Essay on the Role of the United Nations in the Field of Population
The interest of the United Nations in population dates back to 1949, when the Population Commission was set up by the Economic and Social Council, and a Population Division was established in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
In 1962, the General Assembly discussed the population issue for the first time, and resolved that the United Nations should assist member States to carry out demographic studies.
The Asian Population Conference, an inter-governmental conference convened by the United Nations in 1963, and the Second World Population Conference held at Belgrade in 1965 focused attention on rapid growth of population and generated deep concern over its consequences.
This concern found expression in the unanimously approved resolution 2211 (XXI) of the General Assembly of the United Nations passed on December 17, 1966, on “population growth and economic development.”
This event is indicative of the concern of the United Nations over population problems. Apart from the seriousness with which the population problem was viewed, this resolution provided that the United Nations and its specialised agencies “should assist.
When requested, in further developing and strengthening national and regional facilities for training, research, information and advisory services.”
In 1965 and 1966, the World Health Organisation had taken some decisions on the health and medical aspects of population problems. In 1967-69, the decisions of the World Health Assembly broadened the scope of the involvement of the WHO in population programmes.
“By these decisions, the Assembly affirmed the responsibility of the WHO to provide advisory services to Governments, at their requests on the health aspects of fertility, sterility and fertility regulation methods, including the organisation of family planning services as part of organised health services particularly their material and child health components.”
In 1967, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was allowed to lend its support to family planning projects as part of its maternal and child health services, on requests by Governments. Since then, the UNICEF has been empowered to provide assistance to the motivational, educational and social aspects of family planning.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), at its fourteenth session in 1967, recommended that, “on Government request the FAO be prepared the provided assistance in the organisation of educational programmes directed at helping populations in their search for a well-balanced family life.”
The FAO has, in recent times, shown increasing interest in the population implications of its programmes.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) have been interested in population problems since 1966.
The overall purpose of the UNESCO population programme is “to improve knowledge and to increase awareness of the causes and consequences of population change, of their interrelations with other aspects of social, cultural and environmental change, and of their implications for human rights and the quality of life.
The programme thus involves activities in education, as well as communications and the social and natural sciences.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) entered the field in 1967, and is interested in the following activities: (1) information and educational programmes through workers’ education, labour welfare and co-operative and rural institutions’ programmes; (2) research in the demographic aspects of related fields such as employment and social security; and (3) promotion of family planning through social security and medical services.
The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank) has been granting assistance as well as “soft loans” for population activities.
In December 1966, the Secretary-General of the United Nations created a special Trust Fund to carry out population activities.
Governments, institution and individuals contributed to this Fund in order to supplement the United Nations’ Development Programmes (UNDP). In May 1969, this Fund was renamed the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA).
The five major programme areas of the activities of the United Nations in the population field are: (1) Population statistics and projections; (2) Population studies and research; (3) Population policies; (4) Family planning; and (5) Training and other educational activities supporting work in the field of population.