|United Nations Association of Greater Oklahoma City
|United Nations Association of the USA
Greater Oklahoma City Chapter
P.O. Box 60856
Oklahoma City, OK 73146-0856
The UN, Population,
and Reproductive Health
How the UN Population Fund Saves Lives, Promotes
Women's Health, and Supports Human Rights
-- The Damage Caused by Destructive Myths
-- What You Can Do To Help
If you've ever seen the Nova episode titled "A Walk to Beautiful," you
know a little about the difficult circumstances of women in developing
countries who have poor access to health care. As described on the
science program's website, the episode tells "...a powerful story of
healing and hope for women in Ethiopia devastated by childbirth injuries."
The injuries are called obstetric fistulas, and they are very rare in the
United States or wherever modern medical care is easily accessible. But, in many places (see the map), a fistula
is a life-shattering complication that can result in hopelessness and shame.
Thankfully, the problem is being addressed by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and an array of governmental
and non-governmental agencies. Fistulas can be corrected surgically with about a 90% success rate. Just as
importantly, prevention programs can be quite effective.
Prevention efforts focus on several
strategies -- like training midwives and
expanding the availability of reproductive
healthcare. In some places, it is important to
have educational campaigns focused on child
marriage -- since fistulas and other
complications of birth occur more
frequently in mothers who are very young.
The UNFPA launched the Campaign to
End Fistula (www.endfistula.org) in 2003.
It is just one of the initiatives that fall within
the scope of UNFPA's work around the
About the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). The UN Population Fund has a broad mandate. The agency began
operations in 1969 in response to the effects of the sharply rising human population -- about 3.5 billion at the
time. From the beginning, the promotion of voluntary family planning activities has been high on the UNFPA's
list of priorities. Data collection and research is another essential function. The agency is highly regarded as a
source of information on global population, the state of women's health, the spread of HIV, etc.
Today, according to its website, the agency has
three core areas of focus:
<> Reproductive health;
<> Gender equality; and
<> Population and development strategies.
A quick review of the UNFPA's annual report
for 2010 shows that the agency has an annual
budget of about $800 million. More than 100
nations pledged support -- from Afghanistan to
Zambia -- making it one of the most widely supported of the UN's specialized agencies. The United States
contributed about 7.5% of the UNFPA's resources. The largest donor nations were Netherlands, Sweden,
Norway, and the United Kingdom.
UNFPA operates under an internationally agreed-upon framework
(the ICPD Programme of Action) with a stated goal of assuring
"...that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and that
they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if,
when and how often to do so.”
Nearly half of the UNFPA's program resources are budgeted for
reproductive health services, including family planning services.
UNFPA and Human Rights.
Early in its history, the UN Population Fund came under criticism from left-and right-wing activists for what
they perceived to be an agenda that limited reproductive choice. The UNFPA was falsely accused of pursuing
an agenda of coercive population control, sometimes with racial or religious overtones.
In 1994, partly in response to these claims, the UN convened the
International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo,
Egypt. The conference was fashioned in the best UN tradition of open-
ness. Some 20,000 delegates attended from various governments, UN
agencies, NGOs, and the media.
The conference offered an opportunity for the world to discuss a
variety of population issues -- including immigration, infant mortality,
birth control, family planning, the education of women, and protection for women from unsafe abortion services.
Although there was some controversy surrounding the conference, the delegates were able to achieve consensus
on four goals:
(1) Supporting universal primary education, with an emphasis on better opportunities for girls and women;
(2) A reduction of infant and child mortality;
(3) A reduction of maternal mortality; and
(4) Greater access to reproductive and sexual health services.
A lengthy summary of the ICPD Programme of Action can be found
on the internet HERE.
As summarized more briefly on Wikipedia, the delegates agreed that
reproductive health services should include: "...Family-planning counseling, pre-natal care, safe delivery and
post-natal care, prevention and appropriate treatment of infertility, prevention of abortion and the management
of the consequences of abortion, treatment of reproductive tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases and
other reproductive health conditions; and education, counseling, as appropriate, on human sexuality,
reproductive health and responsible parenthood. Services regarding HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, infertility, and
delivery should be made available. Active discouragement of female
genital mutilation (FGM)."
Today, the UNFPA defines itself as "an international development
agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to
enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity...."
The emphasis on human rights is intentional, and it is reflected in the
UNFPA's core areas of focus.
The UNFPA recognizes that population dynamics -- growth rates, age
structure, fertility and mortality, etc. -- are powerfully affected by
reproductive health and women's empowerment. When girls and
women have control over their reproductive choices (and when they
have the support of a good health system), they are more likely to delay
their decision to start a family. The overall result is lower birth rates
and a more sustainable level of human population.
As explained on the UNFPA website: "The three core areas of our work -- reproductive health, gender equality,
and population and development strategies -- are inextricably related."
Myths About the UN Population Fund.
Even though the mission, history, purpose, and
activities of the UN Population Fund are well-
documented (with oversight provided by a 36-
member executive board), there are persistent
rumors that circulate about the UNFPA.
A cottage industry of conspiracy theorists has
sprung up to engender fear about the United
Nations in general and the UNFPA in particular.
In the fantasies of these critics, the UN is allied
with a variety of secret organizations in a plot to
"...keep the population in check, by whatever
means necessary." And, "To organize the orderly extermination of the people by stealth...."
In the alternate reality of these anti-UN activists, "sustainable development" is a code word for "population
control," which is itself a strategy to de-populate large parts of the globe through "eugenics" and "genocide."
It is difficult to imagine the motives of the people who circulate these fantastic lies, but there is no denying that
the rumors have power. When they are allowed to go unchallenged, they can take on a life of their own -- as
happened recently when a small group of anti-UN activists were able to take over a town hall meeting in
Edmond. (See "The Kerfuffle" on our website).
Recently, an Oklahoma congressman wrote that he opposes funding for the UN Population Fund because it
pushes "population control efforts." He described the UNFPA's emphasis on women's rights as a "guise."
He asserted that, "The Population Fund also supports China's oppressive one-child policy."
And, he wrote: "I find the abortion practices embedded within the agenda of population control programs to be
In each of these statements, the congressman was wrong. UNFPA does not participate in abortion. It does
not support coercive family planning practices. The UNFPA's programs in support of women's rights and
reproductive health are backed by real money, real people, and real results.
For more on myths about the UNFPA, please see our PDF fact sheet on the UN Population Fund (updated 2011).
(1) Watch this 2-minute video about how the
UNFPA is saving lives and saving money:
Add It Up: Saving Lives + Saving Money
(2) Write, call or visit your Member of Congress
urging support for the UN Population Fund.
Find contact information here:
U.S. House of Representatives
United States Senate
If you get a reply with any incorrect or unfactual information about the UNFPA, please let us know.
Contact Bill - firstname.lastname@example.org - Thanks!
(3) For a powerful political commentary on the need for the services provided by the UN Population
Fund, read this article by Jane Roberts, co-founder of 34 Million Friends of UNFPA:
(All views expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the United Nations Association)
(4) For an in-depth examination of how investments in international voluntary family planning
support U.S. foreign policy goals, download a report from the Council on Foreign Relations:
"Family Planning and U.S. Foreign Policy"
Excerpt: "Given its centrality to many pressing foreign policy issues and its demonstrated high return on
investment, international family planning is an area of assistance that deserves greater priority."
(5) Learn more about obstetric fistulas.
Download a 40-page booklet, "Living Testimony: Obstetric Fistula and Inequities in Maternal Health."
Published by UNFPA and Family Care International.
(6) Join UNA-USA.
Your membership in the United Nations Association of the USA is a personal statement of the values you support.
Our mission: "We are dedicated to educating, inspiring and mobilizing Americans to support the principles and
vital work of the United Nations, strengthening the United Nations system, promoting constructive United States
leadership in that system and achieving the goals of the United Nations Charter."
Join Here ... www.unausa.org/join
"I fully support this
saves women’s lives
in childbirth, offers
the family planning
that prevents abortions by the
hundreds of thousands...,
repairs obstetric fistulas,
encourages girls’ education,
and is in the forefront of the
effort to minimize violence
--Jane Roberts, Co-Founder
34 Million Friends of UNFPA
What You Can Do to Help.