Journal Article

The dilemma of past success: Insiders’ views on the future of the international family planning movement

Many observers believe that the international family planning movement has played a significant role in reducing fertility levels and slowing population growth in the developing world. Yet the perceived success of family planning programs recently has led some researchers to formulate questions about their relevance and future place on the development policy agenda. Within a framework derived from the sociological literature on social movements, we use interviews and focus-group discussions with insiders in the field of population studies to examine current perspectives on the status and future of the family planning movement, factors contributing to its declining international visibility, and possible responses from the family planning field. Informants cited four possible courses of action for the movement: (1) forming strategic alliances with other movements, specifically HIV/AIDS prevention; (2) redefining the family planning message to mobilize and strengthen support; (3) improving service delivery to broaden public acceptance and contraceptive method use; and (4) nurturing new leadership. The future course of the movement-whether it be one of cooptation by overlapping movements or revitalization-requires waiting until its full history can be written.