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UNFPA Releases the State of the World Population 2004

In September, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) released it’s annual The State of World Population entitled The Cairo Consensus at Ten: Population, Reproductive Health and the Global Effort to End Poverty. This year’s State of World Population is part of an international collaborative effort to examine the progress countries have made in implementing the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo 20-year Programme of Action (Programme of Action), the obstacles they have encountered, and the needs that remain unmet.

Broad in scope and rich in detail, the State of the World Population provides a clear picture of a wide range of related issues including population and poverty, migration and urbanization, adolescents and young people, and reproductive health for communities in crisis. In addition to providing up-to-date research on statistics and trends, the report provides analysis as well as policy and programming recommendations and models.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic is a major topic. UNFPA states that there are approximately 38 million people living with HIV/AIDS, over 20 million people have died, and in the hardest-hit countries the pandemic is reversing decades of development gains. Furthermore, "despite expanding prevention activities, some 5 million new infections are occurring each year."1

The report goes on to document challenges in HIV prevention. In particular, the report addresses women’s disproportionate vulnerability-much publicized by advocates worldwide-as the crux of a successful prevention strategy. It explains that immediate interventions as well as broad social changes are needed to ensure women’s ability to protect themselves. Among other recommendations, UNFPA calls on governments and the world community to "ensure that adolescent girls and women have the knowledge and means to prevent HIV infection through advocacy campaigns that convey basic facts about women’s heightened physiological vulnerability and dispel harmful myths and stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity, warn that marriage does not necessarily offer protection from HIV transmission, and involve both young men and women in promoting sexual and reproductive health."2

UNFPA also asserts that linking HIV and reproductive health services is a crucial component of effective intervention. The report profiles the following successful merge of HIV-prevention and family planning programming: "A project in Lusaka, Zambia, that provides condoms for HIV prevention recently expanded to offer other contraceptives requested by clients, because family planning services were inadequate. Condom use remained high. In fact, programme staff found that users of other types of contraception were more likely to use condoms as well, and that condom users were twice as likely to start using other forms of contraception when offered. ‘All we had to do to increase contraceptive use was to make it easy to get,’ said the director of the project."3

According to UNFPA and many advocates, however, successful interventions require resources and political leadership, and both are in severely short supply. Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA’s executive director, says, "More than 80% of developing countries say that available resources do not meet their reproductive health needs, yet donor countries have given only about half the amount that they agreed would be needed to implement the Programme of Action-$3.1 billion a year rather than the $6.1 billion a year pledged by 2005. Though more prosperous developing countries are paying their own way-devoting an estimated $11.7 billion a year to the plan-the poorest nations depend mainly on donor funding for their family planning, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS and research and policy needs."4

Regretably, the United States is among those countries falling behind in both funding and political will. To this end, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) applauded the State of the World Population and criticized recent U.S. failures to contribute to the advancement of the Programme Action. The Congresswoman argued, "the facts are clear: under the current Administration, the United States, which helped broker the historic consensus reached in Cairo 10 years ago, has become a barrier to progress for the world’s women…President Bush and the Republican Congress have gutted funding for international family planning, and every year we have to fight just to keep funding from disappearing altogether. We are spending $100 million less today on international family planning programs than we did in 1995, and the erosion of U.S. leadership has been significant. Beyond funding, on policy after policy, this Administration has demonstrated that it is no friend to the world’s women."

Complete State of the World Population report.


  1. State of the World Population 2004, p. 63 (New York: United Nations Population Fund, (UNFPA), 2004).
  2. State of the World Population 2004, p. 64, citing UNAIDS, United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), and UNFPA, Women and AIDS, Confronting the Crisis (July 2000).
  3. State of the World Population 2004, p. 67.
  4. Statement by Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA Executive Director, Launch of The State of World Population 2004 Report, (London: Sept. 15, 2004). Available online.