22 July 2002

UNFPA Statement on U.S. Funding Decision

by Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA

It is with deep regret that I confirm the loss of U.S. funding this year for the United Nations Population Fund. It is especially troubling since the fact-finding mission that was sent to China by the United States found quote: "no evidence that UNFPA has supported or participated in the management of a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in China," as has been charged by critics. This is contained in the report dated 29 May 2002 addressed to Secretary of State Colin Powell. That report by the U.S. fact-finding mission recommended that U.S. funding be released to UNFPA.

It is disturbing that the U.S. Administration has chosen to disregard the findings and recommendations of its own fact-finding mission, and also the will of the U.S. Congress that had approved $34 million in funding for UNFPA for 2002.

In the past, the U.S. Administration chose to fund UNFPA with the condition that no U.S. funds were spent in China. We have honoured this stipulation by putting U.S. money into a separate account. We could have done the same this year, which would have allowed U.S. taxpayer dollars to provide life-saving services in the other 141 countries where we work.

I am personally very disappointed by the decision, and hope that U.S. funding will resume and increase next year in 2003. We have many supporters who will be working for this over the coming year.

The loss of $34 million will be devastating for women and families in the poorest countries. Women around the world count on the UN Population Fund for ensuring health services during pregnancy and birth, for voluntary family planning, and for services to protect them from HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.

In concrete terms, we estimate that $34 million for reproductive health and family planning would be enough to prevent:

  • 2 million unwanted pregnancies
  • nearly 800,000 induced abortions
  • 4,700 maternal deaths
  • nearly 60,000 cases of serious maternal illness, and
  • over 77,000 infant and child deaths.

UNFPA is working with the Chinese Government in 32 counties to move their policies and practices AWAY from coercion TOWARD a voluntary approach that respects human rights and human dignity and that is in line with international agreements. UNFPA's reproductive health programme of assistance was requested by the Chinese Government and approved by the 36-Member-State UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board, of which the United States is an active member. The programme adheres strictly to the voluntary, human rights-based approach to reproductive health and family planning stipulated by the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development and unanimously adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. The abolition of birth quotas and family planning acceptor targets in the 32 counties was a condition of UNFPA assistance.

UNFPA does not support or promote abortion anywhere in the world. The services we promote reduce the incidence of abortion. Abortion rates are actually declining in the 32 counties in China where we operate.

UNFPA is strongly opposed to population control. UNFPA does NOT support the Chinese Government's one-child policy and does not take part in managing the Government's programme. UNFPA works to ensure that women and couples have the information and means to make informed and voluntary decisions about pregnancy and family planning. In addition to its insistence on the removal of birth quotas and acceptor targets, UNFPA continues to press China to make progress by removing economic incentives and disincentives used to encourage small or discourage large family size. Partly due to the Fund's strong advocacy, the Government has officially recognized HIV/AIDS as one of the most serious problems that will affect China in the coming years.

The United States was one of the strong supporters of the United Nations Population Fund from the very beginning and we believe a strong partnership should continue because it is good policy. In today's complex world, population, family planning, women's empowerment and HIV prevention are issues that deserve more attention and funding, not less. These issues are key to reducing poverty and increasing global stability and prosperity. Programmes and policies that benefit women benefit families, communities, and nations. Balanced population growth benefits the world and the goal of sustainable development so there are enough resources to meet the needs of current and future generations.