant and rural women often have no access to family planning counseling and services.

This year’s World Population Day went along with the London Summit on Family Planning. As part of this effort, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation partnered up with the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and various other donors to launch a US$4.6 billion initiative to make modern contraception available to 120 million poor women over the next 8 years, mainly in Africa and South Asia. This funding includes US$2 billion from developing countries and US$2.6 billion from donor governments and other partners, whose initial target was US$2.3 billion. In a PR campaign for the initiative, Melinda Gates appeared on CNN clarifying that this was not an attempt at population control by any means. “Deciding about a family is a decision that needs to be made inside of a family. The population is coming down in countries where there’s widespread access to contraceptives, but you’ve got to start at the bottom up,” said Gates.


This article is also available in Spanish and in French.


Photo credits
© UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

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