During the past few decades, considerable experience has been gained on how government policies and programmes can be designed and implemented to address population concerns, enhance people's choices, and contribute to broad social progress. Experience has shown that countries where the leadership is strongly committed to human resource development, gender equality and to meeting the reproductive health needs of the population, including family planning, have been able to mobilize sustained commitment at all levels to make population programmes successful. There is a growing recognition that population policies and programmes, to be sustainable, need to involve the intended beneficiaries in their design and implementation.
For national programmes to be successful, the following elements are usually present:
1. Governments back up stated policies with high level political commitment and ensure that population issues are not left out of policy- and decision-making. They do this using a variety of mechanisms, commonly forming population policy units within planning ministries or ministries of health and welfare.
2. Governments formulate national strategies and programmes that address population and development problems as integral parts of their sectoral and overall development planning process. Normally, such strategies involve the active participation of local governmental authorities, NGOs, the private sector and local communities.
3. Governments, in collaboration with NGOs, and assisted where possible by the international donor community, make the necessary plans and take the actions required to measure, assess, monitor and evaluate progress towards the goals set forth in their "population action plans".
4. Building up the capacity and self-reliance of countries to undertake successful population action programmes in order to further national development objectives and to improve the quality of life for all citizens remains a fundamental goal of national policies.
Within this context, the following actions should be taken:
- Formulate human resource development programmes in a manner that explicitly addresses the needs of population programmes, giving special consideration to the training and employment of women at all levels;
- Formulate systematic manpower plans to ensure the efficient deployment of trained personnel to manage population programmes. In general, this means the training of midwives, doctors and nurses in the provision of family planning services. But it also implies that planning and health ministries have trained personnel capable of managing large-scale programmes;
- Rationalize salary scales to ensure the retention and advancement of managerial and technical personnel involved in population programmes; and
- Maintain data bases of national experts and institutions of excellence in order to bolster national competence in formulating and implementing population policies and programmes.
In addition, governments need to calculate carefully the costs of their population programmes. It has been estimated by the United Nations that, on average, it costs about $13 per year to provide basic reproductive health and family planning services to developing world couples. Modest as this seems, many countries fail to take adequate account of costs and their programmes suffer as a result.