How can we best help countries realize their existing commitments to rights and ensure that rights-based approaches are the standard for all countries? These are the questions at the heart of an emerging dialogue in the family planning and reproductive health community. In case you missed it, check out the excellent piece by Shannon Harris of Engender Health and the Futures Group, “Keeping Complexity in a Human Rights–Based Approach to Family Planning: Is It Worth It?”

Since the London Summit in 2012, elements of reproductive rights have begun to permeate family planning commitments and implementation plans.  Of the 28 developing countries that have FP2020 commitments, 15 made specific references to improving choice, expanding the range of methods, or reproductive rights.  This is tremendous given that not too long ago, “reproductive rights” was still a dirty term in some circles.  Such gains should not be trivialized.

Country Improving Choice Expanding Method Mix Respecting Rights to FP/RH
Bangladesh X
Cote D’Ivoire X
Ethiopia X
Ghana X
India X
Indonesia X
Kenya X
Myanmar X X
Mozambique X
Niger X
Philippines X
South Africa X X
Uganda X
Zambia X
Zimbabwe X


But a commitment is simply a promise, and monitoring and support are necessary to translate these country commitments into action. This is where it gets tougher. We need to not only hold countries to their commitments on rights, but offer manageable tools to help them get there. This means, as a global community, we must ask the hard questions: In practical terms, how useful are the current set of frameworks and guidance documents?  How do we support countries in navigating the complex inventory of activities required to respect, protect and fulfill rights in family planning programs?

Our humble suggestion? Look at where countries are starting from and follow their lead. Read more…

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