Meet the Commission on Population and Development (CPD)

On 3 October 1946, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations established the Population Commission. In December of 1994, on the heels of the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt, the United Nations renamed it the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) and instructed it to oversee the implementation of the Programme for Action from the International Conference on Population and Development.

Cairo expanded the scope of the conversation. Previously, conferences dealing with population concerns primarily dealt with using family planning as a tool to control population growth in the developing world.

Lori S. Ashford, former technical director for policy information at the Population Reference Bureau, noted that “[I]n the 21st century, continued population growth presents many of the same challenges to development as the rapid growth of the last century. But governments’ responses to growth (in particular, their public stances) are dramatically different from a decade ago: Policies aimed at population control are no longer acceptable in most countries.”

Besides establishing the purview and goals of the commission, the Cairo Conference also defined how the commission would pursue its mission to serve as a resource to the Economic and Social Council and General Assembly on population and development. To accomplish this goal, CPD acts in three roles, all spelled out on its website.

First, they arrange for studies and advise the Economic and Social Council and General Assembly. There are five different areas that these studies focus and offered advice on

  1. population issues and trends
  2. integrating population and development policies and programmes
  3. population and related development policies and programmes
  4. provision of population assistance, upon request, to developing countries and, on a temporary basis, to countries with economies in transition
  5. any other population and development questions on which either the principal or the subsidiary organs of the United Nations or the specialized agencies may seek advice. Each of these topics is pertinent to the goals of the Programme and allows the Commission to develop a more complete picture of global population trends, policies, and needs.

Second, the body monitors and reviews implementation of the Programme of Action. These programmes happen at the regional, global, and national levels with the commission identifying successes and failures, and the causes for said successes and failures. These are usually accomplished via studies organized by the commission. The results acquired by the Commission are then reported to the Economic and Social Council and General Assembly. The purpose of doing this is to aid in the implementation of the Programme for Action by increasing successes and identifying what causes a success and what causes failures.

Third, as necessary, the commission recommends actions to the Economic and Social Council and General Assembly on the basis of their reports.

The library of documents passed by the Commission on Population Development can be found here. The most recently published document can be found here. This most recent report was published after the 49th session of the Commission (Taking place 11-15 April and 17 April 2016). A document detailing the Ten Key Findings from the 50th Session, in 2017 can be found here. Unfortunately, the report for the 50th Session has not yet been made publicly available on their website.

Anyone who wishes to learn more about the Commission for Population and Development can visit the Population Division website to learn about how it fits into the structure of the United Nations and learn more about the reports given by the body. You can also follow the Commission’s work on Twitter by searching for #CPD50.

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