International cooperation in the area of population is a relatively recent phenomenon, one that has undergone profound changes over the last two decades. The following developments are worth noting:
- Although the number of donors has increased, financial resources for population have remained at about the same level for over a decade;
- The profile of the donor community has been shaped by the growing presence of NGOs and private sector organizations;
- Numerous experiences of successful cooperation among developing countries have dispelled the stereotyped view of donors being exclusively from the developed world; and
- Donor partnerships have become more prevalent in a variety of configurations, so that it is no longer unusual to find governments and multilateral organizations working closely with national and international NGOs, and the private sector.
The maturing process continues to go on within international agencies which cooperate on population issues. But a number of shortcomings remain to be addressed. For instance, the expanding number of development partners forces both recipients and donors to choose among a multitude of competing development priorities - a task which recipient governments in particular find hard to carry out. Lack of effective coordination mechanisms has been found to result in unnecessary duplication of efforts and lack of programme consistency. Re-establishing and adhering to national priorities requires a new clarification of, and commitment to, reciprocal responsibilities among development partners.
The following elements are usually present in successful programmes:
1. By forming broad-based, integrated development committees charged with coordinating international support - containing representatives from all key ministries - governments can ensure that national development plans take specific account of the intended role of international cooperation in their population programmes, particularly with respect to capacity building and transfer of technology.
2. Recipient governments often set up national coordination mechanisms for channeling international cooperation in population, and to better clarify the responsibilities assigned to various cooperation partners, including intergovernmental organizations and international NGOs. Careful coordination of donor aid and national investments in population results in more effective programmes and ultimately in the delivery of better reproductive health and family planning services.
3. There is a strong consensus on the need to mobilize significant additional financial resources both from the international community and within developing countries to strengthen the capacity of governments to carry out national population programmes. It has been suggested that donor governments should endeavor to allocate at least four per cent of their total development assistance to population (the current average is around 1.34 per cent). In lieu of this, governments find it useful to adopt funding targets for population programmes, securing contributions - both domestic and from the donor community - commensurate with the scope and scale of activities required to meet stated population goals.