A Call to Action

Family Planning and the Post-2015 Development Framework: Achieving Universal Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

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A Call to Action

We, the undersigned, call on governments, regional and international organizations, international financial institutions, and civil society organizations to join us in ensuring that sexual and reproductive health and rights, especially universal access to voluntary, high quality family planning, is included in the post-2015 framework that will follow the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Historically, the landmark International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action and the Millennium Development Goal 5b set global guidelines for sexual and reproductive health and rights, including universal voluntary access to contraceptives.

This year, the Report of the United Nations Secretary General’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda reaffirmed these historical global commitments to ensure healthy lives and universal sexual and reproductive health and rights; to empower girls and women; and to achieve gender equality. The Report notes that over 220 million women in the world want to prevent pregnancy but are not able to access effective and affordable, modern methods of contraception. This results in 80 million unplanned pregnancies, 30 million unplanned births and 20 million unsafe abortions every year.

Family planning is a fundamental right.  An investment in family planning is also one that pays off. We know family planning plays a vital role in the reduction of maternal mortality, reducing maternal deaths by 44%. Ensuring women are able to plan whether or when to have children means babies and young children are more likely to survive.  The economic benefits are also substantial. For every $1 spent on family planning, $6 is saved. When countries invest in health, education, and gender equity, in addition to family planning, the declines in mortality and fertility rates alter the age structure of a population and place many of the world’s poorest countries in a prime position to reap the economic benefits of subsequent accelerated economic growth, called the “demographic dividend. The real-life impact of these changes in population structure are clear: between 1970 and 2000, changes in the population structure in East and South East Asia contributed to 1.9 percentage points of a 4.32 per cent growth in GDP. When women are able to decide if, when, and how many children to have, they are able to contribute more fully in the sustainable economic and social development of their families, communities, and nations.  Family planning empowers women.

But, for millions of women in many countries this has not happened.  Because women still do not have the ability to control their reproductive lives, desired family size continues to be lower than actual family size in almost all sub-Saharan Africa and many other developing countries.

As the world comes together to renew its commitment to fighting extreme poverty, promoting sustainable economic development, and strengthening human rights and equity, a commitment to give women control over their fertility must be at the centre.

The time to act is now:

When women are given access to the full range of modern contraception and voluntary family planning services, countries will benefit from the demographic dividend, resulting in long-term economic growth. Family planning is cost effective and a sustainable investment. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, “the economic savings towards meeting the MDGs by fulfilling unmet need for family planning would be two to six times greater than the costs.”

Voluntary family planning and access to modern contraception are essential elements of promoting gender equity and women’s rights, and in ensuring that women have choice and control over their own lives.

We call on governments to:

  • Ensure that universal access to voluntary, high quality family planning and sexual and reproductive health services, including of the widest possible contraceptive choice, is included in the post-2015 framework.
  • Ensure that the existing MDG targets on maternal mortality and access to reproductive health that have not been met are carried over into the new framework as key goals and targets.
  • Commit to closing the gap in unmet need for family planning in full within the timeframe of the new post-2015 framework.