Working Group on UNFPA’s Leadership Transition

A CGD working group examined the United Nations’ evolving role in population and development, with a specific focus on the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). CGD’s Rachel Nugent co-chaired the working group with Professor David Bloom from Harvard University’s School of Public Health, and Dr. Jotham Musinguzi, head of the Africa Regional Office of Partners in Population and Development. Working group members consisted of population and development experts from all regions of the world, and included policymakers, filmmakers, funders, academics and advocates. The Working Group offered recommendations to the incoming executive director of UNFPA.

Several events motivated the project, creating an opportunity for both reflection and planning about international population and development and reproductive health conditions. A change in leadership at UNFPA occured in January 2011. In addition, three development agendas, slated for renewal or retirement in 2015, prompted a conversation on “what’s next”: (i) the International Conference on Population and Development (1994-2015), which established the “Cairo Programme of Action” for UNFPA; (ii) the Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015); and (iii) the Beijing Platform of Action (1995-2015), which was set at the Fourth World Conference on Women. Each of these agendas greatly influences the direction of international policy and giving. With their expiration, the group identified a compelling opportunity to consider the role of population in development discourse and action, and proposed either refinements or revolution in the UN’s and UNFPA’s roles in population and reproductive health and rights.

CGD has previously offered independent policy recommendations to major international organizations as they experience leadership changes. These include the World Bank (2006), Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (2006), African Development Bank (2006) and UNAIDS (2009). Such transitions provide an opportunity for the international community to ask questions and hold a broad-based dialogue about institutional mandates, policy focus, resources, and governance of global agencies.

The working group considered major population and development topics including the pressing unfinished agenda in family planning and maternal health—largely centered on South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, the needs of a growing number of countries to address changing age structures (including the challenges of aging and shrinking populations), internal and international migration trends, and environmental linkages. To address the list of sweeping challenges, CGD convened an equally comprehensive and diverse working group to meet the challenge. A brief background paper exploring UNFPA’s role in addressing these issues is here.

Membership & Composition

The working group was co-chaired by David Bloom, Jotham Musinguzi and CGD’s Rachel Nugent, and is part of CGD’s Demographics & Development initiative. Support was provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Members of the working group were invited to join in a personal capacity and on a voluntary basis and included population and development experts from all regions of the world, policymakers, filmmakers, funders, academics and advocates.

  • David Bloom (co-chair), Harvard University
  • Ellen Chesler, Hunter College
  • Robert Engelman, Worldwatch Institute
  • Alex Ezeh, APHRC
  • Linda Harrar, Linda Harrar Productions
  • Manny Jimenez, World Bank
  • Melinda Kimble, UN Foundation
  • Bert Koenders, Former Minister for Development Cooperation (Netherlands)
  • Peter Lamptey, FHI 
  • Jotham Musinguzi (co-chair), Partners in Population and Development
  • Rachel Nugent (co-chair), Center for Global Development
  • Nandini Oomman, Center for Global Development
  • Luis Rosero-Bixby, Central American Population Center, University of Costa Rica
  • Fred Sai, former Chairman of the Main Committee of International Conference on Population and Development
  • Sara Seims, Hewlett Foundation
  • Gamal Serour, International Islamic Center for Population Studies and Research
  • Jeremy Shiffman, American University
  • Steve Sinding, Guttmacher Institute
  • John Worley, International Planned Parenthood Federation