Although the federal budget was released on February 1st, final decisions on the funding for family planning and reproductive health were just made public today by the State Department with the release of the congressional budget justification document for foreign assistance.

President Obama’s budget proposal for foreign assistance programs in fiscal year 2011 is a major step forward in addressing the family planning needs of millions of women and men in developing nations and marks a continuation of the dramatic shift away from stagnant levels during the Bush administration.

The Obama administration is proposing $715.7 million for bilateral and multilateral international family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) assistance—a $67 million or a 10 percent increase above the $648.5 million that Congress appropriated in FY 2010 in the omnibus spending bill, just approved in mid-December.  The proposed increase is especially significant in light of the difficult economic and budgetary climate.

If appropriated by Congress, the overall funding level of $716 million proposed would represent the largest amount  of funding for international FP/RH programs—not accounting for inflation—ever approved.  It would also reflect a $252 million—or 54 percent—increase in funding in the three years since FY 2008, the last fiscal year of the Bush administration.  This action demonstrates that the United States is back as an international leader on family planning and reproductive health issues.

Most of the requested FP/RH assistance— $666 million is for bilateral programs administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development(USAID), which provides family planning assistance in more than 50 countries.  The bulk is requested within a Global Health and Child Survival (GHCS) account—$590 million, an increase of $65 million above current levels—and the remaining $76 million contained in other bilateral accounts, a $7 million increase above current levels.

Of the $716 million requested overall, $50 million is proposed for a U.S. contribution to the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), which provides critical FP/RH care in more than 150 countries.  The proposed $5 million cut from the current contribution of $55 million is the only disappointing development contained in the President’s request for FP/RH programs.  The entirety of the UNFPA contribution is funded out of the State Department’s International Organizations & Programs (IO&P) account along with the other voluntary contributions to UN agencies.

In briefing reporters on the budget request on February 1st, Deputy Secretary of State Jacob Lew noted that 28 percent of the request is devoted to “ efforts to meet urgent global challenges such as natural and manmade disasters, poverty, disease, malnutrition, and threats of further instability from climate change and rapid population growth. . .  These investments improve people’s lives and makes them less vulnerable to the ravages of poverty and the threat of instability that extreme poverty breeds.  Improving the most basic human conditions not only reflects our values; it enhances our security.  Left unmet, these conditions lead too often to conflict, instability, and failed states.”

Also released for comment on February 1st was a “consultation document” on Implementation of the Global Health Initiative, the most detailed explanation of the GHI issued to date since announced last May.  The GHI will dedicate new resources and funding, totaling $63 billion over six years, and implement a new “business model” for the delivery of the U.S. government’s global health assistance.

Among the goals and targets of the GHI are to prevent 54 million unintended pregnancies through increasing modern contraceptive prevalence to 35 percent in assisted countries and reducing the number of first births to women under 18. The document is another high-profile boost for FP/RH and the centrality of women and girls on the policy and implementation front, reinforced by a message of “coordination, collaboration, and integration” throughout.

Interestingly, the Obama administration’s three highest non-security-related funding priorities in its budget request—global health, climate change, and hunger and food security—are all inextricably linked with demographic trends and population and family planning issues.

Despite the proposed funding increase, family planning still remains out of reach for the 215 million women in developing countries who want to space or limit childbearing but do not have access to modern contraception.  PAI welcomes the Administration’s commitment to fulfilling the global demand for contraception to improve women’s lives.

Click here for a more detailed preliminary analysis of the President’s FY 2011 budget requestas it relates to international family planning and reproductive health.  Links to the State Department and the Department of State websites are included in case you would like to examine the budget in greater detail yourself.

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