United Nations International Conference on Population and Development

In September 1994, the UN International Conference on Population and Development met in Cairo, Egypt, and agreed on a strategy for stabilizing the world's population at 7.27 billion no later than 2015.

The 20 year "program of action" accepted by over 150 countries aims to avoid population growth and environmental consequences of that growth.

Called "theCairo Plan", the plan first discounts the term "population control" (emphasizing coercive means and quotas) and instead (for the first time) gives support for policies that give women greater control over their lives, promotes economic equality and opportunity and giving them a greater voice in reproduction decisions.  The plan recognized that population growth needs a program that increases the educational, economic and policitcal rights of women.  This in turn leads women to want fewer children.  It thus makes women partners in economic development.

What made this conference so special, and different, from earlier population conferences (Bucharest in 1974 and Mexico City in 1984) was that earlier conferences did not fully address the issues of gender equality, opportunity, education and political rights.

Earlier conferences carefully avoided or even excluded abortion as an acceptable method of family planning.  In Cairo, the discussion of abortion was more openly discussed.  There were many debates and many objections (notably by the Vatican and many Muslim and Latin American states) to include abortion as part of health care and to include language suggesting approval of sexual relations outside of marriage.  At the end of the conference however, the Vatican endorsed the declaration's principles of the family being the "basic unit of society", the need to encourage economic growth and promote gender equality.

The plan assumes a tripling of the amount of money spent on population stabilization between 1994 to 2000 (from $5 to $17 billion).  It expects about $5.7 billion to come from donor countries.  It also expects that countries with existing successful programs comibing family planing, education and economic opportunites for women share their expertise.  The World Bank and the U.S. Agency for International Development (A.I.D.) propose starting programs that include health, educational and loan progrmas for women.  The U.S. Congress appoved $585 million for population aid in 1995.

(source: "Human Geography: Landscapes of Human Activity" 5th edition, by Fellmann, Getis and Getis 1997, p. 115)