Cairo Conference

views updated May 29 2018

Cairo conference

The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development occurs at a defining moment in the history of international cooperation, the preamble to the Program of Action for the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (UN ICPD) stated. This historic conference, the fifth such world meeting regarding population issues, was held in Cairo, Egypt September 5th to 13th, 1994, at a time when there was growing, worldwide recognition of the interdependence between global population, development and environment . The Cairo Conference considered itself as building upon the foundation already laid in the 1974 World Population Conference in Bucharest and the 1984 International Conference on Population in Mexico City.

Representatives from 180 countries throughout the world gathered to discuss these problems. In order to represent particular world societal blocs, the UN ensured representation from four communities of nations: developing countries, Muslim states, the industrialized West, and Catholic countries. The makeup of attending blocs was intentional, as controlling the world's population involves many hotly debated issues that bring about sharp differences of opinion on religious and cultural beliefs. Conference attendees and those that would follow up on the conference's recommendations in their host nations would have to address issues like marriage, divorce, abortion, contraception and homosexuality.

The call to address population growth came at a time when some groups said that the world was already pushing its food supply to natural limits. For example, marine biologists stated that ocean fisheries could not sustain catches upwards of 100 million tons of fish per year. Yet, that level was reached in 1989. Seafood prices have continued to rise since that time but seafood production has continued and so has population growth. In many countries, underground water supplies are reportedly strained and farming has been exploited to its capacity. The world population was estimated that year at 5.6 billion people, and projected to continue to increase at the 1994 level of 86 million people per year. Most frightening of all were the United Nations population projections for the twenty years to follow. These estimates ranged between 7.9 billion to 11.9 billion people inhabiting the earth by 2014.

In his opening address on September 5, UN Secretary-General Boutros-Boutros-Ghali said, The efficacy of the economic order of the planet on which we live depended in great measure on the conference's outcome. . Leaders of several countries spoke of the many issues surrounding the problem and causing social and ethical dilemmas in setting population policy. Vice-President Albert Gore of the United States spoke of a holistic approach that also comprehensively addresses world poverty. Over the course of six days, more than 200 speakers shared their concerns about population and strategies to curb growth. Because the conference was mandated to address the issues and how they impacted population, the debate branched out to a number of economic, reproductive, trade, environmental, family structure, healthcare, and education issues.

The following areas of need were spelled out in the UN ICPD Programme of Action :

  • Rapid urbanization and movement within and across borders are additional population problems the Cairo conference attempted to address. At that time, more than 93 percent of the 93 million people added to the population each year lived in developing countries. UN data just prior to the conference also showed that 43 percent of the world population resided in urban areas, up from 38 percent in 1975.
  • The conference's delegates agreed on common objectives for controlling the world's population and even took on a more ambitious goal of population growth limit than anticipated by some. The conference objectives are targeted for completion by the year 2015. The common strategy limits family size and helps empower women to participate in reproductive decisions.
  • The Cairo conference goals also addressed some mortality issues, and set an objective of reducing infant mortality worldwide by 45%. In 1994, infant mortality averaged 62 per 1,000 live births. The conference's objective aimed to lower that number to only 12 per 1,000 live births.
  • A goal was also outlined to lower maternal mortality to 30 per 100,000 women. These objectives would be furthered by a pledge to offer prenatal care to all pregnant women.
  • The conference also included an objective addressing education. It outlined that all children of school age be enabled to complete primary education.
  • Contraception availability became another tool to limit population growth. The delegates settled on a goal of making contraception accessible to 70% of the world's population by the year 2015. However, they also added universal access to family planning as a final objective.
  • In order to meet family planning goals, some leaders in the field suggested a shift in how leaders looked at their policies. Prior to the conference, they tended to focus on organized family planning programs. The Cairo conference objectives shifted the focus to a broadened policy, concerned with issues like gender equality, education, and empowerment of women to better deal with reproductive choices.
  • The aging of the populations in more developed countries was also discussed.

Although unprecedented agreement was reached over the few days in Cairo, it didn't happen without heated debate and controversy. Most participants supported the notion that population policies must be based on individual rights and freedom of choice, as well as the rights of women and cultures. Since abortion was considered such a sensitive issue, many delegates agreed that family planning offered women alternative recourse to abortion. The Cairo Conference ended with both hope and concern for the future. If the conference objectives were reached, the delegates projected that world population would rise from 5.7 billion in the mid-1990s to 7.5 billion by the year 2015, and then begin to stabilize. However, if the objectives were not reached, conference attendees concluded that the population would continue to rise to the perilous numbers discussed in the conferences preamble.

Following the Cairo conference, the United States began implementing the conference objectives. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) held a series of meetings between September 1994 and January 1995 to draw upon the expertise and ideas of American leaders in the field and to begin encouraging U.S. participation in population control goals. Among the USAID's own objectives for the United States were new initiatives and expansion of programs in place that emphasized family planning and health, as well as education and empowerment of women in America. For example, USAID suggested expanding access to reproductive health information and services and improved prevention of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It also promoted research on male methods of contraception and new barrier methods to protect from both pregnancy and STDs. The agency focused on improving women's equality and rights beginning with review of existing U.S. programs. A major focus would also include improving women's economic equity in the United States.

Such initiatives cost money. The U.S. Congress appropriated $527 million to family planning and reproductive health in fiscal year 1995 alone. A number of additional programs received substantial funding to support the economic, social, and educational programs needed to complete the United States' objectives related to the Cairo conference. Included in this overall program was establishment of the President's Council on Sustainable Development , a combination public/private group charged with making recommendations on U.S. policies and programs that will help balance population growth with consumption of natural resources . The United States also worked cooperatively with Japan prior to and following the conference on a common agenda to coordinate population and health assistance goals. The program also was designed to help strengthen relations between Japan and the United States.

Five years after the Cairo conference, a follow-up conference was held in New York City from June 30th to July 2nd, 1999. In preparation for the conference, a forum was held at The Hague, Netherlands. At that forum, delegates of several countries that had expressed concerns about the Cairo conference objectives five years earlier began trying to renegotiate the program of action. By the time the Cairo Plus Five conference convened in 1999, final recommendations had not been completed, as some member delegates, including representatives of the Vatican in Rome, attempted to alter the original Cairo program of action. Money was yet another issue in focus at the 1999 meeting. United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) Chief Nafis Sadik estimated that $5.7 billion per year was needed to meet the Cairo Conference aims, an amount she described as peanuts . The actual average amount available to the Programme of Action was far less, $2.2 billion.

The real measure of success lies in whether or not world population stabilizes. There is some evidence to suggest that while still growing, the number of human beings inhabiting this planet is not growing at the nightmare rates projected at the beginning of the Cairo Conference. The United States Bureau of Census projections, revised in 1999, now estimate a world population of 8 billion by 2024, approximately the lowest estimate the Cairo Conference projected for 2014.

[Joan M. Schonbeck ]



US Census Bureau World Population Profile: 1998--Highlights (revised March 18,1999)

United NationsProgramme of Action of the UN ICPD, Preamble

United Nations Chronicle, On-Line EditionPopulation, Progress and Peanuts Vol.XXXVI, Nov.3, 1999, Dept. of Information

"Focus on Population and Development: Follow-up on Cairo Conference."US Department of State Dispatch 6, no. 1 (January 2, 1995): 4.

"Cairo Conference Reaches Consensus on Plan to Stabilize World Growth by 2015."UN Chronicle 31 (December 1994): 63.


Population Council, 1 Dag Hammarsrkjold Plz, New York, NY USA 10017 (212) 339-0500, Fax: (212) 755-6052, Email: [email protected], <>

United Nations, , New York, NY USA 10017 , <>

Cairo Conference (1921)

views updated May 17 2018


meeting of middle east experts to decide on administration of british mandates of iraq and transjordan.

The Cairo Conference was convened by Winston Churchill, then Britain's colonial secretary. With the mandates of Palestine and Iraq awarded to Britain at the San Remo Conference (1920), Churchill wished to consult with Middle East experts, and at his request, Gertrude Bell, Sir Percy Cox, T. E. Lawrence, Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, Sir Arnold T. Wilson, Iraqi minister of war Jaʿfar alAskari, Iraqi minister of finance Sasun Effendi (Sasson Heskayl), and others gathered in Cairo, Egypt, in March 1921. The two most significant decisions of the conference were to offer the throne of Iraq to Amir Faisal ibn Hussein (who became Faisal I) and the emirate of Transjordan (now Jordan) to his brother Abdullah I ibn Hussein. Furthermore, the British garrison in Iraq would be substantially reduced and replaced by air force squadrons, with a major base at Habbaniyya. The conference provided the political blueprint for British administration in both Iraq and Transjordan, and in offering these two regions to the Hashimite sons of Sharif Husayn ibn Ali of the Hijaz, Churchill believed that the spirit, if not the letter, of Britain's wartime promises to the Arabs would be fulfilled.

see also abdullah i ibn hussein; askari, jaʿfar al-; bell, gertrude; churchill, winston s.; cox, percy; faisal i ibn hussein; heskayl, sasson; lawrence, t. e.; san remo conference (1920); wilson, arnold t.


Fromkin, David. A Peace to End All Peace. New York: H. Holt, 1989.

Klieman, Aaron S. Foundations of British Policy in the Arab World: The Cairo Conference of 1921. London: Johns Hopkins, 1970.

Zachary Karabell

Cairo Conferences

views updated Jun 11 2018


CAIRO CONFERENCES. On their way to the Teheran Conference, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill met with Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek at Cairo in November 1943 to discuss the war against Japan. During the meeting at Cairo, Roosevelt hoped to provide symbolic—rather than additional material—support to Chiang's embattled regime. In contrast, Chiang hoped to use the conference as a forum to persuade Roosevelt to devote more Allied resources to the fighting on the Asian mainland, particularly in China and Burma. The three conferees issued a declaration of intent: to take from Japan all of the Pacific islands occupied by it since 1914; to restore to China all territory seized by Japan, such as Manchuria, Formosa, and the Pescadores Islands; and to give Korea its independence "in due course." Despite the broad statement of war aims, however, the main focus of the Allied military effort against Japan remained the islands of the Central and South Pacific, rather than the expulsion of Japanese forces from China.

Returning from Teheran, Roosevelt and Churchill met in December with President Ismet Inönü of Turkey at the second Cairo Conference and unsuccessfully attempted to persuade him to declare war on the Axis powers.


Dallek, Robert. Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932–1945. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.

Smith, Gaddis. American Diplomacy During the Second World War, 1941–1945. New York: Wiley, 1965.

Charles S.Campbell/a. g.

See alsoJapan, Relations with ; Teheran Conference .