UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.
UNFPA - because everyone counts
UNFPA works in partnership with governments, as well as with other agencies and civil society broadly, to advance its mission. Two frameworks serve to focus its efforts: The Programme of Action adopted at the International Conference on Population and Development
and the Millennium Development Goals
, which the international development community committed itself to six years later. Because the dates for achievement of these interconnected sets of goals and related targets are fast approaching, considerable work has been done in analyzing what has worked, and to galvanize support and a redoubling of efforts.
The three core areas of our work - reproductive health, gender equality and population and development strategies - are inextricably related. Population dynamics, including growth rates, age structure, fertility and mortality, migration and more, influence every aspect of human, social and economic development. Reproductive health and women's empowerment powerfully affect, and are affected by, population trends.
The fact that world population is edging toward 7 billion people (up from 2.5 billion in 1950), with almost all of the growth expected to occur in the cities of less developed countries, has profound implications for the development process. Governments need to be able to gather adequate information about population dynamics and trends in order to create and manage sound policies and generate the political will to appropriately address both current and future needs. UNFPA assists countries in every aspect of this task, from developing capacity in data collection and analysis to participating in national, regional and global policy dialogue. Key areas of focus include migration, ageing, climate change and urbanization.
Working with a wide range of partners, UNFPA assists governments in delivering sexual and reproductive health care throughout the lifecycle of women. Areas of assistance include:
- Family planning
- Antenatal, safe delivery and post-natal care
- Prevention and appropriate treatment of infertility
- Prevention of abortion and management of its consequences
- Treatment of reproductive tract infections
- Prevention, care and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV
- Information, education and counselling, as appropriate, on human sexuality and reproductive health;
- Prevention of violence against women, care for survivors of violence and other actions to eliminate traditional harmful practices
- Appropriate referrals for further diagnosis and management of the above.
Improving maternal health, MDG5,
is a key priority for UNFPA and the goal which lags farthest behind. Key initiatives in this area include the Maternal Health Thematic Fund,
the Campaign to End Fistula
and numerous partnerships
. The importance of universal access to reproductive health is underscored by the fact that it was added as an MDG target by the international community in 2005.
Access to reproductive health care also demands what UNFPA calls reproductive health commodity security
, the ability for all individuals to obtain and use affordable, quality reproductive health supplies of their choice whenever they need them. This is the aim of the Global Programme on Reproductive Health Commodity Security
, which UNFPA spearheads.
The importance of gender equality and women's empowerment to development progress is underscored by the fact that this was selected as one of the eight Millennium Development Goals
. Beyond being a goal in itself, gender equality is also a driver for all the MDGs, and is intimately linked and specifically connected to goals to improve maternal and newborn health and reduce the spread of HIV.
UNFPA's gender framework
incorporates four strategic linkages that address critical factors underlying inequalities and rights violations: girls' education, women's economic empowerment, women's political participation and the balancing of reproductive and productive roles.
The Fund brings gender issues to wider attention, and promotes legal and policy reforms and gender-sensitive data collection. It works to end gender-based violence, including traditional practices that harm women, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting
. It also raises awareness of women's specific strengths, vulnerabilities and needs in relation to a variety of issues, such as humanitarian emergencies, climate change and migration. UNFPA also recognizes the rights, perspectives and influence of men and boys, and seeks to involve them in efforts to promote gender equality and improve reproductive health.
Promoting and protecting fundamental human rights, including reproductive rights, are at the core of all UNFPA programming. This is one of the reasons the Fund places priority on reaching those in the greatest need, whether because of poverty, marginalization, emergencies, age, sex, ethnicity or health status.
A strong emphasis on the human rights, including reproductive rights, of individual women and men underpins all of UNFPA's work and its way of working. Promoting and protecting these rights requires considerable cultural fluency because UNFPA works in some of the most sensitive and intimate spheres of human existence, including sexuality, gender relations and population issues. Since 2002, UNFPA has emphasized the integration of culturally sensitive approaches into programming efforts. Toward this end, it has worked closely within communities and with local agents of change, including religious leaders and faith-based organizations.
More than a quarter of the world's population – some 1.8 billion people -- are between the ages of 10 and 24. UNFPA promotes and protects the rights of this important generation of young people, and works towards a world in which girls and boys have optimal opportunities to develop their full potential, to freely express themselves and have their views respected, and to live free of poverty, discrimination and violence.
UNFPA's 'four keys'
to opening up opportunities for young people include incorporating youth issues into national development and poverty reduction strategies; expanding access to gender-sensitive sexual and reproductive health education that encourages the development of life skills; promoting a core package of health services and commodities for young people; and encouraging youth leadership and participation.
The contribution of UNFPA to the global response to AIDS is shaped by its mandate to reduce poverty, eliminate gender inequality and ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health. As a co-sponsor of UNAIDS and under the UNAIDS division of labour, UNFPA focuses its response on HIV prevention among young people, women and marginalized groups, including within the context of sex work. It supports comprehensive programming for male and female condoms and advocates for the linking and integration of sexual and reproductive health and HIV policies, programmes and services. It aims to make sure that family planning and maternal health services meet the needs of women living with HIV. This includes interventions to prevent mother-to-child transmission and support for confidential voluntary HIV testing and counselling.
UNFPA also works in many contexts, including humanitarian and post-conflict situations, toward the elimination of gender-based violence and prevention of HIV.
In times of upheaval, pregnancy-related deaths
and sexual violence
soar. Reproductive health
and obstetric services often become unavailable. Young people become more vulnerable to HIV infection
and sexual exploitation.
Within the coordinated, inter-agency response to disasters, UNFPA moves quickly when emergency strikes. The Fund takes the lead in providing supplies and services to protect reproductive health, with an emphasis on the special needs and vulnerabilities of women and young people.
UNFPA supports various data collection activities, including censuses
to provide detailed information for planning and rapid health assessments
to allow for appropriate, effective and efficient relief. It also assists stricken communities
as they move beyond the acute crisis and enter the reconstruction phase
UNFPA works in partnership with governments, along with other United Nations agencies, communities, NGOs, foundations and the private sector to raise awareness and mobilize the support and resources needed to achieve its mission. The Fund is fully committed to a more effective, coherent and better coordinated United Nations system that 'delivers as one', which is the essence of the ongoing United Nations reform process.
Since 2007, UNFPA has decentralized its operations as a way to become a more field-centred, efficient and strategic partner to the countries it serves. Toward this end, it established five regional and six sub-regional offices in the field that help coordinate work in about 150 countries, areas and territories through a network of 129 country offices.
UNFPA's income in 2009 totaled $783.1 million, including $469.4 million in voluntary contributions from governments and private donors.