333. Memorandum From the Director of the International Development Cooperation Agency (Ehrlich) to the Special Representative for Economic Summits (Owen)1


  • Summit Discussions on Population


As we discussed, I think it would be helpful if the importance of family planning is discussed, at least informally, at the Summit. I assume that the issue would not be included in the communique. But it would be a major step forward if, in informal discussions, the need for population control were expressly linked to the issue of food security. The link is obvious: no amount of additional food will solve the world’s hunger problem unless population growth is brought under control.

We can urge, as suggested in a note last month from Guy Erb to you,3 increased resources for family planning. (A paper I sent to the North-South group yesterday spells out a specific proposal in some detail.) In my judgment, family planning is probably the most cost effective area of assistance. The United States, by a wide margin, is the leading bilateral donor, and more support from the other summit countries would be of major benefit.

Even without additional funds, however, explicit recognition of the issue in discussions with developing countries would be useful. This issue, more than others, requires leadership from the heads of state of developing countries, and that leadership is most likely to emerge if they conclude that industrial countries are serious about the point.

Ideally, in my view, we would suggest we are considering giving priority in assistance allocations to developing countries with operational population plans. We could also emphasize that support for food security measures might depend in part on a demonstrated commitment in the population field.

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In a real sense, the exact nature of the points discussed is less important than that the subject is raised, however informally.

Thomas Ehrlich4


Note From the Deputy Director of the International Development Corporation (Erb) to the Special Representative for Economic Summits (Owen)5


  • Population Proposal for the Venice Summit

Population assistance from DAC members now represents only 2% of total flows of official development assistance (ODA). Out of $15 billion in total flows in 1977 only $326 million were allocated to population programs. The US provided almost half the DAC total, $146 million, in 1977. Sweden, the second largest donor, provided about $30 million. Among the summit countries the UK, Canada, Germany, and Japan, each provided under $20 million. France did almost nothing and Italy provided no population assistance at all, according to DAC statistics.

I recommend that at the Economic Summit the President seek from other summit leaders a commitment to double their population assistance, or, in the cases of Italy and France, to initiate or greatly increase population programs.

Because of the sensitivity of this issue I believe the communiqué should emphasize the commitment to family planning of almost all nations as expressed, for example, at the UN World Population Conference in 1974, the International Women’s Year Conference in 1975, and the Primary Health Care Conference in 1979.6 Such an approach would be preferable to a Summit exhortation to developing countries to reduce their population growth rates. The communiqué should also an [Page 1119] nounce that the Summit countries were going to increase assistance for population programs.7

Guy F. Erb8
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Special Projects—Hazel Denton, Box 63, Population: 3–5/80. No classification marking.
  2. Ehrlich handwrote Owen’s name.
  3. An unknown hand underlined the phrase “Guy Erb to you,” and placed a check mark in the margin. The note is attached below.
  4. Ehrlich signed “Tom” above his typed signature.
  5. No classification marking.
  6. The WHO/UNICEF Primary Health Care Conference took place in Alma Ata, Kazakhstan, September 6–12, 1978. See Document 317.
  7. The Venice Declaration stressed that “high priority should be given to efforts to cope with population growth and to existing United Nations and other programmes for supporting these efforts.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D800349–0815) Additional information concerning the summit is in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, volume III, Foreign Economic Policy.
  8. Printed from a copy that indicates Erb signed the original.