promises to keep
by Suzanna Dennis

My blog yesterday tried to make sense of the financial commitments made at July’s London Summit on Family Planning. Today the organizers of the Summit are concluding two-days of meetings on how to implement the commitments. While we wait to see the roadmap they propose, governments like Tanzania are already making good on their commitments. Today I want to take a deeper look at the country commitments.

Here are some of the highlights of the country commitments to increase funding for family planning. Also check out my chart:

  • Uganda will increase its budget for family planning supplies from $3.3 to $5 million for the next five years;
  • Zambia will double its supplies budget;
  • Nigeria will provide an additional $8.35 million in contraceptives per year over the next four years; and
  • Pakistan will increase its funding for family planning to $200 million in 2012/2013;
  • Malawi will make it easier to track funding for contraceptives by creating a budget line in the government’s budget.

Other countries were more conservative in their financial commitments: Burkina Faso will “work towards” increasing the government allocation for family planning; Indonesia will “continue increasing” funding for family planning.  These are lackluster commitments, but at least they are being honest about their plans.

Another approach countries took is reducing the amount of money consumer will need to spend on family planning: Ghana, India, Mozambique, the Philippines, and Zimbabwe are planning to reduce or eliminate out of pocket spending on family planning services; India and Indonesia will include family planning in their universal health care programs. Southern governments should implement these significant financial commitments, and donors should support in-country civil society groups to hold their governments to account.

Looking beyond the funding alone, governments made strides towards fulfilling sexual and reproductive rights:

  • Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique Niger, Uganda, and Zimbabwe pledge to implement more youth friendly family planning services.
  • Ghana, India, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Zambia and Zimbabwe will expand the available mix of family planning methods.
  • Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger, Senegal, and Solomon Islands will work to increase male involvement in family planning.
  • Bangladesh, Ghana and Mozambique will improve access to family planning in post-partum and post-abortion services.
  • Malawi plans to raise the legal age of marriage to 18 by 2014, while Bangladesh will work with leaders and communities to delay early marriage and child birth.

But where do the resources come from to support the great plans of these low-income countries? Practically speaking, who will pay for an aid-dependent country like Niger to fulfill its promise to quadruple its family planning budget? In their commitments, Pakistan and Kenya directly said that they were looking for donors to fund their family planning programs.

Clearly donor funding will play a key role in most countries, but the way money will be channeled is still not clear. The London Summit’s Accountability Annex says that donor money will be available for countries with, “strong, well elaborated country plans that are supported by stakeholders in-countries.”  I read: Bretton Woods’ Poverty Reduction Strategy crossed with the Global Fund’s proposal system.

Ministries of Health must shudder at the thought of yet another donor-driven, “country owned” strategy developed through a multi-stakeholder consultative process. Whatever the framework, it needs to be developed in a transparent manner in consultation with Southern governments and the in-country civil society groups that will hold them accountable. To lessen the procedural burden, countries with good existing plans or Contraceptive Security Strategies should be able to substitute them, in a process something like the Global Fund’s National Strategy Application.

I am tired of so many commitments and so little action. But I am hopeful that this London Summit was the culmination of momentum around women’s health, now with an explicit focus on the importance of family planning. As many have said before me, now comes the real test of the London Summit: moving from the promises to reality. The outcome of the New York meeting concluding today will be a good indication of where we are headed.

This is Part 2 in in a two-part series on commitments from the London Summit on Family Planning. Click here to read Part 1.