The Future of Family Planning Programs



National family planning programs have been an important instrument in accelerating global fertility decline and in restricting ultimate world population to a level probably below ten billion. They began to come into being after 1950 and will probably go out of existence in most of the world's regions by 2050. The archetypal programs were instituted in Asia and North Africa. The end of the twentieth century is an appropriate half-way mark at which to evaluate the twentieth-century programs and to assess what changes in them will be needed for the twenty-first century. Some changes are necessary because dramatic events have occurred: (1) long-term replacement-level fertility has been attained in most of East Asia and some of Southeast Asia, and accordingly, some programs there are being phased out; (2) mainland South Asian fertility has been slower to decline; (3) international donor funding is diminishing and may not be significant during much of the twenty-first century; (4) the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo called for a radical change in programs away from demographic aims and toward reproductive health and the improvement of the situation of women; and (5) the future family planning frontier will be sub-Saharan Africa, for which radically new types of programs may have to be developed. These issues were discussed in January 2000 at a conference held in Dhaka, Bangladesh. A selection of contributions to the conference is published here. This article provides an overview of the issues based partly on this selection and partly on the discussions that took place at the conference.