Home   >>   Managing Our Impact   >>   UNFPA   >>   Overview - UNFPA

Overview - UNFPA

There is a considerable body of scientific knowledge demonstrating that there is a direct link between global population growth and the unsustainable depletion of many natural resources and biosphere services. Unless population growth is stemmed, there is little hope for long-term solutions to any of the world's environmental ills—perhaps even to our continued survival. The single best indicators of high birth rate are poverty and lack of access to reproductive health care and civic freedom for women in the developing world. Educated women who have access to education and contraceptives, and have a say in the timing and frequency of their pregnancies (as most First World women do) almost always choose fewer children. These children then receive a higher quality of care than would otherwise be possible and are then raised in homes that provide a more stable economic environment. This in turn leads to slower population growth, better economies and less ecological impact. Thus, the global denial of access to such benefits not only leads to severe environmental costs, it is a clear violation of human rights. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has been directly addressing these human right issues around the world for years now by providing reproductive health care, education and access to credit for poor women in developing world nations. These programs have proven successful in reducing suffering, loss of life, and in restoring civic freedom to poor women around the world for over 20 years.

Despite these successes UNFPA has come under attack from many ultra-conservative advocacy groups and the Religious Right for allegedly supporting coerced abortion and sterilization in China and several other nations. Given their role in supporting international cooperation and consensus rather than the interests of the United States only, it is common for the Far-Right to harbor a deep mistrust of the U.N. and their supported institutions. In this case, as in so many others, opposition to UNFPA appears to be more related to this mistrust than any hard evidence. Personal agendas also appear to be a large factor. Stephen Mosher, the president of the Virginia based Population Research Institute (PRI) which spearheaded the opposition to UNFPA, has had numerous personal conflicts with the People's Republic of China. While in the country during the late 70's he had several run-ins with Chinese officials and was involved in gross breaches of diplomacy and professional conduct that resulted in his being denied a PhD in anthropology from Stanford in 1980. In addition, after leaving him Mosher's ex-wife returned to China where he met her, reclaimed her citizenship, and now has an international restraining order filed against him. Hardly the sort of thing that inspires confidence in his objectivity and scholarship!

In any event, neither PRI nor any other special interest has ever produced any hard evidence implicating UNFPA in any coercive activity. Despite this however, in the fall of 2001, PRI gained the attention of 55 members of Congress and the Bush Administration, which then froze $34 million of U.S. funds targeted for UNFPA. This page includes a letter I wrote that was distributed to over 200 members of Congress and their staff by Population Connection and the Sierra Club's Population Division in June of 2001. In it I review the status of PRI's case against UNFPA and show that the allegations against them have virtually no factual support and are based almost entirely on hysteria, hearsay, and even pseudoscience that would not meet high school scholarship standards. Shortly after this letter was circulated, the U.S. State Department returned from a fact-finding visit to the People's Republic of China to investigate UNFPA activities. Their report also verified that UNFPA had no involvement in anything the Religious Right was accusing them of. Within two weeks, Congress reversed their earlier withdrawal and restored UNFPA funding with increases.

But of course, the president of the United States then was George W. Bush—a man beholden to the Religious Right for much of his core support and therefore more in need of preserving their favor than in facts or global compassion for women. By mid July of that year he vetoed the restored funding. It's particularly ironic that this battle was won in the name of the "pro-life" cause. Science has repeatedly shown that access to contraception and education—the very things that UNFPA has led the world in providing—lead to direct and verifiable reductions in global abortion rates. Conservative estimates indicate that the loss of U.S. funding for UNFPA will lead to somewhere between 800,000 and 1 million additional abortions per year globally.


Page:      1      
Managing Our Impact
Sustainable Communities
World Population
Fossil Fuels
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Commercial Fisheries
Sport Fishing
Policy & Advocacy
Christianity & the Environment
Climate Change
Global Warming Skeptics
The Web of Life
Caring for our Communities
The Far-Right
Ted Williams Archive