Inter Press Service, August 29, 2004
New Priorities to be Set at
LONDON, Aug 29 (IPS) - A London conference of
non-governmental organisations will set ''clear
and coherent'' new priorities to take forward
the agreements on reproductive health reached
in Cairo ten years back.
The follow-up moves in London will mark a ''statement
of priorities for the next decade,'' president
of the International Planned Parenthood Federation
(IPPF) Steven Sinding told IPS. The IPPF is
the world's largest NGO providing reproductive
The London conference 'Countdown 2015' marks
the half-way point between the International
Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)
in Cairo and the target date for implementation
of the agreement.
''Since governments were not getting together
we decided we will not let 20 years pass without
a serious look at what has been achieved, and
set priorities for the next decade,'' Sinding
said. Reproductive health includes primarily
family planning, sex education, safe motherhood
and protection against sexually transmitted
infections including HIV/AIDS.
Half-way along, funding for reproductive health
is about half of what it should be at present.
''By 2005 we should have had 18.5 billion dollars
committed to reproductive health,'' Sinding
said. Donor countries have contributed only
about 40 percent of what they committed themselves
to, while the developing countries governments
have done a little better.
Countdown 2015 has been called by organisations
at the receiving end of the funding. The conference
cannot of itself take decisions to multiply
the money they receive. But several leading
government representatives will attend the
conference, and they are expected to carry
a strong message to their governments.
The conference comes just ahead of meetings called
at the United Nations General Assembly Oct.
14 to mark the 10th anniversary of the International
Conference of Population and Development. The
outcome of the conference is expected to strongly
influence on decisions taken within the UN.
''Governments rely on NGOs both in the south
and in the north for expert input into policy
decisions and for statistical evaluation of
the situation,'' Marie Stopes International's
external relations director Patricia Hindmarsh
told IPS. Marie Stopes is a major NGO providing
reproductive health care in 37 countries.
But given the fact that the pledges at the UN
conference in Cairo have fallen behind, ''serious
questions are being asked about the UN,'' she
said. ''Big international agencies like the
UN and donor governments want to work with
southern governments. They believe that the
southern governments must have ownership of
the developmental process, that groups in the
north should not be jetting in and doing it.''
But this policy raises issues for several NGOs.
Sub-Saharan Africa has been a major problem,
often because of the demands of the governments
in these countries. ''ACP countries (a group
of 77 African, Caribbean and Pacific nations)
seem to want infrastructure, not reproductive
health care. There is not the political will
to put enough money into curbing infant mortality.
Donor governments are giving less and less.
Developmental funding is flat or declining.''
For anything to change on a large scale, ''active
lobbying is needed to get governments to meet
their financial commitments,'' she said. ''At
this conference various elements of the Cairo
agreement will be discussed and strategies
worked out to take the campaign forward.''
New strategies will also be discussed that had
not been anticipated in Cairo. Countdown 2015
will be divided accordingly into three kinds
The first type will be three plenary sessions
looking at three broad themes: changes in the
global environment since Cairo, the issue of
culture that would include Islamic and Catholic
positions and east-west and north-south issues,
and on science and technology issues such as
sex selection, cloning and other bio-ethical
The conference will secondly explore ten themes
of special interest such as HIV/AIDS and reproductive
health, the role of men in reproductive health
and the contraceptive supply gap.
Thirdly the entire membership has ''self-selected
into ten working groups on different themes,''
says Sinding. Each group will prepare an agenda
of action that will run into a maximum of two
pages. These will add up to a ''clear and coherent
statement of priorities by NGOs for the global
community,'' Sinding says. The conference will
also adopt a declaration at the end.
The NGOs can do no more than lobby, but they
intend to lobby hard.
<< Inter Press Service -- 8/29/04 >>
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