UNFPA Pushing for Hundreds of Billions for Family Planning As ICPD Era Draws to a Close

At the United Nations this week, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) organized a commemorative seminar on the 1995 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and, in a look ahead, urged states to renew their commitment to the program, calling for over $200 billion (US) in funding for "sexual and reproductive health and family planning" alone.

UNFPA’s Ann Pawliczko gave a financial perspective of the ICPD Program of Action and presented a "revised ICPD Global Cost Estimate" for 2009 through 2015, when the ICPD program is scheduled to end.  Apart from $212 billion (US) for "sexual and reproductive health / family planning," UNFPA estimates that another $22.5 billion would be needed for "family planning direct costs" for the same time period.

At the seminar, attended by less than 80 individuals representing government delegations and civil society, panelists presented a retrospective of the "groundbreaking" ICPD conference and sought to outline a way forward. Claiming that with only five years left to fulfill the commitments made at the ICPD and achieve the interrelated Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), "governments are called upon to redouble their efforts toward the integration of population and development policies."

Opening the seminar, Dr. Werner Haug, UNFPA’s Technical Division director, acknowledged that population has always been a "thorny and difficult" topic and that countries must now decide how to proceed after the Cairo Program of Action expires at the end of 2014.

Dr. Stan Bernstein, a UNFPA senior policy advisor, called the Cairo consensus "novel" for its person-centered approach rather than just on numbers and demographics and praised the Cairo’s reframing of population programs to a "customized approach" which seeks to provide couples and individuals with the means to achieve a smaller family size.

Hania Zlotnik of the UN Population Division emphasized the alleged benefits of population reduction, touting that declining fertility "has potentially positive effects on economic growth" such as a reduced number of dependents, an increased number of workers, particularly more women workers since they are having less children.  Zlotnik lamented that funding for family planning was on the decline and warned that "the reproductive health of women and couples cannot be assured if women don’t have the means to control their fertility."

Laura Laski, yet another UNFPA representative, focused solely on "reproductive rights and universal access to sexual and reproductive health."  Laski lauded the progress made since the Cairo conference and highlighted the linkage to the MDGs. Laski pointed to the controversial MDG target on "universal access to reproductive health by 2015" as the new "center point" for future work on "sexual and reproductive health." (Critics note that states rejected a separate goal on "reproductive health" in 2001, only to see it reappear as a "target" in the annex of a Secretary-General’s report in 2007.)

Panelists concluded that the "chief constraint" to realizing the Cairo program of action is the "lack of adequate funding" and urged states to increase their political will, renew their Cairo commitment and "increase allocations for population activities" as a matter of priority.

The UNFPA seminar was co-organized by UNITAR, the UN Institute for Training and Research, as part of the UN’s celebration of the ICPD 15th anniversary.

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