UN International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)


Development is the expansion of the human opportunities and freedom. This is an understanding inherent in the commitment by all the UN member states. It represents the shared aspirations of governments and citizen to ensure that- all person are free from want and fear, and are provided with the basic opportunities and the social arrangements to develop their unique capabilities; and, participate fully in society. In order to achieve these goals, the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) was held in Cairo, Egypt, in 1994, with some 20000 delegates from various countries, UN agencies, NGOs and the Media organizations. The Conference discussed and showed a remarkable consensus on the issues of socio-political-economic equality, including a comprehensive definition of sexual and reproductive health and rights of the Women and children. Other issues discussed in the conference were- population growth, sustainable economic growth and sustainable development.

Achieving the Human Rights and Development

The vision of development, human rights and a world order based on peace and security remains at the foundation of the UN, since its inception in 1945. Article 1(3) of the UN Charter states the main purpose of the UN- ‘to achieve international cooperation in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedom of all, without any distinction on the basis of race, sex, language or religion’.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948); The convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against Women (1979) and the convention on all Rights of the Child (1989), lay out an extensive list of civil, political and socio-economic-cultural rights that member states are obliged to respect, protect and fulfill.

More recently, a regional human rights protection system has emerged to complement the international efforts. Such regional systems provide human rights protection in the context of particular regions.

After the World Conference on Human Rights (1993), which affirmed that- all human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and inter-related, and claimed that- ‘the rights of the women are human rights, and the human rights are women’s rights’.

The ICPD brought together the issue of development and human rights, in a compelling and operational manner.

ICPD, Cairo 1994

The Programme of Action of the ICPD affirmed that the right to development is universal and inalienable. It was seen as an integral part of the fundamental human rights. The ICPD viewed the Human person as the centre of the development.

In affirming the centrality of human rights, with regard to population, the discussion was held on a variety of population issues, including- immigration, infant mortality, birth control, family planning and education of women, and protection of women from abortion services.

According to the official ICPD release, the conference delegates achieved consensus on the following four qualititive and quantitative goals:

  1. Universal Education– Universal Primary Education in all countries by 2015. It also emphasized on urging the countries to provide a wider access to women for secondary and higher education, as well as vocational and technical education.

  2. Reduction of Infant and Child Mortality– Countries should strive to reduce infant and under-5 child mortality rates by one-third, or to 50-70 deaths per 1000 by the year 2000. By 2015, all countries should aim to achieve a rate, below 35 per 1000 live births, and an under-5 morality rate of <45 per 1000 live births.

  3. Reduction in Maternal Mortality– A reduction by One-half of the 1990 level, by year 2000; and further reduction of one-half by 2015. Disparity in the maternal mortality rate within the nations, and between different geographical regions, socio-economic and ethnic groups should be narrowed.

  4. Access to Reproductive and Sexual Health Services– including famnily planning, family counseling, pre-natal care, safe delivery and post-natal care. It also includes the prevention and appropriate treatment of infertility, prevention and management of abortions, treatment of reproductive tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases and other reproductive health conditions, sex education, services to tackle the occurrences of HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, TB etc. The report also advocated an active discouragement of the female genital mutilation (FGM).

Post-ICPD Development (1994-2013)

  • The 1995, Fourth World Conference on Women, in Beijing, marked an important milestone for women’s empowerment, gender euqlity and human rights.

  • The elimination of violence against women has also received substantial attention from regional commitments. The African, Inter-American and European Human Rights organizations have been developing instruments that address violence against women.

  • The Programme of Action urged the member states to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of Rights of all Migrant Workers and Their Families (1990). The convention came into force in 2003.

  • Advances have also been made in the sphere of extending human rights to issues of dignity and non-discrimination. The Programme of Action affirmed the rights of the Persons with Disabilities. In 2006, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was acknowledged. Similarly, in 2007, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People was adopted by the General Assembly.

  • In 1997, the international guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human rights gave a framework for promoting the rights of persons living with HIV/AIDS.


ICPD, 2014

A General Assembly resolution on the review of the implementation of the programme of action of the ICPD and its follow-up beyond 2014 undiscovered the need for a systematic, integrative and comprehensive approach to population and development issues. The approach should be one that would respond to new challenges relevant to population and development and to the changing development environment, as well as reinforce the integration of the population of development agenda.

The finding and conclusion of the operational review, in the context of the resolution, suggest a new framework for population and development beyond 2014, based on 5 thematic pillars-

The Primary attention of Dignity and Human Rights is motivated by the assertion that completing the unfinished agenda of the ICPD will require a focused and shared commitment to human rights, to discrimination and to expanding opportunities for the persons. Any development agenda that aims at individual and collective well-being and sustainability has to guarantee dignity and human rights to all persons.

Principle 1 of the Programme of Action affirmed that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and are entitled to the human rights and freedoms set forth within the Universal Declaration of Human rights, without the distinction of any kind. This is similarly affirmed in international treaties, regional human rights instruments and national constitutions and laws.

Every individual has the right to highest attainable standards of health. The Report admits the significance of having a good health in the enjoyment of dignity and human rights, and the importance of human health in contributing to economic and human development.

A number of communicable, maternal, nutritional and neo-natal disorders, many of which are preventable, have persisted in the developing countries, particularly in the Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. The achievement of universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights will depend on a holistic strengthening of the health system.

Place and Mobility encompasses the social and spatial environment, that we live in. the importance of these factors as a thematic pillar is in bringing the large-scale trends and dynamics of issues of population, household formation and composition; internal mobility and urbanization; international migration and land and displacement. This pillar discusses the changing social and spatial distribution of the human population since 1994, and puts progressive approaches to integrating these changes into public policies, so that they can support human needs for both safe and secure place.

Governance and Accountability is the primary means of achieving these goals. The world has seen important shifts in the diffusion of authority and leadership, since 1994, with a growing multiplicity of national, municipal, civil society, private sector and other non-state actors. The ICPD created a momentum at the national level for the creation and renewal of institutions, to address population dynamics, sustainable development, sexual and reproductive health and concerns of equality.

The last 20 years have witnessed a measurable increase in the formal participation of the intended beneficiaries in the planning and evaluation of population and development. As the world community re-appraises its goals for the future, progress in participation has become the core concern, along with the generation and use of knowledge, adequate resources.

Finally, Sustainability means a reaffirmed faith in the intrinsic linkage between the goals elaborated in the other pillars. It mentions that the issue of discrimination and inequality must be prioritized both- in pre-2014 and post-2014 agenda, for a general well-being of the people as well as the planet. The current model of development for improved living standards has been based on disparity and imbalance. It is also highly exploitative of the environment.

Environmental impacts, including climate change, affects the lives of the people. However, the magnitude of impact is much greater for the poorer and marginalized regions. Also, the main responsibility of the contemporary environmental degradation falls on the developed countries.

The poor and developing countries contribute the least to the environmental degradation. However, they become the prime victims of increasing diverse population dynamics, and the environmental adversities.


The significance of the ICPD lies in bringing a paradigmatic change in the model of development of the contemporary world. It brings the human and environment centric model, replacing the erstwhile exploitative model of development.

The ICPD 2014 gives the idea of equitably expanding the human rights and capabilities, especially for young people. This idea is shared by all the member states. Most of the governments have prepared reports and committees to address these concerns. The main area of focus, in this regard, are- reducing poverty; raising the status of women; expanding education; eradicating discrimination; improving sexual and reproductive health and well being; and, embracing sustainability.

Progress achieved, so far, is, nonetheless, uneven, and the presence of inequalities is very evident.

The Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) have been the unifying global framework for the development, since atleast 15 years. As the UN considers the post-2015 development agenda, the goal and principles of the ICPD Programme of Action provide important elements to fulfill the issues of human rights, capabilities and sustainable development.

Team Aspirant Forum

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One response to “UN International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)”

  1. thegoldeneras says :

    Reblogged this on thegoldenera's Blog and commented:
    I am reblogging here from Aspirant forum….


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