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International development experts share their ideas on how wealthy countries can promote prosperity in developing countries. Follow at

Jul 10, 2012

This week’s London Summit on Family Planning marks a renewed focus on a long neglected development issue. As my guest, former World Bank demographer and CGD visiting fellow John May writes this week in the Financial Times (gated) and on CGD’s Global Health blog that access to contraception is not only a human right and health issue but also essential to poverty reduction and sustainable economic growth.

John knows what he is talking about: he is the author of the recently published landmark book, World Population Policies: Their Origin, Evolution and Impact. He tells me the world’s population has more than doubled in the past three decades, to 7 billion, and is expected to reach 9.3 billion by 2050. Though the average number of children per woman has declined in high and middle income countries, sometimes to less than replacement level, many poor countries still have quite high fertility. Globally about 215 million women lack desired access to family planning services and too often resort to abortion when these services are not available.