Family Planning Summit: The verdict

by 18th Jul 2017
Young women in India discussing family planning methods at a CARE project Young women in India discussing family planning methods at a CARE project

By Alice Allan and Christina Wegs:

The Family Planning Summit, held in London on 11 July 2017, was a chance to re-energise support for global efforts to reach an additional 120 million women and girls with contraception information and services by 2020. Since the first Family Planning Summit in 2012, there has been progress towards that goal, with an additional 30.2 million women and girls able to have access to modern contraceptive methods. But there is still a long way to go and some major challenges to overcome – including the withdrawal of key donor funding from vital components of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights through the US government’s Global Gag Rule – the elephant in the room at the Summit.

CARE colleagues in Africa, Asia, North America, Europe and Australia joined together in a coordinated effort to convey our messages and policy asks to governments of donor and FP2020 focus countries in the months prior to the Summit. We were clear that to make more progress the global community had to focus on three main areas.

Family planning in emergencies

Number one was ensuring that more women and young people in humanitarian settings could access family planning. Five years ago at the 2012 Summit, this was not even part of the debate. Yet CARE’s work to address sexual and reproductive health in crisis settings in countries such as Chad, DRC, Syria and South Sudan shows that delivering contraceptive services in the most difficult humanitarian situations is possible and saves lives – and that demand for it is fierce.

For several months leading up to the Summit, CARE – along with other members of IAWG (the Inter-Agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crises) – engaged in intensive advocacy with key donors to secure commitments and funding that ensure universal access to contraception in all humanitarian crises.

We were pleased to see that the UK made specific commitments to spend at least £225 million on family planning every year for the next five years (a 25% increase and two-year extension on the 2012 commitment), focusing on Nigeria, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, Pakistan, Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia.

The UK acknowledges family planning in humanitarian settings as a key life-saving component of humanitarian response. It prioritises investments to ensure full implementation of an updated version of the Minimal Initial Service Package for sexual and reproductive health services in crisis situations (which will include a specific FP objective), and commits to expand the numbers of female healthworkers delivering SRHR services at the frontlines of disaster response. The UK committed to ensuring FP is prioritised in its humanitarian funding, and allocates new DFID funding to WHO to support the development of an accountability mechanism for SRHR in humanitarian crises.

The governments of Canada, Netherlands, Denmark and Australia also heeded our calls and made strong commitments to improving data, monitoring, accountability and funding relating to sexual and reproductive health in emergencies. And the UK, Netherlands and Belgium invited donors to sign the Joint Donor Statement on Sexual and Reproductive Health in Crises, to commit to working together to drive improved outcomes for women and girls through better coordinated and more effective funding for SRHR in crises, including core funding for the humanitarian system and bilateral aid.

Focus on adolescents

We very much welcomed the Summit’s focus on meeting the sexual and reproductive health needs and rights of the billion young people who live in FP2020’s 69 focus countries. Specifically, we know co-creating programmes with adolescents themselves is a game-changer for ensuring that we design programmes that young people want to use and which address their unique needs and realities. A CARE study in Ntcheu district, Malawi, showed that women and young people who participated in a process to proactively shape the SRHR services in their communities had a 57% greater use of modern contraception than women and young people in neighbouring communities.

We saw commitments to this focus on adolescents from governments such as Chad and Canada, and private sector actors, including The Chaudhary Foundation (Nepal) and MTV/Viacom. Quality of provision was not forgotten, with a Quality of Care Call to Action developed by 35 civil society, government and private sector actors, and a joint statement by UK civil society organisations including CARE International on comprehensive SRHR (including in emergencies, and for adolescents).

More than 30 governments, companies and civil society organisations – including CARE – committed to better monitoring and accountability for family planning access for adolescents by signing up to the Global Adolescent Data Commitment. The Summit’s Youth Advisory Board has also developed a youth accountability framework for use at country level to advocate for the full implementation of the commitments made by governments to ensure they are responsive to adolescent health needs.

We also saw the ‘Morning After’ event hosted by NGOs focus on accountability to women and adolescents. As CARE made clear at the session we hosted, it is critical to ensure the needs and rights of women and girls are at the centre of efforts to deliver contraception – and that services are built firmly on the foundations of their priorities, needs and rights.

The role of the private sector

Thirdly, reflecting the success of collaborations with private sector companies in CARE’s work on family planning, we wanted to see many more commitments made by a wide range of companies. In 2012 only three global pharma companies made commitments. This year we saw commitments from 13 companies, from a much wider range of sectors. This shows that people are starting to make the crucial link between family planning and women’s economic empowerment.

Despite the fact this was not a pledging summit, $2.5bn worth of commitments were announced as governments, civil society organisations and private sector companies stepped up to contribute to increasing access to family planning – a welcome sign of continuing support in politically challenging times.

This blog is co-authored by Alice Allan and Christina Wegs, CARE’s Global Advocacy Lead on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

Alice Allan

Alice led CARE’s policy and advocacy on women’s economic empowerment which included influencing the private sector. She is passionate about the social and economic benefits of savings-led financial inclusion.

Alice worked with CARE International UK from 2011 to 2018. She spent a big chunk of that time working with Barclays and other banks to responsibly link savers to their services. Before CARE Alice spent nearly 20 years working both ‘inside’ government – as a Human Rights Advisor at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and as a researcher in the UK parliament – and ‘outside’ at supporter-led organisations, Amnesty International UK and Saferworld where she helped push for the Arms Trade Treaty. Before that she was a journalist in Colombia and Mexico.

One good thing I've read

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1958). An all-time favourite book that sums up how change can go so wrong. Generally, however, I am an eternal optimist.

Twitter: @aliceallan3