Concept Paper for an Office of Population In The White House By William N. Ryerson, President Population Media Center and Population Institute Now that there may soon be an opportunity to re-think the approach of the United States to the population issue, I would like to propose that consideration be given to the establishment of an Office of Population in the White House, both to elevate the discussion of the population issue and to coordinate with the relevant offices in the State Department and at USAID. The reason to establish the office in the White House is that there are serious questions regarding the current global strategy for solving the population problem being raised by a significant number of reputable population professionals. These concerns go beyond the obvious issues of funding levels; support for UNFPA; and reversal of the gag rule that prohibits funding for the International Planned Parenthood Federation and other non-governmental organizations that have programs that include abortion services, abortion counseling, or abortion training for physicians. Assuming for the moment that the United States and other donor countries can provide sufficient funding to meet existing family planning needs, there is growing concern that taking such a step will fall far short of stopping exponential growth of human numbers throughout the world and the poverty and human desperation it generates. In order to address these concerns, the primary focus on the Population Office in the White House would be the development of a global strategy for achieving population stabilization and/or reduction worldwide. This would include the following three elements: 1. compiling and assisting with development of policies of governments around the world with regard to population and family planning; 2. ensuring adequate quality and availability of information and means necessary for people to determine the number and spacing of their children; and 3. promoting social, cultural, and attitudinal changes necessary to bring about reduced family size desires and use of effective family planning methods. It is this third area that has been neglected by many of the leading donor entities in the world. While much good has been accomplished by helping people to achieve their current desired family size, unless we bring about changes in the status of women and attitudes of men and women with regard to desired family size, merely helping the world’s population become perfect contraceptors will result in slower but unending exponential growth. This is true, of course, because in many parts of the world people want far more children than are required for replacement or because they are fatalistic and don’t believe it is appropriate or useful to take steps to determine family size. In order to develop a strategy for population stabilization and/or reduction, there are some important research needs in the three areas mentioned above. This includes obtaining a far more comprehensive understanding of family size preferences among those who are using contraceptives, as well as among those who are not, throughout all of the major countries of the world. The proposed Office of Population in the White House would orchestrate this strategyfocused research and would develop estimates of the financial resources necessary to achieve success in the various areas of intervention mentioned above. In addition, the Office of Population in the White House would work to encourage research on key linkages between population growth and environmental degradation, population growth and women’s status, population growth and poverty, etc. Some of the findings of this research would feed into strategy discussions, while some would be useful in quantifying the problems caused by population growth and in promoting voluntary methods to bring about population stabilization. A related activity for the Office of Population is to determine what level of population is appropriate globally and in the United States in order to achieve sustainability. This will involve looking at scientific evidence regarding various combinations of population sizes and lifestyle choices to arrive at recommended levels of both. This should be done in consultation with other governments worldwide and in collaboration with the United Nations. The proposed office would work with various donor governments and institutions to help develop a coordinated strategy of funding the various activities required to implement the strategy. The Director of the Office of Population should be someone familiar with the population field, the various points of view within the field, and the key players; should have the ability to make critical assessments of scientific findings and presentations relevant to strategy formation in the population field; should have managerial capability; should be action oriented and not just research oriented; and should have diplomatic skills in dealing with governments and funding entities throughout the world.