The Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) initiative hit its midpoint this year, about four years after its launch by global health leaders in 2012. Set up to “expand access to family planning information, services, and supplies to an additional 120 million women and girls in 69 of the world’s poorest countries by 2020,” the initiative has faced the usual cat herding challenges that go along with its expansive mandate to recruit new funding commitments, track actual spending, coordinate donors and country actions, report on trends in contraceptive prevalence and other FP2020 goals, serve as a clearinghouse for data and knowledge, work with countries to do better planning, and serve as a global voice and advocate.
The issue of family planning is undeniably at the center of development. Family planning can save lives and empower women to make their own choices about the number and timing of their births, especially the estimated 133 million married women and girls in the 69 FP2020 focus countries that wanting to postpone or avoid pregnancy but not using modern contraception—plus many more unmarried women and girls who are not yet captured in FP2020 annual estimates. Further, it’s not just about health and rights; access to family planning increases women’s labor market participation, creating opportunities to pursue different and better jobs. Family planning can also help countries reduce their youth dependency ratios and realize a demographic dividend, or manage rapidly growing populations amid scarcity of land, water, or other resources.
Yet despite the importance of the issue, the 2015 FP2020 report showed only modest progress to date and a stubborn gap between aspirational goals and reality. Worse, in 2016, early signs suggest that funding to family planning has dropped from some of the most important donors, creating a funding crisis within key institutions like UNFPA’s supplies programs.
What’s going on? Next week, FP2020 will release its 2016 progress report with updated numbers and analysis. And we’ll have our own two cents to add as well; over the past year, a CGD working group of family planning funders and accountability partners took a hard look at how resources have been allocated and deployed, and whether measurement and accountability efforts were working as well as possible to motivate better performance and greater investment. The results of this work suggest some practical recommendations to align efforts for greater impact. We’ll be publishing our report next Thursday, November 3, on the heels of the FP2020 release.
In the meantime, here are three questions to ask while reading the FP2020 progress report:
Does the money match the goal(s)? The goals are many and ambitious—what is FP2020’s assessment of the fit between funding availability and its stated goals? Is there a need to “rightsize” one or the other to fit budgetary realities?
Are donors and countries delivering on their funding commitments? To fund what? With 93 commitment-making partners, FP2020 faces an ongoing challenge in determining whether good intentions translate into actual disbursements. And with news reports of donor aid cuts, I’ll be reading to learn more about this difficult topic. Similarly, our work suggests that domestic spending on commodities in some countries (Kenya, Nigeria) has declined, and that donors have stepped in to pick up the slack. Is this a generalized phenomenon? Are donors or other donor co-financing requirements crowding out domestic spending on family planning? And how well is family planning fitting in to Global Financing Facility investment cases? The GFF places a strong emphasis on health—does that risk under prioritizing family planning, which has significant non-health benefits? Finally, where exactly is the money being spent—and on what? We know a lot about commodity purchases, but the rest is a blur—can we get greater clarity in this year’s progress report? If not, why?
- Are accountability mechanisms helping to enhance impact and translate financial commitments into disbursements? The family planning field is unique in its extensive data collection directly from households and women in low-income countries; from the Demographic and Health Surveys to the PMA2020, the field is light-years ahead in measuring outcomes rigorously and regularly. Yet this high-level accountability can’t be related to actual service providers in any given geographical area—making it tough to hold any specific provider, implementer, or government actor accountable for progress or stagnation. Budget tracking is also a relatively new activity. What does this year’s report have to say on this topic? What more could be done?
So next week, instead of worrying more about the US election, worry about family planning access—and let’s figure out what can be done to align and speed progress.
CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.