The European Union is a staunch supporter of the ICPD vision and UNFPA’s work to make this vision a reality. EU Member States provide over two thirds of UNFPA’s core funding, and the European Commission has been UNFPA’s biggest co-financing contributor for two consecutive years.
In the past, the European Commission has invested in several major, regional initiatives (such as the Reproductive Health Initiative for Youth in Asia or RHIYA) to build the capacity of local organizations and governments to scale up programming to match the scale of development challenges. Current EU development assistance to UNFPA is more focused on supporting national efforts and responds to a wide range of issues:
Strengthening country capacity is critical to UNFPA’s mission and well as a key for achieving sustainable results. Through projects such as the Joint EC /UNFPA/Africa-Caribbean-Pacific Sexual and Reproductive Health Programme, the EC supports efforts to help countries manage and improve their own delivery of reproductive health care. The programme includes a regional component to address overall planning, management, advocacy, reporting and information exchange, and quality assurance. It covers eight African and two Caribbean countries.
Improving maternal health is the fifth Millennium Development Goal. The EU and UNFPA have been working, since 2004, in Pakistan to ensure women’s reproductive health care in Khanpur.
The European Commission has a long tradition of supporting reproductive health initiatives for youth and adolescents. Building on the successful model of RHIYA, the EU and UNFPA collaborate on a Reproductive Health Initiative for Youth in the South Caucasus.
At country level, the EU and UNFPA support comprehensive youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services in Zimbabwe, the scaling up of HIV and reproductive health services for young people in Malawi, and the establishment of comprehensive social services for young drug users in Ukraine.
In 2006, the European Development Fund contributed nearly € 15 million to help UNFPA provide equipment and supplies for obstetric and maternal health in 17 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries in conflict or post-conflict situations. The European initiative helps countries estimate current and future reproductive health commodity requirements, and buy and deliver products when and where they are needed.
In Zimbabwe, the EU has partnered with UNFPA to support the behavioural change component of Zimbabwe’s new national strategic plan on HIV and AIDS. The national strategy, which aims to reduce the vulnerability of women and girls to HIV infection, focuses on key drivers of the HIV epidemic, such as multiple concurrent sexual relationships, and addresses underlying factors for vulnerability, in particular gender roles and relations. In Turkey, the EU supported UNFPA’s work with the government to promote gender equality by combating violence against women.
The EU also sponsored a major international symposium on sexual violence during and after conflict.
When presented with urgent humanitarian needs, the EU has responded promptly and generously through ECHO, the EC’s humanitarian aid department. ECHO supports a wide range of relief activities for vulnerable people in crisis zones around the world, including many that give priority to the special needs of women and young people in emergency situations.
For instance, ECHO has helped UNFPA respond to gender-based violence in the Darfur region of Sudan. It also helped UNFPA deliver emergency reproductive health services to conflict affected populations of Nepal. After the earthquake in Peru in August 2007, ECHO supported community-based networking to offer protection to women and girls from gender-based violence and provide them with legal and psychological support as part of the recovery process.
The successful multi-country intervention EC/UNFPA Initiative for Reproductive Health in Asia (RHI) and its successor the EU/UNFPA Reproductive Health Initiative for Youth in Asia (RHIYA), provided innovative modes of collaboration between the European Union (EU), UNFPA, and NGOs towards improving the sexual and reproductive health of the most vulnerable populations in South and South East Asia. The partnership, which spanned over nearly a decade, concluded in 2007, with a legacy of good practices and tools. The Monitoring and Evaluation System developed for RHIYA has since been used as a model for other projects.
EU support – which is not only financial, but political and strategic as well – has been essential to UNFPA’s ability to carry forward the vision of reproductive health as the cornerstone of sustainable development.
The EU has provided invaluable political support to UNFPA’s mandate, as reflected in the ICPD Programme of Action. This support has proven crucial during debates at international conferences. The European Commission’s development policies and strategies affirm the continuing relevance of ICPD. And they advance the goal of universal access to reproductive health by 2015 as being essential to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
The UNFPA-EU partnership and shared vision is also reflected in various EU development policy documents. For instance, the European Consensus on Development, adopted in 2005, states the EU's commitment to the ICPD Programme of Action in the context of poverty eradication and human development. The EU-ACP Cotonou Agreement also commits to “integrating population issues into development strategies in order to improve reproductive health, primary health care, family planning; and prevention of female genital mutilation; promoting the fight against HIV/AIDS”. The Joint Africa-EU Strategy, adopted in December 2007, equally spells out the EU’s commitment to support the ICPD agenda. The European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid, adopted in December 2007, and its Action Plan highlight the importance of the gender and health dimensions of humanitarian aid and address the need for interventions relating to HIV-AIDS, protection against sexual and gender based violence) and gender mainstreaming in Humanitarian Aid.
Members of the European Parliament frequently collaborate with UNFPA in areas of shared interest. To ensure close working relationships with its European supporters, UNFPA maintains three liaison offices in Europe, including one in Brussels that allows for close working relationships with the institutions of the European Union.