Inter Press Service,
July 11, 2007
Funding For UN Population Continues to Stumble
By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jul
11 (IPS) - As the United Nations commemorated World Population
Day Wednesday, the United States remains the only major donor
that continues to cut off funds to the only international agency
focusing primarily on population: the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA).
"It is truly disheartening
to know that the United States, once a global leader, is the only
country to ever withhold money from UNFPA for reasons that are
not financial," Angeline Martyn of Americans for UNFPA told
"We look forward
to a time when the United States can again call itself a leader
for the health and dignity of women," she added.
Since 2002, the administration
of U.S. President George W. Bush has withheld about 161 million
dollars in funding, the bulk of it appropriated by the U.S. Congress.
Relenting to pressure
from right-wing neo-conservatives, the Bush administration has
slashed funds based on a false claim that UNFPA supports coercive
abortion in China.
A U.S. grassroots movement
called "34 Million Friends of UNFPA" says the decision
was taken "despite recommendations made by a (U.S.) State
Department fact-finding team to release the funds."
The State Department
team investigated UNFPA-supported projects in China and submitted
a report stating, "based on what we heard, saw, and read,
we find no evidence that UNFPA has knowingly supported or participated
in the management of a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary
sterilisation in the PRC [People's Republic of China]."
UNFPA Executive Director
Thoraya Obaid has repeatedly stated that her agency has never
-- and will never -- be involved in coercion in China or any part
of the world.
She says UNFPA is a
staunch supporter, and promoter, of the human rights-based approach
to family planning.
Asked if a change in
the White House after January 2009 (from a Republican to a Democrat
U.S. president) would bring the United States back to the UNFPA
fold, Martyn told IPS: "The majority of Americans support
the work of UNFPA, and we are hopeful that a new president, Republican
or Democrat, will listen to the views of voters and support UNFPA.''
She also said her organisation
recently distributed a "Release the Funds" petition
online and supporters from nearly every state in the U.S. have
signed on to ask President Bush to restore funding to UNFPA.
Asked if U.S. private
funding for UNFPA has increased over the years while U.S. administration
de-funding continues, Martyn said: "Comparing private philanthropy
and public sector investment in global development is like comparing
apples and oranges."
She pointed out there
is a role for both government and private philanthropy to provide
support for UNFPA.
in the United States has not filled the gap of the 161 million
dollars withheld from UNFPA since 2002, "and it is not the
role of private philanthropy to (help) fund voluntary allocations
by governments to U.N. agencies," said Martyn, who is communications
manager for Americans for UNFPA.
alone is not sufficient to meet the tremendous global needs for
the health and dignity of women. Government support for UNFPA
from countries worldwide is vital both financially and morally,
Meanwhile, over 100,000
individuals and donors have contributed nearly 3.5 million dollars
to the 34 Million Friends of UNFPA campaign, which was started
in July 2002 by two women in the United States, Lois Abraham of
New Mexico and Jane Roberts of California.
Although they had never
met, Abrahan and Roberts said they had been "outraged"
by the U.S. withdrawal of funds for UNPFA.
Both started their
own email campaigns, urging men and women across the United States
to donate one dollar or more to help bridge the funding gap.
Their goal: "To
find 34 million friends to help UNFPA continue its invaluable
work as the largest multilateral provider of family planning and
maternal health care."
Meanwhile, other donors
have continued to increase their funding to UNFPA. In 2006, 180
countries contributed a total of 360 million dollars to the regular
resources of UNFPA.
This was the highest
number of donor nations and the largest amount of contributions
to UNFPA since the organisation began its operations in 1969,
according to a statement released by the agency.
"We are very thankful
for the continuous and growing support from nearly all U.N. member
states," UNFPA's Obaid said. "We take this new record
as a solid sign of the global commitment to our work and mandate.
It also highlights the importance of sexual and reproductive health,
as well as HIV prevention, for development."
The statement also
said that the number of UNFPA donor countries has steadily increased
over the last few years, from 69 in 1999; to 172 in 2005; to last
year's new high of 180.
The top six donors
were the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Britain, Japan and Denmark.
In addition, every nation in Latin America and the Caribbean,
as well as all of sub-Saharan Africa, pledged funds to UNFPA in
access to reproductive health is vital for poverty eradication,
and it requires partnerships and efforts from governments and
the civil society," said Obaid.
"Seeing so many
different countries supporting our work is heart-warming, and
I hope this support will continue to grow in the years to come,"
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