Introducing The Overpopulation Project Video Series # 1: The Usefulness of Foreign Aid

The Overpopulation Project is proud to present the first video in our four-part interview mini-series, an interview with Carl Wahren, a population professional with more than 30 years of experience in various multilateral organizations. Carl was a pioneer in introducing family planning programs in developing countries in the 1960’s, programs supported by the government and agencies in Sweden.

In this first video, Carl discusses the general usefulness and efficiency of foreign aid. As former head of the OECD Aid Management Division for almost a decade, he provides valuable insight into the complexity of foreign aid, project monitoring and reporting, and the cross sectoral benefits of family planning aid.

Here at TOP, one of the many solutions we promote is an increase in family planning through foreign aid assistance. But how effective is foreign aid? More specifically, how effective is family planning aid? In the short video below, Carl Wahren answers these and other questions, weighing in on this important ongoing debate.



P.S. For those who understand Swedish: Carl has just released a book on his life and thoughts, with relations to our video series. To read about and/or buy the book, see here.

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One thought on “Introducing The Overpopulation Project Video Series # 1: The Usefulness of Foreign Aid

  1. Family planning projects over the past 20 years have NOT been perfect, and sometimes actually backfired because people with sick or hungry children had access to birth control but not vaccines, micronutrients, education, clean water or adequate sanitation. What did prove most effective was reducing child deaths, educating females, empowering women economically, and assisting with clean water and sanitation. Unfortunately, only a small portion of foreign aid is devoted to these and family planning. But most important, there must be a demand for family planning in impoverished populations…and it’s NOT there if people’s children are dying from easily preventable problems…and those children are relied on for working in the fields, earning elsewhere, and providing for their parents if they survive. Family planning is most effective when it is prescribed as a health care measure along with other preventive health care measures mention earlier.
    “The critical prerequisites to reduced fertility are five: adequate nutrition, proper sanitation, basic health care, education of women, and equal rights for women.”
    Paul Ehrlich, The Population Explosion. 1991

    “And finally, as we shift from a narrow focus on population control to a broader agenda of health, development, and human rights, we must redefine the objectives of family planning and reproductive health programs, and also the standards by which we measure program success.”
    Statement of Timothy E. Wirth, Under Secretary for Global Affairs.

    “Development is the best Contraceptive” Third World Slogan

    “Population declines as economic welfare increases. The way to end population pressure is to increase economic growth and economic welfare – egalitarian growth is what is needed. That will reduce population. There is no other way to do it.”
    Noam Chompski, Interview on WAMU radio, 12-10-93.

    The secret key that unlocks the door on the impasse in Cairo at the World Conference on Population can be mouthed in one word: women. To be absolutely precise: poor women. Compared with this, everything else is probably a time-consuming sideshow. …Investment in education is probably the single most rewarding activity for any government at any level of development. …Improving female opportunity and income will lower child mortality and morbidity. Over the long run, this will inevitably encourage women to have less children. …Take care of women’s poverty and population will probably look after itself. Jonathan Power, “The Cairo Conference and the plight of Women, Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept 10, 1994.

    “The U.S. can play the key role in changing the world’s approach to stabilizing population. With some people, that’s a touchy issue, but it doesn’t have to be controversial. Some of the most effective ways to stabilize population include raising child survival rates and promoting more education and literacy, especially for women. When that happens, family sizes go down.”
    Al Gore, Vice President, responding to question, What should be the No. 1
    environmental priority? “Al Gore’s Battle Plan”, USA WEEKEND, April 9-11, 1993.

    At the Earth Summit in Rio, a large gathering of women raised serious concerns about the linkages being made between population and the environment. They challenged the importance of population as a cause of environmental degradation and instead blamed poverty, over consumption, industrial development patterns, and militarization. Emphasis on demographic factors was seen as leading to coercive family planning policies and the abuse of women in many countries.
    Susan Weber, Executive Director, Zero Population Growth 11-5-92

    “Only by guaranteeing women’s fundamental rights — to health care, education, and equal status with men — will we begin to solve one of the root causes of environmental problems: population growth”
    Patricia Waak, Director of Audubon’s Population Program, Audubon Activist., March 1992.

    “The solutions to the problems of rapid population growth are clear and well understood…there is still a need to increase substantially the availability of information and assistance on voluntary family planning.
    Much can be achieved just providing contraceptive options for those who cannot obtain them due to financial, social, or political restrictions. More fundamentally, we must deal with the economic and social problems that are the root causes of high fertility rates: widespread poverty and the oppression of women. When women everywhere have control over their own reproductive decisions, fertility rates drop. That means that, in addition to its justice, promoting women’s equality and greater access to health care and education will help produce declining fertility and eventual stabilization of population.”
    Howard Ris, Executive Director, Union of Concerned Scientists, Sept. 1992.

    “But access to contraception is not the only determinant of family size. Japan’s contraceptive use is roughly that of Costa Rica; its fertility rate is less than half. In the mid-19th century fertility in America, where land was plentiful, was one-third higher than in France, where the law divided farms into ever-tinier holdings. Though contraception matters, so do attitudes. For people to want to have fewer children, the incomes of the poor must increase and child mortality must decline. Above all, women need schools and jobs…Educating women can be less intellectually challenging than keeping the planet cool, but few investments do more for development and the environment.”
    The Economist, “The Question Rio forgets” May 30, 1992.

    The reduction of child mortality through better medical care also turns out to have a stabilizing effect on population growth. It tends to remove the fear of losing an only son, and reduces the temptation to have many sons as an insurance policy. Finally, there is evidence that female participation in the skilled labor force combined with access to credit facilities tends to limit the size of families. In fact, the better women are treated and the better educated they become, the more committed they are to limiting family size.
    Cord Meyer, Nationally syndicated columnist, “Crowded World Warning”, Washington Times, 6-6-92

    “… population growth rates are affected by many complex conditions besides food supply. In particular, a set of socioeconomic conditions can be identified that motivate parents to have fewer children…These
    conditions are: parental confidence about the future, an improved status of women and literacy. They require low infant mortality rates, widely available rudimentary health care, increased income and employment, and an adequate diet above subsistence levels…It is essential that these improvements be spread across the population; … It is not necessary that per capita GNP be very high …”
    William W. Murdoch and Alan Oaten, “Population and Food: Metaphors and the Reality”, BioScience, Vol. 25, No. 9, Sept. 1975

    “Family planning has won acceptance in a wide variety of economic and social environments. Acceptability is enhanced by promoting other human rights — economic security; adequate housing and community services; education and health — by support for women’s social, educational and
    employment rights; and by a human- centered approach to development. Put simply, family planning is encouraged by a society in which basic needs are met and in which women participate on an equal basis with men.”
    Dr. Nafis Sadik, Executive Director of UNFPA, 1991 United Nations State of
    the World’s population Fund.

    “The surest way to achieve a sustained decline in fertility is to give a new priority to ‘social’ or ‘women’s resources’ investment, to improving mother and child health, women’s status and education and to making family planning as widely available as possible to both women and men.”
    Dr. Nafis Sadik, Executive Director of UNFPA, The State of the World Population 1990.

    I have dozens of other quotes if these are insufficient to change your uninformed opinion.

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