In the past 40 years, family-planning programmes have played a major part in raising the prevalence of contraceptive practice from less than 10% to 60% and reducing fertility in developing countries from six to about three births per woman. However, in half the 75 larger low-income and lower-middle income countries (mainly in Africa), contraceptive practice remains low and fertility, population growth, and unmet need for family planning are high. The cross-cutting contribution to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals makes greater investment in family planning in these countries compelling. Despite the size of this unfinished agenda, international funding and promotion of family planning has waned in the past decade. A revitalisation of the agenda is urgently needed.