It is possible to control population growth
years after the era initiated in Cairo in 1994 in the International
Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), we must highlight the
direct correlation between poverty and women’s rights, as well as the
universal access to reproductive health through programs of family
planning and risk free maternity. But the insufficient resources, gender
prejudice and the deficiencies in the services to the poor and to
adolescents are calling for a greater step in a moment when problems
The program, approved by 179 countries in Cairo
10 years ago, aspired to balance world population and the world’s
resources, to improve the living conditions of women and to watch over the
universal access to services of reproductive health and even family
planning. The starting point was the premise that the size, the growth
and the distribution of the population are closely related to the
development perspectives and that measures in those fields reinforce the
actions in other ones. But given the pressure of Islamic countries and
the Vatican in an unheard-of alliance, the Consensus in Cairo gave
priority to invest on human beings and to expand their opportunities
instead of reducing population growth.
That is the greatest threat hanging on humanity:
demographic explosion. To face it, we can only guarantee women’s
education and their access to jobs that belong to them in order to
assume a responsible motherhood.
But there is a lot left to do to guarantee
reproductive health and rights, including those of the 1.3 billion
adolescents in the world, to promote a risk-free maternity and to stop
the expansion of HIV.
Ten years after Cairo we face these shuddering
numbers: more than 350 million couples still lack access to a complete
variety of services of family planning.
Pregnancy complications and childbirth continue
to be an important cause of death and disease for women: each year, more
than 500,000 lose their lives to largely preventable causes.
In 2003, 5 million more people became infected
with HIV; women constitute almost half of all the infected adults and
almost three fifths of the people that live South of Sahara.
World population will increase from the actual
6.4 billion to almost 9 billion in 2050; the 50 poorest countries will
multiply by three their population up to 1.7 billion.
The eleventh anniversary of the ICPD presents an
opportunity for governments and the international community to renew
their commitment and find the means to repair the problems that still
persist. Especially in these moments in which leaders of the 7 richest
countries plus Russia – the G-8 – get together. With a decision by
this group, world hunger could be eradicated in ten year’s time, the
necessary primary education and sanitary assistance could be offered, as
well as to guarantee women’s reproductive health that will allow them
to assume a responsible maternity. Just like all the United Nations
Development Program’s (UNDP) reports have demonstrated since the
beginning of the 1990’s. It is feasible to end these plagues that
devastate humanity and endanger its survival and that of planet Earth.
It’s not about futurist fantasies, these are
real dangers discussed by scientists and world experts. Why don’t we
do it if it is in our hands? For the exact same reasons why wars,
aggressions to the natural environment, the proliferation of nuclear,
chemical and biological weapons, weapon and drug trade were not
prevented, along with the modern slavery of children enlisted in armies
and prostituted in so many parts of the world, holocausts of every kind
with the forced displacement of entire communities. But this will also
affect the dominating classes in power with the implacable degradation
of the planet. Due to the selfishness and the irrational blindness of
some people who can be qualified not only as inhumane, but also as
This is why we must extend through all the
available means that the solution is in our hands: in every developed
and democratic country where women have reached access to education and
to the job market that belong to them, which are the same as those that
belong to them as a minimum, demographic curves have been controlled and
even reduced to worrying levels. The solution is clear: education,
responsibility and freedom to administrate maternity and paternity that
belongs to each human being.
Professor of Political Thought (UCM) and CCS Director
Translated by Carlos Miguélez