Creating a New Consensus on Population:

The International Conference on Population and Development

Posted: 1 September 2000

Author: Jyoti Shankar Singh

As former Director of the UN Population Fund's Technical and Evaluation Division (recently renamed Technical and Policy Division), Jyoti Singh was one of the key "movers and shakers" working tirelessly behind the scenes at the Cairo Conference to create a new global consensus on population and development. It is fitting that this book comes out on the eve of the five-year review of the implementation of the Cairo agenda, agreed to by all 179 governments present at this momentous conference, held in September 1994 in Cairo, Egypt.

As one of the insiders in the long and laborious process of getting a new, broader reproductive health agenda through the meat grinder of a numbing political process, Singh's book is a masterful behind-the-scenes account of one of the most successful UN conferences ever held. As current history, it is an accurate and highly readable account of the entire process that led, eventually, to the ICPD Programme of Action. It is also takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the corridors power, offering insights into not only what happened and why, but how. The how of this account is really what makes the book a must read for anyone interested in the international political process and the workings of the UN system. Few books ever written on the outcome of a UN conference are worth the paper they're printed on. This book is an important exception. As such, it is an invaluable contribution to political science as well as providing a kind of road map to the vital population and development issues that are currently shaping the debate over individual choice versus chance and the controversy surrounding the emergence of a powerful global movement promoting women's and men's reproductive rights.

The abortion debate in the United States is just the tip of the backlash. Make no mistake, we are in a war with the forces of coercion and oppression that would turn women back into mute baby factories and overturn 30 years of progress. This book lays out in no uncertain terms the issues that are at stake and why everyone should care about the outcome of the reproductive revolution, a revolution that the author helped to bring about.

Reviewer: Don Hinrichsen