THE EARTH TIMES
MARCH 15, 1996
Interviews with four donors on Population
By Ashali Varma
United Nations, New York: –Since the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which determined the course nations should take in curbing population growth and tackle pressing issues of reproductive health, many countries have established new policies and programs in line with the Cairo Programme of Action. Donor countries have also pledged financial support for the implementation process though not to the level required by the Programme of Action.
The United Kingdom recently announced cuts in its overall Overseas Development Assistance (ODA). However these cuts would not affect population program assistance to developing countries, said Mark Mallalieu, of the ODA’s population division. In 1994/1995 ODA committed 184 million pounds (US$281 million) to programs on reproductive health in 20 priority countries. “For 1996 we have another 70 million pounds (US$107 million) committed,” he said. “In terms of spending we have doubled our aid in this field in the last five years,” Mallalieu said.
“The United Kingdom, under the leadership of Baroness Chalker, is very active in the follow up of ICPD,” he said “We are particularly active in trying to encourage donor and recipient countries to adopt innovative approaches on issues of reproductive health.” One of the new approaches Mallalieu spoke about concerned the role of the private sector and how it can be useful in providing access to reproductive health services such as in marketing of condoms.
“We have set up a new fund– SEEDCORN-which we use to encourage NGOs and the private sector to try out innovative approaches in the field of reproductive health,” Mallalieu said.
As for multilateral aid, Mallalieu said, both Unfpa and Ippf are receiving the same level of funding in 1996 that they got in 1995, so they have not been affected by the aid cuts.
Professor John Hobcraft, head of Population Studies at the London School of Economics told The Earth Times that “Overall the United Kingdom has a very strong commitment to ensuring that the Programme of Action is implemented.”
He also said it was important to acknowledge the vital role Unfpa is playing in this area. “Dr. Sadik’s personal commitment to the Programme of Action and to reshaping the organization to make sure it is implemented is very important.”
Regarding the United Kingdom’s role in the Commission on Population and Development, he said, “We played a very active role last year in identifying the way the Commission should handle its work and reporting structures. We think the Commission is important for the implementation and monitoring process. This year it is important to discover what progress has been made.” Hobcraft said that the other role the Commission fulfills is as a governing body for the UN Population Division.
“The Population Division plays an important role in underpinning our knowledge of the Programme of Action. They help to analyze data and keep us informed of the latest developments in the field of population.”
He feels that the thematic approach to reporting progress is very helpful. “This year
we are concentrating on reproductive health and reproductive rights,” Hobcraft said. Next year the Commission will concentrate on migration and the following year on mortality and health. “One concern is that we have to ensure that the momentum in the areas of reproductive health and rights is kept up. So we are asking that members of the Commission be kept up to date with progress through reports and publications,” he said.
Hobcraft said that the Inter-Agency Task Force, which was set up to ensure collaboration amongst UN agencies in the area of reproductive health and reproductive rights, had produced a set of very useful guidelines for resident representatives and will enhance United Nations system-wide collaboration at the country level.
“Though reporting on national programs is still patchy, there is strong evidence that many countries are making progress in achieving the goals of ICPD,” Hobcraft said, “But to judge whether their programs have an impact at the grassroots, level, it is too premature.”
He also acknowledged that there is a long way to go as the ICPD agenda is huge and there are areas where “we don’t have good baseline information to judge progress” as in the case of maternal morbidity.
He felt that it would be good to have a greater participation of NGOs in the Commission meetings as they played a vital role in Cairo and have a strong commitment to the Cairo goals. He acknowledged that there is always a problem with finance with NGO participation, and developing country NGOs would find it difficult to come to New York for the meetings.
As the head of the delegation of Netherlands to the Commission on Population and Development, Dr. Aagje Papineau Salm spoke about her country’s funding priorities for family planning and reproductive health in developing countries.
“Just before Cairo we published a policy paper on family planning and reproductive health in developing countries,” Salm said in an interview with The Earth Times.
She said that in the past, financial support from Netherlands for population programs was channeled mainly through multilateral agencies but in 1992 the policy was changed, and now reproductive health programs are also supported through bilateral channels.
In the Netherlands, there has always been a strong women’s movement and it criticized the traditional family planning programs that were only aimed at reducing population growth said Salm. “But before Cairo all our NGOs got together, and the ICPD Programme of Action, with its emphasis on reproductive health and reproductive rights
gave us an opportunity to move a step forward and support programs in developing countries,”
Salm feels that countries need time to develop new policies that are in line with the Cairo Programme of Action and to integrate reproductive health with basic health programs.
“The integration process of combining mother and child health care and basic health care with reproductive health is still evolving in developing countries,” Salm said, “and as far as bilateral aid is concerned we have to work on developing guidelines with recipient countries, which will help us fund programs in the area of reproductive health.
“At this meeting it came out that we urgently need to develop an internationally accepted system of classification of reproductive health programs, in order to monitor the funding—both from the donors side and for the recipient countries, “ Salm said.
She feels that it is important for countries not to lose the momentum created by the Cairo Conference. She said that the Division of Population has a key role in collecting data which helps Unfpa, Ippf and other organizations to support programs.
On the question of financial resources, Salm said: “At this point we are spending US$50 million through multilateral channels on reproductive health, annually. Bilateral aid in this area is approximately US$10 million, annually.”
The Netherlands plans to step up its contributions in the future. “Our parliament has urged the government to step up support for reproductive health programs, in 1998, to four percent of our total ODA. This means double of what we are giving now,” said Salm.
United Nation, New York—Japan’s commitment to the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action was reaffirmed at the recent meeting of the Commission on Population and Development here.
In his statement to the Commission, Ambassador Masaki Konishi said that under the “Global Issues Initiative on Population and AIDS (GII),” Japan will “provide cooperation to developing countries totaling approximately US$3 billion within its Official Development Assistance (ODA) program during the seven-year period from FY 1994 to FY 2000.”
Konishi said, “Since 1986, Japan has also been the largest donor to the United Nations Population Fund (Unfpa) and International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).”
Masaya Otsuka from the Japan’s Multilateral Cooperation Department told The Earth Times that in 1995, Japan gave US$51.8 million to Unfpa and US$19.2 million to IPPF.
“In the GII scheme we have emphasized assistance to NGOs in developing countries. In the field of grant assistance for grassroots projects, we authorize our embassies in the developing world to make those grants,” Otsuka said.
These are 12 countries on the priority list for the GII assistance from Japan and the criteria for choosing the countries is need-based depending on population size and the prevalence of AIDS. In Asia, the countries include the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Thailand. Thailand gets assistance for AIDS programs only. In Africa, the countries include Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Senegal and Egypt which gets assistance for population programs only and in Latin America, Mexico is one of the priority countries.
“We have dispatched Population Project Formulation Missions to these countries. The Mission establishes close relations with the government and NGOs and also meets with country representatives of international organizations,” Otsuka said.
“In the allocation of resources we feel flexibility is very important,” said Otsuka, “Our assistance in the field of population and reproductive health is much more comprehensive.” He explained that their assistance programs also look at sectors concerned with health, education, child care and the empowerment of women. In many
instances “our ODA is based on a country’s own request for help in a particular area,”
On the work of the Commission, Otsuka said, “This Commission has a key role in helping to monitor the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action.” Otsuka feels that it is essential to chart the progress of population programs in the field and NGO activities. Demographics today, however, are not only concerned with population growth. Makoto Atoh is director at the Institute of Population Problems in Japan and he said, “Aging is a number one issue in Japan followed by low fertility. The population of the younger generation is going down.” This is the case with most developed countries and even countries like Korea and Taiwan face this.
Japan, he said, has a tax system favoring non-working married women. “Women also get a basic pension after their husbands retire even though they have not worked themselves,” Atoh said. He acknowledges that more and more women are joining the work force in Japan. Asking career women to stay at home and have children will require societal changes where men take on more of the responsibility that come with child rearing and the home, he said.
United Nation, New York—Due to domestic financial problems, many donor countries have had to reduce their overseas development assistance. Canada was one of the countries that decided last year to reduce ODA spending as part of an overall effort by the government to tackle its own fiscal problems.
Ruth Archibald, director of Migration, Population and Humanitarian Affairs in Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs said, “One of the decisions that was made was that despite overall funding cuts in ODA, we would maintain funding for population programs at 30 million Canadian dollars (US$ 22 million) for 1996.”
In addition, there is a commitment that 25 percent of the total ODA will be spent on basic human needs. Archibald said, “This includes three priority areas; family planning and primary hearth care; women in development; and environment. This gives us some flexibility in our funding for populationprograms.”
Though Canada has reduced funding to large international NGOs like IPPF, it will continue to fund NGOs bilaterally.
Archibald said, “We will be working with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and funding in the areas of education of girls and the health sector will
Archibald said that at the recent Commission on Population and Development meetings, she was struck by the number of countries that spoke up about what they had done at the national level since ICPD.
“This is definitely important to donors, to know what a country’s priorities are. The question of sustainability of programs is critical for funding,” Archibald said.
“Canada is looking to improve its bilateral funding,” Archibald said. “At the moment, the bulk of our funding goes to Asia and we have smaller programs in Africa. We want to
strengthen our bilateral assistance to Africa an Latin America.”
Archibald said, “CIDA is one of the donor agencies that delivers the largest portion of its development assistance through developing country NGOs. We look actively for local NGO partnerships.”
Canada has also been very involved in including the ICPD agenda at other UN conferences such as the Women’s Conference in Beijing and Habitat II
“For the Global Agenda for Habitat II, we provided the language that said there is a link between rapid population growth and the growth of cities,” said Archibald, “We have also stressed on the links between population and sustainable development for the World Food Summit.”