Jay Gribble and Barbara Seligman - Aug 09 2019
Beyond 2020: Priorities for an Emerging Global Family Planning Agenda

A family in Mali. Credit: Souleymane Bathieno

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. In the spirit of the impatient optimist and of new actors signaling the seriousness of their commitment, the global FP2020 initiative has 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.

Family Planning 2020

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. Palladium has supported many aspects of FP2020 as a global leader of costed implementation plan development and execution.

The global initiative has mobilised unprecedented financial commitments and promised to redistribute the global family planning leadership from the United States to nations around the world.

Accelerating Family Planning

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 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.

As 2020 approaches and we turn our attention to identifying priorities for the 2030 agenda, we suggest six priorities:

1. Funding more demand-driven initiatives where countries commit political leadership and national funds to country-owned family planning programs.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. Incorporating new ways of doing business; for example, 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.

5. More flexibility in donor-supported data collection, for example, allowing for countries to add more country-specific indicators to those monitored as part of the FP2020 core indicators.

6. 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 — as well as the kickoff of a new global family planning initiative. 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.

Jay Gribble is Technical Director, Health, at Palladium. Barbara Seligman is Vice President, International Programs, at Population Reference Bureau.

This article originally appeared in Medium and was adapted with permission.