The UNFPA’s Miserable Failure to Control the World’s Population at Rio +20

Posted on | July 6, 2012 by Timothy Herrmann |

The UNFPA left the Rio +20 conference on sustainable development without anything to show for its efforts. Not a single one of their hard fought suggestions ever made it into the text. Their presence at the conference could hardly even be felt, except through a few countries like New Zealand, Norway and Iceland, which were given the important task of both proposing and fighting for the inclusion of the population control language the UNFPA wanted in the document.

It has not announced that it was defeated, and all of its press releases related to the conference pretend as if the conference was a success for the agency.

But they lost. And it was embarrassing. Though hard to believe, the UNFPA, one of the most well funded and active UN agencies that exists, did not have any success at Rio +20 in affecting the final outcome document. But how could that be? The simple answer is the fear of population control.

Most countries can smell it a mile away. Every chance the UNFPA gets, it pushes for population control, and conferences on the environment are where the UNFPA tries the hardest. For the UNFPA every environmental conference is an opportunity to emphasize the negative influence that the world’s current population growth has on  sustainable development. In fact, in a recent report entitled “Population Matters for Sustainable Development” the UNFPA claims “Efforts to promote sustainable development that do not address population dynamics have, and will, continue to fail”.

And perhaps they are right. As population numbers grow, particularly in the world’s least developed countries (LDCs), they will need more jobs, better access to education and health care, and investment in infrastructure. Anything less, is not sustainable. However, the UNFPA only mentions one of these in their recommendations, “Population dynamics are not destiny. Change is possible through a set of policies which respect human rights and freedoms and contribute to a reduction in fertility, notably access to sexual and reproductive care, education beyond the primary level, and the empowerment of women.”

In the rest of the report however, it does not elaborate on the need for primary education, and instead focuses on the empowerment of women and access to sexual and reproductive care. That is because the ideology of the UNFPA is very simple, “birth control will save the world”. Contraception is their proposed panacea for poverty.

As previously reported here and here, the UNFPA attempted, from the very first day of negotiations on the Rio +20 sustainable development outcome document, to encourage the marriage of the term reproductive health with the new term “population dynamics”.  The idea was not only to put the term “population dynamics” in the document, but to make sure that the term never appeared alone, and that it would always be linked either to the term “reproductive health” or “reproductive rights”.

At one point, during the briefing session on this strategy, the representative from New Zealand spoke up and said, “Given that most countries are not supportive of putting anything related to population or fertility reduction in the document, how can we find ways of using what is already in the document to support this agenda at the country level and pave the way for its introduction in the future?”

The UNFPA gave the same answer it always does, by establishing a “rights based frame work” that includes reproductive health. They understand that in order to push population control today, it is important to re-brand it in a way that makes it appear as choice, even a right, especially for women. This continues to be their response to questions like the one posed by New Zealand.

In the past, population control was something that northern governments forced on the south, now it is something they shame and encourage to participate in by calling it a right and branding it as the solution to all of their development woes. According the same report titled”Population Matters for Sustainable Development”, “Individual choices and opportunities add up to population dynamics, and population dynamics are best address by enlarging, not restricting, individual choices and opportunities.”

The more they have the right to control their own population and are given the money they need to put such policies in practice, the more they will become common place and acceptable.

The UNFPA, along with the Bill & Melinda Gate foundation, constantly speak about some 222 million women in the developing world that lack access to modern forms of contraception even though this number makes up only a mere fraction of the actual number of women living in the developing world. The world’s LDC’s alone have roughly 800 million people, of which a little less than half are women. Additionally, according to the World Bank, around 5 billion people live in the developing world, of which “many barely survive on less than $2 a day, and often just $1 a day”. Of that number more than half are women and children which suffer disproportionately to men.

So what about these women? What about their children? Why all the fuss over contraception if only a mere fraction of the world’s total population living in poverty is supposedly suffering from “unmet need” for contraception? Ideology. These groups can’t get past it, even when put in front of the cold hard facts.

Only July 12th, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation along with the UNFPA and the UK government will sponsor a Family Planning Summit in London where  “partners from across the world will come together…to support the right of women and girls to decide, freely and for themselves, whether, when and how many children they have.”

And this would sound like a laudable effort, if it weren’t for the truth of their strategy and methods. Make no mistakes, this is the beginning of a coordinated effort to eradicate poverty by eradicating the poor. This is not about rights, or women, it is about erasing people from the planet instead of buckling down and working with them in a real way to bring them the education, adequate health care and housing, investment and jobs they desperately need.

Countries recognized this during the Rio +20 conference. The G77, a group of 132 developing countries with emerging economies that vote together as a bloc at the UN, pointed out the UNFPA’s ideology with frightening accuracy, “Population dynamics is understood to mean population control” and for that reason we want it removed. Russia, agreed and went even further, expressing that the word was particularly dangerous when linked with “reproductive health” in a document on sustainability. The Holy See expressed the same concerns. As a result, the terms were removed.

However, not one African country spoke against this agenda, or was even in the room to be associated with speaking against it. Why? Because they depend on the UNFPA, Planned Parenthood, and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation for millions of dollars every year to put programs born from this agenda in place at the country level. At the UN, their votes have been purchased and their people have been silenced.

Even after the defeat at Rio, and the unmasking of their insidious agenda, the UNFPA has not given up, and will continue to push for the use of these terms in association with one another in the future. The London Family Planning Summit is only the most recent venue. Early this year, they began their push at the World Economic Forum, where they met in a closed meeting with billionaires and organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

During the UN Conference on Population and Development, they made sure that their agenda would also include youth having the “right” to control their sexuality. As far as they are concerned, “the 2012 Commission on Population and Development specifically recognized the sexual and reproductive health and rights of adolescents and identifies this age group as one whose needs have largely been ignored. Nearly 13 million adolescent girls give birth each year in developing countries, most often before they are physically, emotionally or economically prepared.” All of this was done in preparation for the Rio +20 conference.

This is a concerted effort that will not end anytime soon, especially if the upcoming summit is successful in brining in the money and support that is desires. We are the only ones following this story, so please spread the news, and if you have questions do not hesitate to contact us.



Turtle Bay and Beyond is a blog covering international law, policy and institutions. Our experts - at the UN, European Institutions, and elsewhere - explore an authentic understanding of international law, sovereignty, and the dignity of the human person. We expose those who would seek to impose a radical social vision that is contrary to these principles.


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