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UNFPA Calls Family Planning An ‘Essential Human Right,’ Says Meeting Unmet Need Could Save More Than $11B Annually

In its annual State of the World Population 2012 report, the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) on Wednesday “called family planning an ‘essential human right’ and urged the world’s nations to help meet the needs of 222 million women in developing countries,” The Hill’s “Global Affairs” blog reports (Pecquet, 11/14). According to Inter Press Service, the report “says the huge unmet need for family planning persists, ‘despite international agreements and human rights treaties that promote individuals’ rights to make their own decisions about when and how often to have children’” (11/14). However, “[i]t is the first time the … annual report explicitly describes family planning as a human right,” the Associated Press notes, adding, “It effectively declares that legal, cultural, and financial barriers to accessing contraception and other family planning measures are an infringement of women’s rights” (11/14). “UNFPA insists that family planning is not optional; it is a fundamental right, and the obligation to fulfill it is a formal treaty obligation,” IRIN writes (11/14). But “[i]t is not binding and has no legal effect on national laws,” CBS News notes (11/14).

The report “described ‘an array of economic benefits’ brought by family planning, including a rise in the number of women in the workforce and wealthier households as the number of children in each home decreases,” according to Agence France-Presse (Lee, 11/14). The report “makes the case for additional spending on family planning in poor countries, claiming it would save more than $11.3 billion a year on maternal and newborn health,” the Guardian writes. “Despite the economic benefits of family planning, the report said donor and government support for sexual and reproductive health has been shrinking in past years, as nearly two billion people reach reproductive age,” the Guardian adds (Tran, 11/14). “In 2010, donor countries fell $500 million short of their expected contribution to sexual and reproductive health services in developing countries,” and “[c]ontraceptive prevalence has increased globally by just 0.1 percent per year over the last few years,” the U.N. News Centre notes (11/14). “However, there are signs of progress,” a UNFPA press release states, adding, “Last July, at the London Summit on Family Planning, donor countries and foundations together pledged $2.6 billion to make family planning available to 120 million women in developing countries with unmet needs by 2020” (11/14).