262. Telegram From the Department of State to AID Missions Worldwide, the Mission to the United Nations, and the Embassies in Nigeria and France1

161544. Subject: AID’s Population Program. For Ambassadors and Mission Directors from AID Administrator.

1. Summary: This statement reaffirms the commitment of the Agency to a strong population program.

2. A number of recent newspaper articles2 have suggested that the U.S. will give less support for population programs in the future than it has in the past. I know that a number of you are concerned about the basis for and implications of such statements, and therefore I want to take this opportunity to assure you that the administration continues to place high priority on population foreign assistance programs.

3. The dangerous dimensions of prospective world population growth were highlighted by Secretary Haig in his March 18–19 testimony before Congress on security and development assistance.3 The basic continuity of U.S. policy in this critical area was underscored in my March 19 testimony, and in the January 24 statement before the United Nations Population Commission of Ambassador Benedick, the State Department Coordinator of Population Affairs.4 Further evidence of the interest and involvement of State Department in Population Affairs is contained in State 116496.5 The U.S. Government’s concern about the modern phenomenon of population growth is based both on our traditional respect for human dignity and on our interest in economic and social development and political stability. We also recognize that the primary responsibility for addressing these issues rightly rests ultimately in the national will and actions of each sovereign country. An increasing number of national leaders from all parts of the Third World, as well as recent major resolutions of important international fora have reiterated these themes, contributing to a growing [Page 734]international consensus on population problems and programs to address them.

4. Rapid population growth is a major obstacle to social and economic progress in the developing world. Ninety percent of world population growth between now and the end of the century will occur in the less developed regions of the world. Concommitant with population growth are food scarcities and increasing malnutrition, depletion of natural resources and degradation of the productive environment, growing unemployment and underemployment, urban crowding and severe housing shortages, and the diversion of resources from investment to support the growing population.

5. A.I.D. has been the leader in developing and disseminating the most widely used contraceptive methods; in developing low-cost service delivery systems; in training personnel; in increasing interest in family planning among individuals, communities, and national leaders; and in promoting multilateral assistance for population through the UNFPA, and other institutions, which have attracted funds from other donors to this area. I feel strongly that we must continue to provide strong leadership, especially now when (1) demand for population programs from a wide range of countries far exceeds available resources, (2) diplomatic pressure from developing countries for more attention to population is rising, and (3) confidence in and demand for U.S. expertise in population programs is growing.

6. The basic objective of A.I.D.’s population program has been and will continue to be to encourage voluntary family planning. Over the past fifteen years we have developed a much sharper appreciation of the complex social and economic factors that encourage high fertility, of the negative impact that rapid population growth has on a country’s economic development, and of the political, economic, social, and policy changes that are supportive of fertility declines.

7. In the past, A.I.D.’s major population programs have concentrated on those countries where the government has been strongly supportive of family planning and often where generally improving economic and social conditions have encouraged interest in smaller families. While funding will continue to be concentrated in those countries where the potential for successful family planning programs has already been demonstrated, we should be giving increasing attention to opportunities in other countries where birth rates remain unusually high. In looking to the challenges ahead, we will give greater attention to such innovative programs as:

—Delivery of services through (A) the private sector, including community-based distribution; (B) contraceptive retail sales; and (C) private voluntary organizations involved in population work.

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—Efforts to encourage desire for smaller families as mandated by Section 104(d) of the FAA.6

—Greater attention to development of safer, more effective, and more acceptable methods of fertility regulation (including also non-medical methods (“natural family planning”), and their adaptation to differing social, cultural, and physiological conditions in different countries.

—Experimental delivery programs to test the cost-effectiveness of alternative ways of delivering not only family planning but also health, education, and other basic services.

—Programs for LDC policy makers and program planners, to disseminate up to date information on fertility behavior in order to encourage their support for voluntary family planning programs, to improve program management and to identify ways that development policies and programs can be better shaped to complement family planning efforts.

8. In summary, we are now at a point when the effects of rapid population growth are becoming increasingly obvious, and when we know, by and large, how to design effective population programs appropriate to different settings:

—Full-scale voluntary family planning programs where government commitment and private demand is high;

—Programs to encourage official support for voluntary family planning where government policies or legislation have not yet been developed;

—Flexible private sector programs where these can usefully supplement government programs;

—Use of the private sector and local distribution mechanisms where demand for family planning services varies widely from community to community; and

—Provision of family planning information in conjunction with health, training, and other needed services where social, cultural, or economic factors continue to discourage interest in smaller families.

9. In short, I urge you to reassure Mission staff working in all sectors, local population and family planning groups, and host country counterparts that the U.S. does not intend to diminish its commitment to and leadership in international population programs. The fact that this administration’s FY 1982 budget request of dols. 253.4 million for population represents a one-third increase, at a time of severe budgetary stringency and cutback of many domestic and international programs, speaks for itself.

  1. Source: Department of State, Files of the Deputy Secretary of State—William P. Clark, 1981–1982, Lot 82D127, Memoranda to Other Agencies. Unclassified. Drafted by Van Dusen; cleared in numerous AID offices; and approved by McPherson.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. See Department of State, Bulletin, April 1981, p. A.
  4. Reference is in error; Benedick delivered his opening remarks on January 27. In telegram 253 from New York, January 28, USUN transmitted the text of Benedick’s statement. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D810046–0855)
  5. In telegram 116496 to all diplomatic posts, May 6, the Department reaffirmed its commitment to population policies. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D810213–0292)
  6. Reference is to Section 104(d) of the Foreign Assistance Act which advocated linking population growth to developmental assistance programs.