- Donors do care, but funding for population assistance has been affected by the economic crisis. Funding is still increasing, but not at the same levels as before the crisis.
- Country ownership and keeping sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) at the forefront of the agenda are crucial.
- The United States is usually considered the biggest donor for population assistance; while this is true, their focus is on family planning, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and HIV/AIDS. In other sectors such as research and reproductive health, EU Member States and Institutions play a central role.
The aim of the session was to present the findings of the latest Euromapping report, a publication which maps Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) in order to identify donor trends, with a particular focus on population assistance. The report breaks population assistance down into four sectors: family planning, reproductive health, STD/HIV/AIDS, and basic research. Findings will be used to raise awareness around the issue through media outreach and presentations to donors and civil society.
The report highlights the fact that since the financial and economic crisis, ODA has decreased globally – with population assistance among the sectors most heavily affected. In 2012, overall ODA fell dramatically in the EU15 countries, with only five countries meeting the UN target of 0.7 % of GNI (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands). Although population assistance is now increasing in net terms, it is at a much lower rate than before the financial crisis. Between 2009 and 2011 funding to population assistance did increase; however, as yet all donor countries except the USA are failing to allocate 10 % of ODA to population assistance, despite recommendations to that effect by the European Parliament.
The USA is commonly considered the single largest donor in terms of population assistance funding; and in 2011, EU15 funding of population assistance fell to less than half of the USA’s contribution. However, the Euromapping report found that – when disaggregated per sector – the USA funds mainly family planning and STD/HIV/AIDS, but provides very little assistance in the other two sectors, namely research and reproductive health. The leading donors funding reproductive health in 2011 were the UK, Ireland, Norway and Sweden.
Christophe Lemiere, Senior Health Specialist for Central and West Africa, Health, Nutrition and Population, at the World Bank Group, highlighted the need to address MDGs 4 and 5 by putting fertility reduction back on the agenda in developing countries. He emphasised that major investments are required to strengthen health systems, conduct research into fertility reduction, and invest in family planning, while complementing these with other non-health investments such as education.
Sophie in’t Veld, Chair of the Working Group on Reproductive Health HIV/AIDS and Development at the European Parliament, stressed the influence of the political climate on donor investment in the sector. In the context of the upcoming elections to the European Parliament it is crucial that we defend population assistance. Powerful anti-choice lobbies are targeting SRHR, she added, and in the fragile political climate civil society and development actors must work hard to counter them.
The lab concluded that progress has been made as a result of the efforts of both developing and donor countries, but that funding for population assistance must increase. The panel recommended that donor countries increase their ODA funding to meet the 0.7 % target, of which 10 % should be invested in population assistance. The speakers called for better reporting and standardisation among donors, and for donors to align their policies to ensure efficient allocation of resources.
Most audience questions centred around the issue of national ownership of population assistance within developing countries. The speakers agreed that national ownership is crucial, but that donors must also maintain pressure on national governments to keep population assistance at the top of the agenda.
Sophie in’t Veld encouraged the audience to write to their MEPs regarding the Estrella report, a report on investment in population assistance that will be voted on in the European Parliament on 10 December 2013.