111. Intelligence Note RECN–18 Prepared in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Washington, February 8, 1974.1 2

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February 8, 1974


In December 1970 the UN General Assembly designated 1974 as World Population Year (WPY). The purpose of the WPY is to focus international attention on the need to achieve a balance between people and resources through rational policy and vigorous action. The WPY is also to be the occasion for increasing substantially the financial resources available for population activities by UN agencies, national governments, and nongovernmental organizations.

WPY Activities. Governments have been called upon to establish populations commissions to initiate and coordinate national WPY activities. Many of the commissions may continue to function after 1974, thus permanently strengthening national population/family planning programs. To date, more than 50 nations, including the United States, have established WPY Commissions.

The highlight of the Year will be the first intergovernmental World Population Conference, to be held in Bucharest, August 19-30.* A Population Tribune, held simultaneously in Bucharest, will provide a forum for the discussion of population issues by private organizations which have consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

[footnote in original]* There have been two UN world conferences of demographers, in 1954 and 1965.

Major Objective: Convergence of Ideas. The Conference is expected to adopt common positions and action proposals in the “world Population Plan of Action” (WPPA). The Plan is intended to complement existing international strategies which seek to attain higher levels of economic and social development among all countries. In particular, the US Government supports international efforts to:

--Strengthen governments’ resolve to ensure that information and education about family planning, as well as the means to practice it effectively, are made available to all prospective parents by the end of the UN’s Second Development Decade (1971-80).

--Prevail upon countries with rapid population growth to establish national policies of low death and birth rates, to he achieved through measures to improve health and reduce fertility.

--Encourage governments to set specific targets for the attainment of these objectives and, in addition to the provision of birth control services, to employ social and economic measures to limit births.

The US also supports acceptance of a goal in the WPPA of accelerated reduction in fertility so that by the year 2000 world fertility will have reached replacement; that is, a level which, if continued, would lead to stabilization of world population at 8.5 to 9 billion (in comparison with 3.9 billion in 1974). The advantage of vigorous birth control action in LDCs becomes fully apparent in the 21st century: Procrastination in reducing average family size can lead to an additional doubling of LDC population prior to stabilization. Today’s LDC population of 2.8 billion can not be expected to stop growing until it reaches at least close to 7 billion, even assuming that fertility drops to replacement levels by 2000. However, in the absence of any determined action by national governments, LDCs may have to provide for from 10 to 14 billion before their populations stabilize (see chart).


[image of graph]

Some participants at the Bucharest conference will oppose global demographic targets on grounds of national sovereignty in population matters and on the premise that no single global target can take into account either the diversity of population problems or of national abilities to deal with them. Proponents of global goals will point out that because population growth creates global problems, it has become a global issue, requiring global solutions; and that being world averages, global goals permit a range of national targets.

Funding of Programs. The International Planned Parenthood Federation has recently completed the first worldwide survey of expenditures for birth control (see table). Its findings can be treated only as orders of magnitude, but they are, nevertheless, useful working figures. The surprisingly modest sums expended by all sources in 1971 give fresh urgency to the entire issue of funding birth control programs in LDCs. Moreover, it appears from the survey that individuals in LDCs spent more on contraception than did governments. It is also noteworthy that in LDCs at least two and a half times an much money was spent on (largely illegal) abortions than on contraception.

High Priority for Family Plannin Projects. Recent worldwide economic developments are making population problems in energy-poor LDCs more urgent but solutions more difficult. A combination of insufficient foreign exchange earnings, inadequate levels of foreign aid, and an increasingly severe burden of external debt presents a serious threat to the entire development effort of many LDCs. While population growth control is not a substitute for economic development, slowing the rate of population expansion takes on an added importance during a period of prospectively slower economic growth.

The prospects for adequate funding of population programs are imperiled, however, by other priority needs. Economic difficulties may limit expenditures for all social services, including family planning, as has apparently occurred in India. Moreover, in addition to its more widely noted ramifications, the inflationary impact of higher oil prices will be manifest in increasing medical and allied professional costs: thus affecting population programs. Care must be taken in reordering national spending priorities in the face of economic stringency to give birth control proper emphasis in the context of an overall--and more difficult--growth strategy.

Worldwide Expenditures for Birth Control Services, 1971


  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P740024–0442. Limited Official Use. Prepared by Giffler.
  2. The Bureau of Intelligence and Research presented an overview of population-related issues at the opening of the World Population Year.