The election of Joe Biden as the next US President will herald a new era for global family planning, universal health care and the empowerment of women.

The election of Joe Biden as the next US President will herald a new era for global family planning, universal health care and the empowerment of women.

Until President Donald Trump was elected in 2017, the USA was the leading global donor of Family Planning and Reproductive Health care (FP/RH). Like other Republican Presidents before him, he applied the “Mexico City Policy” (better known as the “global gag rule”). This policy prohibited US Aid groups and US NGO’s from from using US aid for family planning funding to engage in any abortion-related services, whether that be counselling, education, doctor referrals or local advocacy campaigns. This had a devastating effect on the funding of NGO’s working in this field.

Donald Trumps eccentric rantings disenfranchised the aid agencies and took the world family planning programme backwards. His intolerance to abortion and women rights did little to stem the emergence of groups of “fundamentalists jointly wedded to pre-enlightenment intolerance and united in their social conservatives” better known as the unholy alliance which would do anything to stop female empowerment and abortion rights. This alliance not only derailed women’s and gay lib rights in their path but also fostered, amongst other things, religious extremism. If President Trump had managed to engage with women’s rights to family planning and health care then the re-invigorated conservative social forces in the west, most notably the most reactionary part of the Catholic Church might not have prevailed as it does today. Poland’s recent through its constitutional court illegal ruling to make abortion Illegal except in cases of rape and incest is an example of this general ethical decline in standards of human rights and decency. What has happened in Poland beggars belief. We need to pose the question as to how it became possible that a fully fledged member of the European Union managed to pass such a law. It will be interesting to see if the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights will be powerful enough to overturn this court ruling.
Against this background we must recognise that the tremendously successful reduction in global fertility rates (the average number of children that a woman will have in her lifetime) has halved from an average of 4.7 in 1950 to 2.4 in 1917 (Lancet)2. Indeed the populations of many western countries will shortly move into population reduction in the next few years. This transition downwards is nothing but miraculous especially as it comes without the ticket of war, famine or disease.
Much of this change has come about as a result of investment into education, especially in girls and the continued investment into family planning and reproductive health care. However the slashing of the US aid budget which came about as a result of President Donald Trump enacting the “Mexico City Policy” has had a severe impact on agencies working in countries where FP/RH is most needed. According to a 2019 WHO/UN agency report President Trump’s actions caused major global “sexual and reproductive health and rights” (SRHR) providers to face severe funding losses. Because the provision of access to safe, legal abortion is central to the mission of many NGO agencies, the world’s two larger global family planning services, Marie Stopes International and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) both refused to comply with this policy and as a result suffer from a combined funding gap of US$ 150 million through to 2020
Countries in sub-saharan Africa where rainfall is marginal are experiencing devastating environmental degradation because they are particularly susceptible to climate change. These countries which still have high fertility rates (Niger (7.1) Chad (6.7), Somali (6.1) Mali (6.0), South Sudan (5.9)) are the very countries have been worst affected by these cuts in FH/RH funding as they cannot feed the resultant burgeoning populations. The economic hardships that these people now face has only lead to the increase in migration of people desperately looking for work into Europe.

Map of Africa representing 2018 fertility breakdown by Country

Source of data: CIA World Fact book.
By ignoring the high demand for FP/RH in this area we will be storing up problems for the future. It is obviously a high priority for the world to try and reduce fertility rate in these countries as this would reduce the environmental degradation and potential for famine.
According to a 2019 UN report “Family Planning and Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development” , 190 million women of reproductive age worldwide who want to avoid pregnancy do not use any contraceptive method, up from 156 million in 2000. The proportion of women with unmet need for family planning stands currently at 10 per cent, a proportion that has remained unchanged since 2000.
There is still a long way to go before we achieve universal right to family planning and health care.
It is the view of Population Crisis that there are far too few political leaders capable of tackling the problems of high population growth rate or overpopulation.
The results of the recent election in the USA comes as a long awaited relief. Let us hope that President Joe Biden, can show the global leadership which the world so desperately needs, strike out the “Mexico City Policy” for good and help restore and strengthen the global FH/RH budget.

Interview with Simone Filippini

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The Way Forward

I had the good fortune of meeting a former top Dutch diplomat Simone Filippini whilst recently passing through ‘The Hague’. Simone struck me as a highly communicable professional person and I was delighted when she very kindly agreed to an interview.
Her diplomatic career spanned 20 years and included roles such as the “Head of the Gender and Women’s Rights Department” in the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and as Netherlands Ambassador to Northern Macedonia.
Simone is President of the UN Association for the Netherlands and a big promoter of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) She has also been a member of the National Board of the Dutch political party D66.
Simone has a long-term professional interest and experience in women leadership, gender equality and women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive rights and health, family planning and population issues.
In 2013 Simone became the CEO of Cordaid, one of the largest international humanitarian and development organisations in the Netherlands. From 2017-2018 she served as the executive Director of the Netherlands Institute of Multi Party Democracy. She now manages her own NGO “Leadership4SDG”1 which nurtures and supports helps governments around the world improve the delivery of their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It was whilst she was working as a diplomat in Indonesia that she first developed her interest in family planning. She then went to become head of the “Reproductive Health Supplies Commission” (RHSC). The RHSC became an intrinsic force within “Family Planning 2020” (Fp2020). This organisation, which is hosted by the UN is the partnership that joins the global community of leaders, experts, advocates, and implementers who are working together to address the most challenging barriers to expanding access to contraceptives.
She believes that the barrier to the improvement in family planning is partially due to a group is known as the “Unholy Alliance”. This is a group of very diverse regressive forces that has hijacked the “Commission of the Status of Women” (CSW) which is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. During the Commission’s annual two-week session, representatives of UN Member States, civil society organisations and UN entities gather at UN headquarters in New York and discuss progress and gaps in the implementation of key global policy document on gender equality, and the empowerment of women. The unholy alliance has been consistently trying to derail the CSW’s work by undermining the crucial rights of women to determine their own choices as to their sexuality and reproduction.
She believes that because of the poisonous influence of this “Unholy Alliance” the topic of family planning and population numbers has become too sensitive for political leaders to address.
The above article discusses the topics which Simone discusses in her interview

Interview carried out by David Richardson



Annex Guide of Abbreviations and Acronyms
CSW Commission of the Status of Women
Fp2020 Family Planning 2020
FP/RH Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care
RHSC Reproductive Health Supplies Commission
SDG’s Sustainable Development Goals
SRHR Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

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