The UN has been concerned with population questions since its earliest years, establishing the Population Commission in 1947 as one of the functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council. The early work of the UN on population questions concentrated on the improvement of demographic statistics, which were lacking for many areas of the world, and then began to focus on the application of statistical data in analytical studies and in the preparation of worldwide population estimates and projections. The first Demographic Yearbook was published by the UN Statistical Office in 1948.
In the 1960s, however, the extraordinarily rapid rate at which the world's population was growing became an urgent concern (between 1950 and 1960, the world population increased from2.5 billion to over 3 billion, and by 2000 it had doubled—reaching 6 billion). In a resolution adopted in 1966, the General Assembly authorized the UN to provide technical assistance in population matters, and the following year, the General Assembly established a Trust Fund for Population Activities, renamed in 1969 the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), to provide additional resources to the UN system for technical cooperation activities in the population field. In 1972, the fund was placed under the authority of the General Assembly, which designated the Governing Council of UNDP as its administering body. By its resolution number 1763(LIV) of 18 May 1973, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations defined the mandate of UNFPA, and, in 1979, the General Assembly affirmed that the UNFPA was a subsidiary organ. In 1987, the fund's name was changed to the United Nations Population Fund, but the acronym UNFPA was retained. In 1993, the General Assembly transformed the Governing Council of UNDP into the UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board, which provides intergovernmental support to and supervision of the UNFPA in accordance with overall policy guidance of the General Assembly and ECOSOC of the United Nations.
The first World Population Conference, held in Bucharest in 1974, adopted a World Population Plan of Action (WPPA) that stressed the relationship between population factors and overall economic and social development. The General Assembly affirmed that the plan was "an instrument of the international community for the promotion of economic development" and urged that assistance in the population field should be expanded, particularly to UNFPA, for the proper implementation of the plan.
The International Conference on Population, held in Mexico City in August 1984, reaffirmed the validity of the WPPA and adopted recommendations for its further implementation. Target mortality rates were adjusted, and emerging issues, such as migration, urbanization, computerized data processing, and aging of populations, were addressed. Also considered was the need for an intersectoral approach to population and development, for policies that respect individual and family rights, and for improvement in the status of women, including their increased participation in all aspects of development.
The third decennial conference, the International Conference on Population and Development, was held in Cairo, 5–13 September 1994. The Programme of Action adopted at the Cairo conference recommended that population concerns be fully integrated into development planning, in order to meet the needs and improve the quality of life of present and future generations. The program builds upon the considerable international awareness and knowledge that has developed since the Bucharest and Mexico City conferences regarding the linkages among population issues, sustained economic growth, and sustainable development. The program also addresses the reproductive health and educational needs of individuals, especially of girls and women, and calls for increased investment in the social sectors, from donor agencies and recipient governments alike.
UNFPA supports a broad range of population activities. Nearly half of the fund's assistance is used for maternal and child health care and family planning programs. Another 20% is used for population and family planning communication and education. UNFPA also supports developing countries in their efforts to collect and analyze population data, conduct population censuses, formulate population policies, and undertake research on fertility, mortality, and migration and their relationship to development, as well as on linkages between population and sustainable development. The fund supports special programs concerning women, youth, the aged, AIDS, and population and development. UNFPA is the leading source of population assistance within the United Nations system. The fund's resources come from voluntary contributions from governments.
A major component of UNFPA's work is disseminating information based on its data and analysis of population trends. In the State of the World Population 1999 report, UNFPA called the dawn of the 21st century a time of choices and it urged governments to action. With global population quadrupling during the 20th century, surpassing 6 billion in 1999, UNFPA stated that how fast the next billion people are added, what the effect will be on natural resources and the environment, and the quality of life will depend on policy and funding decisions that are made over the next 5 to 10 years. The population report pointed to the issue of below replacement-level reproduction in some 60 countries, which, UNFPA predicted, would put pressures on these developed nations to provide support and medical care for the elderly. Meanwhile, HIV/AIDS is taking a higher toll in some parts of the world (particularly sub-Saharan Africa) than it is elsewhere, lowering life expectancy and "erasing decades of progress in child mortality" in these regions. Finally, the report highlighted unbalanced consumption patterns around the globe, concluding that it will combine with continued population growth to cause environmental damage—including the collapse of fisheries, shrinking forests, rising temperatures, and the extinction of numerous plant and animal species. In summary, UNFPA warned that unless nations rededicate themselves to combating issues of overpopulation, continuing poverty, gender discrimination, threats such as HIV/AIDS, environmental changes, and shrinking (relative to the population) resources, the benefits of lower fertility that were realized in the second half of the 20th century would be wiped out. UNFPA urged governments to commit action and funding to the 20-year Programme of Action endorsed by the world's governments in 1994 at the International Conference on Population and Development.
In its World Population 1999 report, UNFPA focused on global women's issues and youth at risk. In both areas the organization called for stepped-up educational and health programs. UNFPA stated that despite progress, far too many women are denied education, contraception, and decent health care, and that violence against women is "endemic in all countries." The report went on to say that hundreds of millions of women continue to suffer needlessly from gender-based violence, unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and poor health. Similarly, UNFPA stated that "today's young people are frequently at risk of unwanted pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, sexual exploitation, and alienation from parents and communities." The organization warned that ignoring the issues confronting women and youth incurs high costs—"in ill health, wasted opportunities, and social disruption." According to UNFPA, studies have shown that family life education should begin early to help young people through the years when they are beginning to be interested in sex. Further, the benefits of education for girls and women had been well-documented during the 1900s, yet in 1999 in developing countries, girls comprised two-thirds of the 130 million children not attending school. The call for schooling was seen to have the double benefit of educating young women and postponing childbirth.
While UNFPA releases the report annually, the 1999 document was expected to have far-reaching influence in that it was issued as the world turned its attention to considering the next millennium, in a year when a critical population threshold (6 billion) was crossed, and it was followed, in 2000, by several conferences that used the 1999 report as the basis for discussion and program development. Among the major conferences that took place in 2000 were Beijing+5 Review (New York, 5–9 June 2000), the World Summit for Social Development and Beyond (Geneva, Switzerland, 26–30 June 2000), and Millennium Summit: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century (New York, 6–8 September 2000).
Regular income in 2000 totaled US $366.1 million, compared to $287.7 million in 1999. Pledges to UNFPA's general resources in 2000 totaled US $262.5 million, an increase of 5% from 1999. By far the largest increase, 173%, was seen in contributions to supplementary resources, up from $37.9 million in 1999 to $103.6 million in 2000. Fund-raising during the year increased both income and the total number of donors, up from 69 in 1999 to 100 in 2000. In 2000, UNFPA total expenditures amounted to $255.6 million, compared with $316.6 million in 1999. Of these expenditures, $134.2 million was for country and regional programs, $19.7 million was for management and administration of the organization, $64.5 million was for program support, and $37.2 million was for trust fund activities. Also in 2000, UNFPA used an additional $26 million to replenish its operational reserve. In 1999, UNFPA spent $187.1 million on country and intercountry activities, $23.3 million on management and administration, $70.5 million on program support, and $35.7 million on trust fund activities. In 2000, UNFPA provided support to 142 countries: 45 in sub-Saharan Africa; 39 in the Arab States and Eastern Europe, 33 in Asia and the Pacific, and 25 in Latin America and the Caribbean. The region of sub-Saharan Africa received the largest percentage of UNFPA assistance, followed by Asia and the Pacific, the Arab States and Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean.
UNFPA publishes a range of products in a variety of media. Public service announcements are broadcast on national and international television networks around the world. The definitive publication is the annual The State of World Population , a comprehensive demographic study of patterns in population growth and distribution. UNFPA also publishes the annual AIDS Update, which highlights assistance provided by UNFPA for HIV/AIDS prevention and control activities undertaken in line with national AIDS policies and programs and within the global strategy of the Joint and Co-sponsored UN Program on HIV/AIDS.