I spent a recent Saturday afternoon looking at antique maps with James Roy, an expert New York dealer. I was particularly intrigued by two maps. The first, published in 1522, depicted an understanding of south and southeast Asian geography essentially unmodified since the second century. The Indian Ocean is closed in the east, creating an inland sea. There is no Japan and no Australia. In the second map, published 70 years later, the world is transformed. The Indian Ocean has opened; Korea and Japan exist, and Sumatra, Java, and Borneo have found their proper places. While examining the maps, I thought that what these early mapmakers accomplished in their time is analogous to what the Population Council has accomplished in our time.
The maps clarified the geographic world of the sixteenth century. They moved from a worldview informed by speculation and imagination to an understanding based on observation—what we call research and analysis in modern parlance.
For 60 years, the Population Council has identified important population, health, and development problems and created and evaluated ways to address them. And we have collaborated with government and NGO partners to increase the quality and coverage of family planning, reproductive health, and HIV and AIDS services. Sixty years ago, there were no government-sponsored family planning programs; no long-acting, reversible contraceptive methods; the determinants and consequences of population change were poorly understood; and high-quality, comprehensive reproductive health programs were unknown in most of the developing world.
This year's annual report focuses on family planning, one of the most consequential of the issues that the Population Council has addressed over the past 60 years. Sixty years ago, doubters argued that women in developing countries wouldn't use family planning and that contraceptive use would not spread until countries modernized. Population Council studies in Bangladesh, Taiwan, and Thailand demonstrated that women wanted to practice family planning and that fertility would decline well in advance of widespread development. Like the early mapmakers, the Population Council changed the way the world thought about critical issues and outlined directions that others could follow.
In this report, Council vice president John Bongaarts notes that family planning has been overlooked by many in the development community and describes the ways that family planning can help women, their families, and the societies in which they live. He calls on national governments and international donors to do more to increase access to family planning.
Our 2011 annual report has a streamlined print format and an enhanced on-line presentation. Here at www.popcouncil.org/ar2011 you can read more about our activities related to family planning and find photos, video clips, data, and thought-provoking essays by Council experts on our other research and programs.
Our partners, donors, and friends have greatly increased the effectiveness and impact of our work. We extend our heartfelt appreciation to our supporters. Your help has allowed us to chart a new world and to help deliver solutions that have benefited hundreds of millions of people. We look forward to more years of discovery and collaboration.
Peter J. Donaldson