Population

What are the issues?

The world will face increasingly complex population and migration dynamics in coming decades. Global population surpassed 7 billion in 2011 and, according to UN projections, the next milestone of 8 billion will occur in 2023, and could reach 9.3 billion by 2050. There are two major demographic trends today. Low birth rates combined with increased longevity, in China, Brazil, Russia, Japan, and parts of Europe are beginning to challenge the health and financial security of their elderly populations. At the same time, developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia are adding more than 80 million people each year—exacerbating poverty and, in some countries, impacting environmental sustainability particularly with respect to access to food and water.

What are the Department's goals?

Achieving a healthy and educated world population is an important U.S. strategic objective. The Department’s population policy efforts help advance an integrated U.S. government strategy to support women’s health, including maternal health and voluntary, informed family planning assistance, and to combat HIV/AIDS, especially in developing countries. The United States is the world’s largest donor to both maternal health and family planning programs. The U.S. does not endorse population "stabilization" or "control." The "ideal" family size should be determined by the desires of couples, not governments. The U.S. strongly opposes coercive population programs. And, in keeping with PRM’s core mission to place protection of the worlds’ most vulnerable at the center of U.S. foreign policy, the Bureau also promotes the provision of life-saving health care services in crisis settings.

What is the policy?

The United States supports the Program of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which was negotiated and accepted by 179 governments. The ICPD sets out many principles that form the basis for international discussion and action on population issues. These include the promotion of human rights, gender equality, strong families, care and protection of children, the right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion or violence, as well as family planning activities that adhere to the principle of voluntary choice. And, consistent with ICPD principles, the United States does not recognize abortion as a method of family planning, nor do we support abortion in our global health assistance.

The Bureau coordinates diplomatic engagement on international population issues, and provides leadership to advance the U.S. government’s goal of promoting healthy and educated populations. PRM works with counterparts within the Department and other U.S. agencies to accomplish foreign policy goals related to population. This includes working to ensure outcome documents and resolutions adopted in UN or other intergovernmental forums are consistent with U.S. policy through outreach and dialogue with government officials, multilateral organizations, NGOs, and other stakeholders engaged in demographic, voluntary family planning, gender equality, and reproductive and maternal health issues. The Bureau leads the U.S. delegation to the annual UN Commission on Population and Development and represents the U.S. on the Executive Board of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). PRM is involved in international negotiations on a wide array of issues including maternal mortality, gender-based violence, child, early, and forced marriage, obstetric fistula, and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).

Why it matters

Improving health outcomes in the world’s poorest countries is a key priority for the Department. Worldwide an estimated 300,000 women and three million newborn babies die every year as a result of pregnancy and childbirth complications. In addition to the 800 women who die each day, 20-30 more suffer long-term debilitating pregnancy-related injuries, such as obstetric fistula. Ninety-nine percent of these deaths occur in developing countries, particularly in crisis settings; however, the vast majority are preventable. Often when a mother dies, her family and community also suffer, and surviving children face higher risks of poverty, neglect, or even death. To address these issues, PRM seeks to expand efforts to make pregnancy and childbirth safer by strengthening health systems to provide women with integrated health services, including increased access to maternal health care and voluntary family planning.

The U.S. government will continue to partner with governments, the private sector, international and non-governmental organizations to improve health outcomes and empower women and young people to realize their full potential and help drive social and economic development.