UN appeal for family planning funds snubbed by USA

Posted: 11 July 2008

On World Population Day, the United Nations has called for more funds for family planning to reduce maternal mortality and help fight inequality and poverty. But the US Government has announced it is to withhold family planning funds voted by Congress for the seventh successive year.

In his World Population Day message, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: "Studies show that family planning has immediate benefits for the lives and health of mothers and their infants." He added, "On World Population Day, let us focus on the critical importance of family planning if we are to successfully achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Nanda Debibohara, 18 years old
Nanda Debibohara, 18 years old
Nanda Debibohara, 18 years old, got married when she was 12. She now has two children, including an infant who is severely ill. Safebagar, Nepal. Photo © UNFPA/Peter Bruyneel
"Let us take action to reduce maternal mortality and achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015," said Mr Ban. "Let us devote greater attention and resources to the work to improve the health and quality of life for all people."

In a separate message, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, said that family planning "is essential to women's empowerment and gender equality. When a woman can plan her family, she can plan the rest of her life.

"Family planning is also an effective means in the fight against poverty," said Ms. Obaid. "Parents can plan ahead and devote more of their resources to the education and health of each child."

But in June, the US Government said it would withhold $39.7 million authorized by Congress for UNFPA for the seventh straight year.

Since 2002, the administration has withheld a total of US$235 million from UNFPA, which supports voluntary family planning and reproductive health care programmes in 154 countries worldwide. In his letter notifying Congress of the decision, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte once again cited UNFPA's programme in China as the reason, saying that by providing "financial and technical resources" to the government, UNFPA "provides support for and participates in the management" of coercive abortions and sterilizations there.

A statement made by the United Kingdom on behalf of other UNFPA board members (including Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany) when they approved the 6th country programme in 2006 said "A central objective of development cooperation is to improve policy and practise through dialogue and assistance. In this respect, we believe UNFPA is a 'force for good' by playing a crucial and catalytic role through its work in China, particularly in the selected counties."

The statement went on to read "let me state unequivocally that in our view, UNFPA's activities in China, as in the rest of the world, are in strict conformity with the unanimously adopted Programme of Action of the ICPD, and play a key role in supporting our common endeavour, the promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. Our delegations believe UNFPA deserves strong support to pursue these activities - thereby contributing to reaching the MDGs, particularly those related to HIV/AIDS, maternal health and child mortality."

See also World Bank calls for more family planning