Is 2010 the year that America’s support for international family planning assistance takes a giant leap forward? Maybe.
Last Friday, I attended the State Department’s observance of the 15th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) that was held in Cairo, Egypt in 1994. All of the speakers at the event, including Secretary Clinton and Rajiv Shah, the new Director of USAID, fully embraced the ICPD agenda, Millennium Development Goal 5 on maternal health, the need for family planning, and the critical importance of empowering and educating women.
The only question left unanswered was whether the commitments would translate next month into a major increase in the Administration’s budget request for international family planning and reproductive health.
Last year, the International Family Planning Coalition asked $1 billion for international family planning assistance, a funding level that President Obama had supported when he served in the U.S. Senate. Last year, five former directors of the Population and Reproductive Health Program at USAID called for an even higher level of assistance: $1.2 billion. The Obama Administration, however, proposed only $593.4 million for FY2010, a 9 percent increase above the prior year. In the end, Congress bumped up the funding level to $648 million for FY2010, twice the increase recommended by the Administration.
In her speech, however, Secretary Clinton made clear the value of family planning and reproductive health. She said,
…we are convinced of the value of investing in women and girls, and we understand there is a direct line between a woman’s reproductive health and her ability to lead a productive, fulfilling life. And therefore, we believe investing in the potential of women and girls is the smartest investment we can make. It is connected to every problem on anyone’s mind around the world today. So we are rededicating ourselves to the global efforts to improve reproductive health for women and girls. Under the leadership of this Administration, we are committed to meeting the Cairo goals.
Secretary Clinton and the other members of her team are to be commended for their leadership on family planning and women’s rights. Let’s hope that their conviction and commitment are fully reflected in the Administration’s upcoming budget.
Posted by Robert J. Walker, Executive Vice President