Carl Wahren (1933-2024), In Memoriam

| May 9, 2024 | Leave a Comment

Item Link: Access the Resource

Date of Publication: April

Year of Publication: 2024

Publication City: Gothenburg, Sweden

Publisher: The Overpopulation Project - University of Gothenburg

We note the passing of an admired leader in the field of family planning, our colleague and friend Carl Wahren. To commemorate his life and work, we share a new, wide-ranging interview with Carl about population policies and the changing role of the UN in international family planning.

It is with sadness that we now inform our readers that Carl Wahren, one of TOP’s mentors, has left us. After a long disease, he passed away peacefully together with his family on 13 April. With a rich and productive life, Carl belonged to a small group of elders with extraordinary knowledge and decades of experience in the fields of population policy, international family planning, and responsible parenthood. His work-life covered a long active period, from about 1962 to the late 1990s, including voluntary work thereafter.

At the first UN intergovernmental Population Conference in Bucharest in 1974, Carl headed the drafting process for the World Population Plan of Action. He was also active in the second large UN population conference in 1984, in Mexico City. Between 1978 and 1984 he was Secretary General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). Later, he was Head of the Aid Management Division at OECD (1987-1997). The list of his achievements is long, and TOP plans to publish Carl’s historical archive on the website later this year.

Carl’s stance on population matters was always clear, with the well-being of both the environment and people in focus. His memory was outstanding; even at the age of 90, he could recount what ministers, heads of state, and key actors in family planning said and did in particular events. His TOP blog on “Rights and responsibilities in population policies” is one of our best blogs, please read if you have not done so.

A unique film interview

Carl was active almost to the end, and TOP is proud to be able to present this interview with him, filmed two months ago. Carl was happy when he saw the final version of the film, produced by TOP and Swedish filmmaker Johan Heurgren.

Carl Wahren reading in his favorite armchair, at the time of the interview. Photo: Frank Götmark

In this interview, Carl provides a counterpoint to the current dominant narrative from the UN, that population interventions prior to Cairo (1994) had been imposed by the West and conducted “without heed to people’s reproductive aspirations, their health, or the health of their children.” The UNFPA has also stated “Engineering population numbers have not proven successful in the past. Rather, it only serves to undermine human rights, including reproductive rights.” Carl Wahren’s response to these statements was, “Absolute rubbish”. He describes the family planning programs with which Swedish aid (SIDA) was involved, in Sri Lanka, South Korea, and elsewhere, and the enormous benefits that flowed from these programs for women and national development.

Given the disinformation campaigns discrediting earlier voluntary family planning programs, it is all the more valuable to hear directly from the people who were there. We are very grateful to Carl for his enthusiasm in sharing his memories. We hope the film will be widely distributed – please share it with anyone you think would be interested!

Watch the interview with Carl Wahren below or on YouTube:

The views and opinions expressed through the MAHB Website are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect an official position of the MAHB. The MAHB aims to share a range of perspectives and welcomes the discussions that they prompt.