The United Nations coordinated an International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, Egypt, on 5–13 September 1994. Its resulting Programme of Action is the steering document for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Some 20,000 delegates from various governments, UN agencies, NGOs, and the media gathered for a discussion of a variety of population issues, including immigration, infant mortality, birth control, family planning, the education of women, and protection for women from unsafe abortion services.
The conference received considerable media attention due to disputes regarding the assertion of reproductive rights. The Holy See and several predominantly Islamic nations were staunch critics, and U.S. President Bill Clinton received considerable criticism from conservatives for his participation, considering the fact that president Ronald Reagan did not attend or fund the previous conference held in Mexico City in 1984. The official spokesman for the Holy See was archbishop Renato Martino.
During and after the ICPD, some interested parties attempted to interpret the term 'reproductive health' in the sense that it implies abortion as a means of family planning or, indeed, a right to abortion. These interpretations, however, do not reflect the consensus reached at the Conference. For the European Union, where legislation on abortion is less restrictive than elsewhere, the Council Presidency has clearly stated that the council's commitment to promote 'reproductive health' did not include the promotion of abortion. Likewise, the European Commission, in response to a question from a Member of the European Parliament, clarified:
"The term 'reproductive health' was defined by the United Nations (UN) in 1994 at the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development. All Member States of the Union endorsed the Programme of Action adopted at Cairo. The Union has never adopted an alternative definition of 'reproductive health' to that given in the Programme of Action, which makes no reference to abortion."
With regard to the US, only a few days prior to the Cairo Conference, the head of the US delegation, Vice President Al Gore, had stated for the record:
"Let us get a false issue off the table: the US does not seek to establish a new international right to abortion, and we do not believe that abortion should be encouraged as a method of family planning."
Some years later, the position of the US Administration in this debate was reconfirmed by US Ambassador to the UN, Ellen Sauerbrey, when she stated at a meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women that: "nongovernmental organizations are attempting to assert that Beijing in some way creates or contributes to the creation of an internationally recognized fundamental right to abortion". She added: "There is no fundamental right to abortion. And yet it keeps coming up largely driven by NGOs trying to hijack the term and trying to make it into a definition".
According to the official ICPD release, the conference delegates achieved consensus on the following four qualitative and quantitative goals:
The 2019 Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 was held in Nairobi in November. It marks the 25th year of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). The government of Kenya, Denmark and UNFPA are co-convening the summit. It is a platform for all interested in the pursuit of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) which includes duty bearers, civil society organisations (CSOs), private sector organisation, women group, youth networks, faith base organisation etc. to discuss and agree on the actions to complete the ICPD Programme of Action.