Q+A: Turning London family planning summit into action

July 12, 2012

By Maria Caspani

LONDON (TrustLaw) – A major summit on family planning held in London on Wednesday secured enough funding to extend contraception to 120 million women in the developing world who want it but cannot get it.

Now that the money has been promised, what steps must be taken to ensure this global pledge translates into action to improve the lives of millions of women and children?

Tewodros Melesse, director general of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), spoke to TrustLaw about using the money effectively.

Now the funds have been found, what needs to happen next?

Once the funding is secured, the first thing is what management structure, what kind of programme is going to be decided? Every country is different and there is a need to prioritise.

There’s a shortage of contraceptives. Sometimes (countries) don’t have the infrastructure to roll out the programme; some of them have the clinics but not the equipment and contraceptives… There should be an assessment to identify where we start and what the programme content (is going to be). So it is important to have a mechanism of programme design, prioritising the countries.

Who is going to put in place such mechanism, and will it be implemented?

It has to be, because now Gates (Foundation) and DfiD (the UK Department for International Development) have to come up with that mechanism… There is new money but that additional money is going to be coming from different channels. How is that going to be coordinated?

Globally there can be a broader kind of (system), but the most important thing is at the country level …say, for example, Bangladesh. DfiD has got its programme… Australia might have a programme, and Sweden and so on… How can they create a synergy programme to avoid duplication and to assist where there is a need? There should be consultation at the country level on what is the best way of coordinating, leveraging each other’s resources.

So this money will not go straight into governments’ budgets?

It depends… For some countries, where there is trust from the donors that the government is going to use it wisely, then it could go (into budgets). There could be other intermediary agencies – in some cases, civil society and the private sector. It will depend country by country.

How will the funding be tracked and monitored?

I am sure there is going to be a proper financial management reporting and audit system. As a civil society (group), we are going to be examining this starting from now. We are going to be looking (to see) if they are moving at the speed of the declaration or if they are lagging behind.

Also, at the country level, we are going to advise our affiliates and other civil society networks to be partnering and examining how things are moving. Also, we will be coordinating with both Gates and DfiD – and also with the other donors – to see if things are moving and what the challenges and the opportunities are.

In your view, why did family planning disappear from the global development agenda for so long?

There are a number of factors. One is that other development issues are being tackled, but when they put up the Millennium Development Goals targets in 2000, they forgot, or they didn’t put in, family planning. When they did the mid-term review, they realised that maternal mortality – especially in sub-Saharan Africa and in some parts of Asia – had not gone as far as (demanded) by the target… That’s one of the problems, you can’t completely separate maternal and infant mortality from family planning.

Then with the “Every Woman” campaign the consciousness came in and countries realised that it is important to deal with it. We shouldn’t forget also that leadership is very important. There have been people who have been struggling and pushing – I had a meeting with the All Parliamentary Group on Population and Development (in the UK) and they have been struggling for a long time to make their politicians aware. These people, coupled with the need (for family planning) – which is becoming clearer every day – the civil society, these are all factors.

How has the issue of population control harmed family planning efforts?

In any development (project), there are mistakes that are made – not necessarily deliberately – one way or the other. When India started its population programme in the 1970s, there were forced sterilisations and the government has admitted that it was wrong. It should have been based on individual choices and the rights of people should have been respected. This is very important, but such a mistake cannot make people shy.

There are issues in any kind of programme. There are issues also with democratisation; more countries have democratic systems where politicians are elected and are sensitive to the needs of their community… Now that individuals are aware of their freedoms and their rights, I don’t think that any government would be in the position today to come and impose a population control programme.

Photo credit: An Egyptian woman carries her child on her shoulders at Manshiyet Nasser shanty town in eastern Cairo June 28, 2012.  REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

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