World Contraception Day and the UN General Assembly Millennium Development Goal Review

Celebrating World Contraception Day

Today, the international community celebrates World Contraception Day. This global campaign strives to increase awareness of contraception and encourage its use to enable people to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and to prevent unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection. This year’s motto, “Your Future, Your Choice, Your Contraception,” targets young people.

Bwaila Hospital, Lilongwe, Malawi (Photo by Holly Connor/EngenderHealth

A woman enjoys her new granddaughter at Bwaila Hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi. She is there in support of her daughter, who has requested counseling from a family planning nurse on obtaining a female sterilization. (Photo by Holly Connor/EngenderHealth)

World Contraception Day presents an opportunity to highlight the many barriers people face when trying to access family planning (FP). Chief among them are: gender inequality, insufficient funding, a lack of skilled providers, service provider bias, legal and policy barriers, cultural norms and traditions, commodity stock-outs, and inequitable access to services for marginalized and disadvantaged groups, including young people. These obstacles not only impact individual health and prosperity, but also prohibit people from exercising their fundamental human right to FP, as outlined at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

Family Planning and Human Rights at the United Nations General Assembly Millennium Development Goal Review

This week began with a ringing endorsement of the central role of FP in achieving the targets set for Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5 to end maternal mortality and achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015. On the opening day of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGASS), a high-level panel met to review MDG 5. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon spoke to the critical role of investing in women’s and girls’ health and human rights – with an emphasis on FP—noting that “it is one of the best investments we can make.”

He was joined by Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); Ray Chambers, the Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Financing the Health MDGs and for Malaria; Anuradha Gupta, Additional Secretary of India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare; and the ministers of health from Nigeria (Hon. Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu) and Ethiopia (Hon. Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu). All highlighted themes of equity, gender inequality, the importance of addressing adolescent’s needs, and quality of care. Ms. Gupta expanded the conversation, citing examples of rights-based community accountability mechanisms that enable clients to monitor, assess, and demand improved service delivery.

The clarion call for FP is buttressed by an evolution within the development community focused on reducing maternal mortality. Building on continuing efforts to save women’s lives through the provision of emergency obstetric care, and expanding access to trained birth attendants and delivery service points, the conversation has returned to the first line of prevention–FP. This focus on preventing unwanted pregnancies and helping women to plan and space their childbearing to protect their health and that of their children and families is not new. What is new is the exponential increase in effort and resources for FP in the past year (following the London Summit on Family Planning). This renewed attention reflects efforts to rectify the significant lag in progress on MDG5—which has been the focus of multiple sessions within the UNGASS review.

Discussions about the next phase of the MDG process reflect a growing consensus within the UNGASS review (echoing that of Rio+20 and the multiple conventions informing the original Millennium Declaration) that human rights must now be integral to defining the goals, indicators, and modalities in the next iteration of global development work. As highlighted in UNFPA’s 2013 By Choice, Not By Chance: Family Planning, Human Rights and Development, this includes sexual and reproductive rights, as well as the human rights of girls and women. It should also provide the accountability mechanisms that will allow all clients to influence the quality of the services provided.

Post based on a report from Corinne Whitaker.

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