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United Nations Population Fund

  United Nations Population Fund  
Org type Specialised Agency Acronyms UNFPA Head Thoraya Ahmed Obaid Status Active Established 1969 Website Portal United Nations Portal

The United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) began funding population programs in 1969. It was renamed the United Nations Population Fund in 1987, but kept its original abbreviation. UNFPA is the world's largest international source of funding for population and reproductive health programs. The Fund works with governments and non-governmental organizations in over 140 countries with the support of the international community, supporting programs that help women, men and young people:

Together, these elements promote the human right of "reproductive health", that is physical, mental, and social health in matters related to reproduction and the reproductive system.

In addition to direct action, the Fund raises awareness of these needs worldwide, advocates close attention to population problems, and helps needy countries formulate policies and strategies in support of sustainable development. Since 2001, it has been led by Thoraya Ahmed Obaid. The Fund is also represented by UNFPA Goodwill Ambassadors.

UNFPA's work is guided by the Programme of Action adopted by 179 governments at the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994. The conference agreed that meeting people's needs for education and health, including reproductive health, is a prerequisite of sustainable development.

The main goals of the Programme of Action are:

  • Universal access to reproductive health services by 2015
  • Universal primary education and closing the gender gap in education by 2015
  • Reducing maternal mortality by seventy-five percent by 2015
  • Reducing infant mortality
  • Increasing life expectancy

These goals were refined in 1999. One of the most important additions concerned HIV:

  • HIV infection rates in persons 15-24 years of age should be reduced by 25 percent in the most-affected countries by 2005 and by 25 percent globally by 2010.

The Fund promotes a holistic approach to reproductive health care that includes access to a range of safe and affordable contraceptive methods and to sensitive counseling; prenatal care, attended deliveries, emergency obstetric care and post-natal care; and prevention of sexually transmitted infections by promoting safer sexual behavior.

UNFPA looks to improve the lives and expand the choices of individuals and couples. After time, the reproductive choices they choose, multiplied across communities and countries, affect population construction and trends.

The work of the agency revolves around improving reproductive health, making motherhood safer, supporting adolescence and youth, preventing HIV/Aids, promoting gender equality, protecting human rights, and securing reproductive health supplies; throughout all this they use a culturally sensitive approach. Their major countries in need are third world countries who deal with these major problems.

The UNFPA supports programmes in four areas, the Arab States and Europe, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the sub-Saharan Africa. They work in more the 140 countries, territories and areas. Around three quarters of the staff work in the field.

The UNFPA works in partnership with other United Nations agencies, governments and communities. Working together, the agency raises awareness and assembles the support and resources needed to attain the targets presented in the Millennium Goals and at the International Conference on Population and Development.

Some of the UNFPA work involves the lead in providing supplies and services to protect reproductive health. They also encourage the participation of young people and women to help rebuild their societies who are affected by poor reproductive health which expands out into areas such as prevention of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/Aids.


Example projects

Campaign to End Fistula

  • This UNFPA-led global campaign works to prevent obstetric fistula, a devastating and socially isolating injury of childbirth, to treat women who live with the condition and help those who have been treated to return to their communities. The campaign works in more than 40 countries in Africa, the Arab States and South Asia.

Ending Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting

  • UNFPA has worked for many years to end the practice of female genital mutilation (sometimes called female circumcision), the partial or total removal of external female genital organs for cultural or other non-medical reasons. The practice, which affects 100-140 million women and girls across the world, violates their right to health and bodily integrity. In 2007, UNFPA in partnership with UNICEF, launched a $44-million programme to reduce the practice by 40 per cent in 16 countries by 2015 and to end it within a generation. UNFPA also recently sponsored a Global Technical Consultation, which drew experts from all over the world to discuss strategies to convince communities to abandon the practice.

Y-PEER (Youth Peer Education Network)

  • This umbrella organization, which was piloted by UNFPA to address the AIDS epidemic among young people, supports hundreds of peer education projects in more than 20 countries in Eastern Europe, Africa and the Arab States. It seeks to bring common standards of excellence to a wide variety of peer-to-peer activities, by providing training, training manuals, an extensive website for sharing knowledge and experience, and many other resources.


  • A successful UNFPA program which carried out three specific maternal mortality reduction projects that focused on the construction and renovation and equipping of health centers & rural maternity units.


  • Through interagency team work, the country was enabled to build and provide seven new community health centres in three areas plus one new maternity unit.

Role of the UNFPA

The UNFPA has a mission which it wants to accomplish and that is this – UNFPA promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.

The agency’s main goals are – • Universal access to reproductive health services by 2015 • Universal primary education and closing the gender gap in education by 2015 • Reducing maternal mortality by 75 per cent by 2015 • Reducing infant mortality • Increasing life expectancy • Reducing HIV infection rates

Executive Directors and Under-Secretary General of the UN
2000 - present Ms. Thoraya Ahmed Obaid (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia)
1987 - 2000 Dr. Nafis Sadik (Pakistan)
1969 - 1987 Mr. Rafael M. Salas (Philippines)

Chinese Population program

The UNFPA executive director stresses the need to broaden participation and overcome mistrust among partners.

Stephen Moore, of the Club for Growth, has leveled criticism on UNFPA, claiming the organization supports Chinese Population Control measures. Mr. Moore makes the claim that women in any trimester of pregnancy are strapped down, and their children aborted by the government, against their will, using UNFPA funds.[1]

However a three-person fact-finding team sent by the U.S., which spent two weeks traveling throughout China, wrote in a report to the State Department that it found "no evidence that UNFPA has supported or participated in the management of a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in China," as has been charged by critics. [2]

Similar teams sent by the British Parliament and the United Nations found the same result.

UNFPA and the United States Government

In 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, the Bush Administration denied funding to UNFPA that had already been allocated by the U.S. Congress on the grounds that the UNFPA supported Chinese government programs which include forced abortions and sterilizations. In a letter from the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns to Congress, the administration said it had determined that UNFPA’s support for China’s population programme “facilitates (its) government’s coercive abortion programme”, thus violating a 20-year-old law that bans the use of United States aid to finance or support abortions overseas.[3]

This accusation has never been supported by any investigation, and has in fact been disproved by the various US, UK, and UN teams sent to examine UNFPA activities in China. UNFPA points out that it "does not provide support for abortion services".[4] Its charter includes a strong statement condemning coercion.".[5]

The Bush Administration has, nevertheless, continued to withhold funding, and has fought Congressional efforts to require an explanation of its decision to block the funds.

Nonprofit organizations have sprung up in an attempt to change this policy and to compensate by raising private donations:

UNFPA and the European Union

The European Union funds the UNFPA and under the Sandbaek report increased the funding in 2003, after the United States denied funding.

Criticisms by Anti-Abortion activists

This section does not citeany references or sources. (May 2008)
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In mid-April of 1999, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) announced emergency shipments of reproductive health services to Kosovar refugees.

Two weeks before, the Holy See delegation had moved that refugees should receive a much broader range of health and social services. Its proposal, which called specifically for basic services like clean water and safe sanitation, died without support from the wealthy nations. The list of reproductive health supplies sent to 350,000 Kosovar refugees included an oral contraception kit, a sexually transmitted disease kit, intrauterine devices (IUDs), a "complications from abortions" kit, and condoms. The kits also contained emergency contraception pills that prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

Critics charge that UNFPA promotes abortion in refugee camps, which are among the most unsanitary and dangerous places on earth. Other UN agencies, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, are charged with providing basic health services in refugee camps.

See also


  1. ^ Editorial calling for de-funding, Stephen Moore, Cato Institute, May 15, 1999
  2. ^ Global Population Media Analysis, Communications Consortium Media Center, July 4-22, 2002
  3. ^ Background on withheld US funds, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, 2007
  4. ^ UNFPA - Frequently Asked Questions
  5. ^ International Consensus Language from the ICPD Programme of Action

External links

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