After a seven-year hiatus from
contributing to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United
States is in the process of making approximately $50 million in funding
available to the organization.
In his first week in office, President Obama
announced his intention
to work with Congress to restore
U.S. funding for UNFPA
in order to "join the 180 other donor nations working collaboratively
to reduce poverty, improve the health of women and children, prevent
HIV/AIDS and provide family planning assistance to women in 154 countries."
Now, with the enactment of
the fiscal year 2009 appropriations bill, it appears that the first
U.S. contribution to UNFPA will arrive just as experts from around the
world prepare to gather at the United Nations for a global review of
population and development priorities. The review, an annual meeting
of the Commission on Population and Development, will take place on
March 30-April 3 in New York City. It is the first of several United
Nations events that will mark the 15th anniversary of the International
Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994.
At the conference, the United
States and 178 other member states signed on to an ambitious 20-year
plan for international development. The plan was guided by the principle
that stabilizing population growth and fighting poverty are fundamentally
interrelated goals, neither
of which can be achieved without investing in the rights of women.
In 2000, an even larger group
of countries, including the United States, reaffirmed this commitment
by signing on to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While the
United States has honored parts of that pledge, largely through the
efforts of the U.S. Agency for International Development, it has fallen far behind other developed countries’ investments
in the developing world. In fact, among developed countries, the United
States is tied for last place in the percentage of gross national income
it devotes to foreign assistance.
Reinstating funding for UNFPA
and rescinding the anti-family planning "global gag rule" are excellent first
steps by the Obama
administration to make up for ground the United States has lost over
the past decade. But much more remains to be done to restore U.S. leadership
on global sexual and reproductive health issues. With "Cairo plus
15" as a central theme, the upcoming United Nations meeting is a prime
opportunity for the United States to reassert its commitment to fulfilling
the promises made in 1994.
As part of the proceedings,
the Guttmacher Institute and UNFPA will convene representatives from
the British, Norwegian and U.S. international aid agencies in a parallel
session to discuss priorities in funding for population and development.
The panelists will also explore how the donor agencies can work together
to maximize investments in global sexual and reproductive health.
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