No Controversy: Delivering Family Planning

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9/21/2012 4:25:14 PM

Many global initiatives have been launched in recent months and years, bringing needed attention to women’s and children’s health: the Muskoka Initiative, Every Woman Every Child, the Child Survival Promise to Keep, and the Millennium Development Goals. All of these have done an excellent job at creating a sense of urgency to accelerate progress towards improving the health and services provided to women and children.

So with all this energy already, did we need the London Summit on Family Planning? Of course, we’re convinced that it was critical for bringing needed attention and resources to a sorely neglected and highly effective area. However, only time will tell the full impact of these efforts. Meanwhile, we’re hopeful because of a few things that are happening already.

The number of countries that have taken a stand in support of voluntary family planning has exceeded our expectations. Twenty-four countries committed to increasing financial support, improving supply-chain systems, and strengthening policies that will allow more women to freely decide whether, when, and how many children to have. The resources they have committed are not just financial. They include human resources and the training that is required to make sure a nurse can provide a woman with all of the correct information on her contraceptive options. They include the forecasting system so a health center doesn’t run out of pills or implants, just as a woman needs them. They include the time and effort of Ministers of Health to make sure family planning stays on the political agenda in order to increase access.

Of course, some of these commitments from the various countries are overly ambitious, some are not ambitious enough, and some may very well be achieved. But at the minimum, leaders are talking about it, putting it on their agenda, and committing resources to achieve these goals.

Another reason for this initiative is that it complements other global initiatives, like the Muskoka Initiative, but expands the reach to have more emphasis on family planning. The decision to focus on family planning comes from the evidence for impact—improved health and nutrition, economic stability, and educational opportunities, to name just a few. We recognize that increasing access to voluntary family planning cannot happen in a silo, and the Muskoka Initiative actually plays an important role in strengthening health systems in general, which is a key component of increasing access to family planning.

We also recognize that coordination between donors, manufacturers, countries, private sector, and civil society is a requirement to move these efforts forward. Collectively, what is needed most is a concerted effort to join with countries in helping them to design and execute on country plans to increase access of women and girls to family planning information, services, and contraceptives. An important step in laying the groundwork for coordinated action took place this past week in New York when stakeholders made the first step in creating standards for governance and oversight that will guide collaborations among the partners for the achievement of the goals of the Family Planning Summit.

We used the experiences from other initiatives to establish the goals and metrics of the Summit on Family Planning. The goal of reaching 120 million additional users by 2020 was not pulled out of a hat. Through careful analysis of modern contraceptive prevalence rates, unmet need, recent historical trends, and a realistic expectation of growth with presumed increased support, we landed on this goal. We stand behind it as ambitious yet achievable.

And this is when civil society gets involved to hold not only the countries that have made the commitments accountable to those promises but also donors and the private sector. Suzanna Dennis has done this in her recent blogs, and we appreciate her thoughtful insight. It is this type of involvement and observations that hold us to these commitments and that ultimately will allow us collectively to deliver on the promise of reaching 120 million and girls with the ability to plan their future and the future of their families.

We hope this is not just another commitment that generates a lot of attention and then fades away. It has definitely generated a lot of energy, interest and excitement. And we know that the work is only just beginning as we want to get this right.

We encourage you to keep the hope that the momentum will continue and that all of us can move from promises to reality.

Pledge your support for family planning at

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