United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency that 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, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.
UNFPA began funding population programs in 1969. It is the world's largest international source of funding for population and reproductive health programs. The Fund works with governments and NGOs in over 140 countries with the support of the international community, supporting programs that help women, men and young people:
- plan their families and avoid unwanted pregnancies
- undergo pregnancy and childbirth safely
- avoid sexually transmitted infections
- combat violence against women
- promote the equality of women
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. 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.
In addition to direct action, UNFPA 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 of Saudi Arabia. Around three quarters of the staff work in the field.
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.
Meeting Development Goals
UNFPA works in partnership with governments, other agencies and civil society to advance its mission. Two frameworks guide its efforts: The Programme of Action adopted at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development and the Millennium Development Goals,a set of eight time-bound targets to reduce extreme poverty by 2015. . Because the dates for achieving these interconnected sets of goals and related targets are fast approaching, considerable work has been done to analyze what has worked, galvanize support and redouble efforts.
- Celebrating Achievements of the Cairo Consensus and Highlighting the Urgency for Action
- ICPD at 15: Actions and Outcomes
- Millennium Development Goals report
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.
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.
Three core areas of focus
The three core areas of our work - reproductive health, gender equality and population and development strategies - are inextricably related. Population dynamics, including growth rates, age structure, fertility and mortality, migration and more, influence every aspect of human, social and economic development. Reproductive health and women's empowerment powerfully affect, and are affected by, population trends.
Population and development strategies
The fact that world population is expected to reach 7 billion people in 2011 (up from 2.5 billion in 1950) has profound implications for development. Governments need to be able to gather adequate information about population dynamics and trends in order to create and manage sound policies and generate the political will to appropriately address both current and future needs. UNFPA supports governments in every aspect of this task, including censuses, surveys and population and development-related research and analysis. Key areas of population trend focus include migration, ageing, climate change and urbanization. The 7 Billion Actions campaign, spearheaded by UNFPA and partners, is an attempt to engage people from all walks of life and places in the world in these issues.
- Population Situation Analysis
- State of World Population 2011
- Facing a Changing World: Women, Population and Climate
Sexual and reproductive health
Working with a wide range of partners, UNFPA assists governments in delivering sexual and reproductive health care throughout the lifecycle of women. Areas of assistance include:
- Voluntary family planning
- Antenatal, safe delivery and post-natal care
- Prevention of abortion and management of its consequences
- Treatment of reproductive tract infections
- Prevention, care and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV
- Information, education and counselling, as appropriate, on human sexuality and reproductive health;
- Prevention of violence against women, care for survivors of violence and other actions to eliminate traditional harmful practices
- Appropriate referrals for further diagnosis and management of the above.
Improving maternal health, MDG5, is a key priority for UNFPA and the goal which lags farthest behind. Key initiatives in this area include the Maternal Health Thematic Fund, the Campaign to End Fistula and numerous partnerships. The importance of universal access to reproductive health is underscored by the fact that it was added as an MDG target by the international community in 2005.
Access to reproductive health care also demands what UNFPA calls reproductive health commodity security, the ability of all individuals to obtain and use affordable, quality reproductive health supplies of their choice whenever they need them. This is the aim of the Global Programme on Reproductive Health Commodity Security, which UNFPA spearheads. Expanding access to reproductive health care also relies on skilled midwives and other health care workers.
- State of World Midwifery
- Adding It Up
- Focus on Five: Women's Health and the MDGs
Globally some 215 million women worldwide who would like to avoid or delay a pregnancy lack access to effective contraception. Fulfilling the unmet need for modern family planning in the developing world would reduce unintended pregnancies from 75 million to 22 million. UNFPA advocates for the right of all people to voluntarily decide the number and timing of their children. It supports programmes that improve access to and affordability of family planning services, offer a broad selection of choices, reflect high standards of quality of care, are sensitive to cultural conditions, provide sufficient information about their use and address women’s other reproductive health needs.
- Adding It Up: Costs and Benefits of Investing in Family Planning
- Reducing Unmet Need for Family Planning
- Family Planning: A Global Handbook for Providers
Gender equality and women's empowerment
The importance of gender equality and women's empowerment to development progress is underscored by the fact that this was selected as one of the eight Millennium Development Goals. Beyond being a goal in itself, gender equality is also a driver for all the MDGs, and is intimately linked and specifically connected to goals to improve maternal and newborn health and reduce the spread of HIV.
UNFPA's gender framework incorporates four strategic linkages that address critical factors underlying inequalities and rights violations: girls' education, women's economic empowerment, women's political participation and the balancing of reproductive and productive roles.
The Fund brings gender issues to wider attention and promotes legal and policy reforms and gender-sensitive data collection. It works to end gender-based violence, including practices that harm women, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting, as well as pre-natal sex selection. We also raise awareness of women's specific strengths, vulnerabilities and needs in relation to a variety of issues, such as humanitarian emergencies, climate change and migration. UNFPA recognizes the rights, perspectives and influence of men and boys, and seeks to involve them in efforts to promote gender equality and improve reproductive health.
- Beijing at 15: UNFPA and Partners Charting the Way Forward
- State of World Population 2005: The Promise of Equality
- UNFPA's Strategic Framework on Gender Mainstreaming and Women's Empowerment
Work on gender
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The 2010 State of World Population report
The 2010 State of World Population report from UNFPA focuses on women in post-conflict situations and natural disasters, paying particular attention to how well UN Security Council resolution 1325 is being implemented.
Promoting and protecting fundamental human rights, including reproductive rights, are at the core of all UNFPA activities. This is one of the reasons the Fund places priority on reaching those in the greatest need, whether because of poverty, marginalization, emergencies, age, sex, ethnicity or health status.
Culturally sensitive, human rights-based approaches
A strong emphasis on the human rights, including reproductive rights, of individual women and men underpins all of UNFPA's work and its way of working. Promoting and protecting human rights, including reproductive rights, of women and men requires considerable cultural fluency because UNFPA works in some of the most sensitive and intimate spheres of human existence, including sexuality, gender relations and population issues. Since 2002, UNFPA has emphasized the integration of culturally sensitive approaches into programming efforts. Toward this end, it has worked closely within communities and with local agents of change, including religious leaders and faith-based organizations.
- Reaching Common Ground: Culture, Gender and Human Rights
- A Human Rights-Based Approach to Programming: Practical Information and Training Materials
- Human Rights-Based Programming: What it is. How to do it.
Supporting adolescents and youth
About a quarter of the world's people are between the ages of 10 and 24. UNFPA promotes and protects the rights of this important generation of young people, particularly adolescent girls, and works towards a world in which girls and boys have optimal opportunities to develop their full potential, to express themselves freely and have their views respected, and to live free of HIV, poverty, discrimination and violence.
UNFPA's 'four keys' to opening up opportunities for young people include incorporating youth issues into national development and poverty reduction strategies; expanding access to gender-sensitive sexual and reproductive health education that encourages the development of life skills; promoting a core package of health services and commodities for young people; and encouraging youth leadership and participation.
- Adolescent Data Guides from 50 Countries
- Framework for Action on Adolescents and Youth: 4 Keys
- Investing When It Counts
Responding to the AIDS epidemic
The contribution of UNFPA to the global response to AIDS is shaped by its mandate to reduce poverty, eliminate gender inequality and ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health. As a co-sponsor of UNAIDS and under the UNAIDS division of labour, UNFPA focuses its response on HIV prevention among young people, women and marginalized groups, including within the context of sex work. It supports comprehensive programming for male and female condoms and advocates for the linking and integration of sexual and reproductive health and HIV policies, programmes and services. UNFPA ensures that family planning and maternal health services meet the needs of women living with HIV. This includes interventions to prevent mother-to-child transmission and support for confidential voluntary HIV testing and counselling.
UNFPA also works in many contexts, including humanitarian and post-conflict situations, toward the elimination of gender-based violence and prevention of HIV.
- Sexual & Reproductive Health and HIV Linkages: Evidence Review & Recommendations
- Global Guidance Briefs on HIV and Young People
- Make It Matter: Advocacy Messages to Prevent HIV in Girls and Young Women
Assisting in emergencies
In times of upheaval, pregnancy-related deaths and sexual violence soar. Reproductive health and obstetric services often become unavailable. Young people become more vulnerable to HIV infection and sexual exploitation. Too often, the special needs of women and young people are overlooked in humanitarian emergencies.
Within the coordinated, inter-agency response to disasters, UNFPA takes the lead in providing supplies and services to protect reproductive health, with an emphasis on the special needs and vulnerabilities of women and young people. Both groups can figure prominently in rebuilding peace or communities.
UNFPA supports various data collection activities, including censuses to provide detailed information for planning and rapid health assessments to allow for appropriate, effective and efficient relief. It also assists stricken communities as they move beyond the acute crisis and enter the reconstruction phase.
- Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Toolkit for Humanitarian Settings
- Women are the Fabric: Reproductive Health for Communities in Crisis
- From Conflict and Crisis to Renewal: State of World Population Report 2010
How We Work
UNFPA works in partnership with governments, along with other United Nations agencies, communities, NGOs, foundations and the private sector to raise awareness and mobilize the support and resources needed to achieve its mission. The Fund is fully committed to a more effective, coherent and better coordinated United Nations system that 'delivers as one', which is the essence of the ongoing United Nations reform process. Starting in 2007, UNFPA decentralized its operations to become a more field-centred, efficient and strategic partner to the countries it serves. Toward this end, it established five regional and six sub-regional offices in the field that help coordinate work in about 150 countries, areas and territories through a network of 129 country offices. Donor contributions to UNFPA and other income in 2010 reached a record $870 million, up from $783 million a year earlier. Twenty one donors each made contributions exceeding $1 million and that the contribution from the Netherlands—UNFPA’s largest donor in 2010—totaled more than $119 million.