Family Planning Summit Opening Plenary Remarks

11 July 2017

These opening remarks were delivered by Dr. Natalia Kanem, Acting Executive Director of UNFPA, at the 2017 Family Planning Summit in London. 

[As prepared for delivery]

It is a pleasure to be here – but for all of us at UNFPA, the pleasure is bittersweet. There is a powerful voice missing.

It’s almost unimaginable that a conference on family planning is taking place without Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin.

I know how much he wanted to be here, with the partners in this room working together on this cause.

And I know how committed all of us at UNFPA are to carrying on the life-saving work to which he dedicated his life.

I thank the Government of the United Kingdom for co-hosting this summit [and Secretary of State Priti Patel] and the Department for International Development for their leadership, steadfast commitment to family planning and strong support of UNFPA.

I also thank the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and especially Melinda Gates, for their partnership and unwavering personal and financial commitment to ensuring that more women and girls around the world are able to access modern contraception.

It is fitting that we meet today on 11 July, which we commemorate at the United Nations as World Population Day. This year’s theme is “Family Planning: Empowering People, Developing Nations.” We all know how vital these services are for individuals, communities and nations, and for the well-being of current and future generations. 

When the global family planning community convened here in London five years ago, there was a palpable sense of optimism for the future.

It is clear that optimism was justified.

I thank Beth Schlachter for her leadership of the FP2020 Secretariat at the centre of what has become the hub for global collaboration on family planning.

In just four years, we have reached an additional 30.2 million women and girls with voluntary family planning.

In Eastern and Southern Africa, for the first time ever, more than 30 per cent of women and girls are using a modern method of contraception.

In West Africa, where contraceptive use has been historically low, the Ouagadougou Partnership has surpassed its 2015 goal of reaching 1 million additional users, and is now aiming to reach 2.2 million additional users by 2020.

But while we celebrate our progress, we must also acknowledge where we are falling short.

This Summit is a key moment to reflect on lessons learned and on challenges preventing progress, and to mobilize our efforts to meet our promises.

We must continue to focus on equity, addressing the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations, including those in humanitarian crises.

We must ensure that we can deliver family planning to the last mile so that a choice of quality, affordable contraceptives reach women and girls no matter where they live.

We need to ensure that precious financial resources are spent wisely.

And we need good data to strengthen our programming and track our progress.

UNFPA is fully committed to partnership with countries to help them on their path to sustainable family planning programmes.

Programmes that will be the cornerstones of sustainable development and pave the way to realizing the benefits of the demographic dividend. 

UNFPA and partners help ensure that health centres’ are stocked with a steady supply and broad mix of contraceptives.

Without products, there can be no progress.

We are firmly committed to ensuring these live-saving commodities reach the countries that need them as quickly and efficiently as possible. We also want to ensure that our donors get maximum value for every dollar they invest.

As part of our efforts on this front, I am excited to announce that — in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development — we are developing a Bridge Funding Mechanism for the contraceptives that UNFPA provides.

This bridge, providing up to $80 million in a revolving pool of financing, will speed up the procurement process, lower the cost of commodities, and reduce stock-outs. In short, it will deliver better results for countries, donors and the women and families that we serve.

But, without increased funding there will be nothing to bridge.

The Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition estimates that to support the family planning needs of an additional 120 million women by 2020 we need to find an additional $233 million a year.

We urgently need donors and especially programme countries to step up and fill this funding gap for contraceptives.

That said, on its own delivering contraceptives is not enough—educating people about family planning is key.

Young people in particular need access to quality family planning information, so that they are empowered to make decisions about their lives and reach their full potential.

We are gathered here because the time to act is now!

Today, 214 million women still lack access to family planning. Much greater progress is needed to meet our goal of reaching 120 million more women and girls by 2020.

And that is only the first milestone on the pathway to universal access to sexual and reproductive health services by 2030. Among the transformative goals championed by Dr. Babatunde was achieving zero unmet demand for family planning by 2030.

Dr. Babatunde ended his statement at the first London summit with a call to action: “Until every girl, every woman, everybody wherever they may be, can access reproductive health services, especially family planning, the work is not done.”

Our work is not done. When it comes to unmet need for family planning, the only acceptable number is zero.