As we approach 2020, it’s time to decide what’s necessary to sustain, or even accelerate, hard won gains and progress toward meeting the ambitious family planning goals set in 2012.
The Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) initiative, launched from the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning, has restored family planning’s (FP) position as a global health priority. The initiative has led to many innovations in the field such as the FP2020 secretariat and reference group; costed implementation plans that guide countries to achieve their goals; and a commitment to the collection and use of data to inform decision-making. The global initiative has mobilized unprecedented financial commitments and promised to redistribute the global family planning leadership from the United States to nations around the world. In the spirit of the impatient optimist and of new actors signaling the seriousness of their commitment, FP2020 aimed high with a goal of enabling 120 million more women and girls in the world’s 69 poorest countries to use safe and voluntary family planning by 2020.
“…in 1965 — when the authors were in kindergarten — only 24 percent of married women in the United States were using modern contraceptive methods.”
We are “bending the curve” by accelerating the uptake of family planning beyond recent trends. FP2020’s 2018 Progress Report confirms that approximately 310 million women and girls in the 69 FP2020 focus countries are now using modern family planning, a 30 percent increase over the number historical trends predicted. While the number of new family planning users falls short of where we need to be to achieve the goal set in 2012, the rate of change suggests that continued and even accelerated change is possible in some of the most impoverished countries on earth. To put that in context, consider that in 1965 — when the authors were in kindergarten — only 24 percent of married women in the United States were using modern contraceptive methods. That’s approximately the percentage of married women using modern methods today in Burundi and Mozambique, two of the world’s poorest countries.
“…we need to secure political and financial commitment to sustain and build upon the significant gains we’ve made… It means thinking outside the box…”
We need to not only keep bending the curve upward, increasing the uptake of modern methods, but also make sure that the curve doesn’t begin to move downwards, losing gains already made. In the face of declining foreign assistance and funding for family planning, we need to secure political and financial commitment to sustain and build upon the significant gains we’ve made since 2012. This means funding more demand-driven initiatives where countries commit political leadership and national funds to country-owned family planning programs. It means thinking outside the box about how countries identify and transition to sustainable financing for family planning–learning from the experiences of other countries, while also being innovative and taking advantage of opportunities that arise. It means channeling the energy of the 600 youth family planning advocates who assembled in Kigali at the International Family Planning Conference in November 2018 and the tens of thousands of youth advocates who stand behind them, to press for greater accountability in the use of family planning funds. It means incorporating new ways of doing business; por ejemplo, more support for regional initiatives where countries with shared language, borders, and political systems align and exchange resources to create a healthy competition while holding each other accountable for contributing to a common goal. It means more flexibility in donor-supported data collection, por ejemplo, allowing for countries to add more country-specific indicators to those monitored as part of the FP2020 core indicators. It means supporting continued efforts to change social norms so that gender equality is a reality and all people have access to services, education, and employment opportunities.
The year 2020 will soon be upon us. We’ve seen tremendous investments that have contributed to great increases in family planning uptake. The challenge of reaching family planning goals beyond 2020 should focus less on a global numeric goals, and instead redouble efforts at the national and subnational levels, engaging a broader set of countries and constituencies, and thinking outside the box to overcome the barriers that keep women and couples from achieving their reproductive aspirations.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Jay Gribble, HP+ deputy director for family planning and reproductive health, has expertise in policy, research, and communication and more than 25 years of experience in international family planning. Jay’s broad portfolio includes costed implementation plan development and execution, development and application of policy models to support family planning, and work on the linkages between family planning and other health and development issues. Jay holds undergraduate degrees in marketing and Spanish from the University of Texas at Austin, masters and doctoral degrees from Harvard University, and a master of public health degree from the University of Buenos Aires.
Barbara Seligman is vice president of International Programs at PRB. She is a technical leader and senior manager with a record of accomplishment in visioning and strategy, mentoring, external relations, and in building practice areas in reproductive health and health policy, health governance, and youth. Barbara devoted the first 20 years of her career—including eight years in USAID’s Office of Population and Reproductive Health—exclusively to reproductive health. She is a native English speaker proficient in French and German. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a master’s degree in anthropology and public policy from the University of Chicago.