"Delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted... Every childbirth is safe... and every young person's potential is fulfilled."
UNFPA - because everyone counts
UNFPA seeks to improve the lives and expand the choices of individuals and couples. Over time, the reproductive choices they make, multiplied across communities and countries, alter population structures and trends.
UNFPA helps governments, at their request, to formulate policies and strategies to reduce poverty and support sustainable development. The Fund also assists countries to collect and analyse population data that can help them understand population trends. And it encourages governments to take into account the needs of future generations, as well as those alive today.
The close links between sustainable development and reproductive health and gender equality, the other main areas of UNFPA's work, were affirmed at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo. UNFPA is guided in its work by the Programme of Action adopted there. At the conference, 179 countries agreed that meeting needs for education and health, including reproductive health, is a prerequisite for sustainable development over the longer term. They also agreed on a roadmap for progress with the following goals:
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 percent by 2015
- Reducing infant mortality
- Increasing life expectancy
- Reducing HIV infection rates
Reaching the goals of the Programme
of Action is also essential for achieving the Millennium Development
Goals. These eight goals, which are fully aligned with the ICPD
roadmap, have the overarching aim of reducing extreme poverty by
half by 2015. UNFPA brings its special expertise in reproductive
health and population issues to the worldwide collaborative effort
of meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
Improving Reproductive Health
The critical importance of reproductive health to achieving international development goals was affirmed at the highest level at the 2005 World Summit. Reproductive health is also a human right. Yet, reproductive health conditions are the leading cause of death and illness in women of childbearing age worldwide, and at least 200 million women want to plan their families or space their children, but lack access to safe and effective contraception.
UNFPA promotes a holistic approach to reproductive health care that includes:
- Universal access to accurate information, a
range of safe and affordable contraceptive methods,
and sensitive counselling
- Ensuring that quality obstetric and antenatal
care is available to all pregnant women
- Prevention and management of sexually
transmitted infections, including HIV
Investments in reproductive health save and improve lives, slow the spread of HIV and encourage gender equality. These benefits extend from the individual to the family and from the family to the world.
Making Motherhood Safer
Every minute, a woman in the developing world dies from treatable complications of pregnancy or childbirth. Every minute, a family is devastated. The lives of surviving children are put at risk. Communities suffer. And for every woman who dies, as many as 20 others are seriously harmed by fistula or other injuries of childbearing.
UNFPA's strategy for preventing maternal mortality includes:
- Family planning to reduce unintended pregnancies
- Skilled care at all births
- Timely emergency obstetric care for all women
who develop complications.
UNFPA also advocates at many levels for the
right of mothers to give birth safely. It spearheads the global Campaign to End Fistula, a collaborative initiative to prevent this devastating injury of childbirth and to restore the health and dignity of those who have been living with its consequences. And it is working to address the shortage of skilled midwives in much of the developing world.
However, based on the most recent statistics, maternal deaths are declining far too slowly to meet the MDG and ICPD target for a 75 per cent reduction by 2015.
Supporting Adolescents and Youth
Almost 1.5 billion people are between 10 and
25 years old. Almost half of young people live
in poverty. Yet traditional youth programmes are
not reaching those most in need, especially
marginalized adolescent girls. Addressing the
critical challenges facing the largest youth
generation in history is an urgent priority if
social and economic development efforts are to
succeed and the AIDS pandemic is to be reversed.
'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, life skills-based sexual and
reproductive health education; promoting a core
package of health services and commodities for
young people; and encouraging young people's
leadership and participation.
The AIDS epidemic is a global catastrophe
responsible for over 20 million deaths
worldwide, tens of millions of children left
orphaned, and some 33 million people living with
HIV. Although global HIV prevalence has levelled
off, AIDS is among the leading causes of death
globally and remains the primary cause of death
evidence shows that sustained, intensive
programmes in diverse settings are reducing HIV
incidence through behaviour changes, such as
increased use of condoms, delayed sexual
initiation and fewer sexual partners.
As one of ten co-sponsors of
UNAIDS, UNFPA works to
intensify and scale up HIV prevention
efforts using rights-based and evidence-informed
strategies, including attention to the
gender inequalities that add fuel to the
Within UNAIDS, the Fund takes a leadership
condom programming and prevention among
young people and women, two groups who are
increasingly at risk of infection. It also
reaches out to other
Linking HIV/AIDS with sexual and
reproductive health care is the overarching
strategy for reaching more people
cost-effectively and moving towards the goal of
universal access to prevention, treatment, care
and support by 2010.
Promoting Gender Equality
Women can and must play a powerful role in
sustainable development and poverty eradication.
When women are educated and healthy, their
families, communities and countries benefit. Yet
gender-based discrimination and violence pervade
almost every aspect of life, undermining the
opportunities of women and denying them the
ability to fully exercise their basic human
Gender equality is one of the eight
Millennium Development Goals as well as a human
right. Investments in gender equality can
improve the lives of both men and women, with
lasting benefits for the next generations. For
more than 30 years, UNFPA has been in the
forefront of bringing gender issues to wider
attention, promoting legal and policy reforms
and gender-sensitive data collection, and
supporting projects that empower women
Using Culturally Sensitive Approaches
UNFPA's activities touch on the most
sensitive and intimate spheres of human
existence, including reproductive health and
rights, gender relations and population issues.
Attitudes about these subjects vary widely
between and among different cultures.
Changing deeply rooted attitudes, behaviours
and laws-especially those dealing with gender
relations and reproductive health-can be a long
process that requires a culturally sensitive
approach. The Fund respects cultural diversity.
At the same time, it rejects those practices
that endanger women and girls. It works closely
and respectfully with communities to enlist
their support in upholding the human rights of
all its members.
Protecting Human Rights
All individuals are entitled to equal rights
and protections. This idea is fundamental to
UNFPA's mission and to its way of working.
A strong emphasis on the rights of individual
women and men underpins the
1994 Cairo Consensus that guides UNFPA's
work. This emphasis on human rights at the ICPD
marked a shift in population policy and
programmes away from a focus on human numbers
and placed human lives front and centre. At that
meeting, delegates from all regions and cultures
agreed that reproductive health is a basic human
right and that individuals should be able to
freely choose the number, timing and spacing of
Numerous international agreements affirm the
human rights principles that underpin UNFPA's
work in reproductive health, gender equality and
population and development.
Securing Reproductive Health Supplies
Without essential commodities-from
contraceptives to testing kits to equipment for
emergency obstetric care-people cannot fully
exercise the right to reproductive health. In
many places, male and female condoms are
urgently needed to prevent the further spread of
HIV. UNFPA's mandate in this area is to provide
the right quantities of the right products in
the right condition in the right place at the
right time for the right price. This complex
logistical process involves many actors from
both the public and private sectors. UNFPA takes
a lead role in reproductive health commodity
security, by forecasting needs, mobilizing
support, building logistical capacity at the
country level and coordinating the whole
Assisting in Emergencies
Humanitarian crises are reproductive health
disasters. In times of upheaval,
pregnancy-related deaths and
sexual violence soar.
Reproductive health services - including
prenatal care, assisted delivery, and emergency
obstetric care - often become unavailable. Young
people become more vulnerable to
HIV infection and sexual exploitation. And
many women lose access to
family planning services, exposing them to
unwanted pregnancy in perilous conditions.
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.
Priority areas include safe motherhood;
prevention of sexually transmitted infections,
including HIV; adolescent health; and
gender-based violence. The Fund also 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.
UNFPA encourages the full participation of women
and young people in efforts to rebuild their
As the world's leading multilateral agency on
population, UNFPA is the most prominent
international advocate for reproductive health
and rights, including the right to choose the
number, timing and spacing of one's children.
Working in partnership with other United
Nations agencies, governments, communities,
NGOs, foundations and the private sector, the
Fund raises awareness and mobilizes the support
and resources needed to reach the targets set
forth at the International Conference on
Population and Development and in the Millennium
Development Goals. In 2007, UNFPA received a
record high in voluntary contributions for its
core resources from 181 countries, also a record
UNFPA's Global Reach
UNFPA supports programmes in four regions:
Arab States, Europe and Central Asia; Asia and
the Pacific; Latin America and the Caribbean;
and sub-Saharan Africa. We work in about 150
countries, areas and territories through nine
Country Technical Services Teams and 112 country
offices. Three-quarters of UNFPA staff work in
State of World Population
State of World Population is the centrepiece
of UNFPA’s worldwide media communications and
advocacy efforts during the year. Since the
authoritative report was introduced in 1978, it
has been enthusiastically received, and
journalists regularly refer to it as a source.
Each year the report documents an issue related
to the UNFPA mandate in depth and has frequently
led to broader discussion of key issues. Since
2006, an annual youth supplement is published as
well, which explores the theme of the main
report through the experiences and perceptions
of young people.