Writing from the United Nations
“I am honored to be here today to express the renewed and deep commitment of the United States Government to the goals and aspirations of the ICPD Program of Action.” With these words, Margaret Pollack, head of the US Delegation to the United Nations Commission on Population and Development (CPD) ushered in a new era of US engagement on reproductive rights at the UN. The US CPD statement is another signal of the new course the Obama Administration is steering America’s policy on reproductive health. Finally we are heading in the right direction again.
For many advocates of sexual and reproductive rights, this is the first time they have attended the CPD with a “friendly” US Delegation. And the US Delegation to the CPD has been friendly, and carried on President Barack Obama’s spirit of transparency and engagement. For example, on the second day of the CPD, the US Delegation held an unprecedented briefing with nongovernmental organizations from around the world to discuss the US position going into the negotiations.
In addition to political will, the US Government–the largest bilateral donor for family planning in terms of absolute dollars–has also signaled financial support for the ICPD agenda. In mid-March, President Obama signed the fiscal year 2009 omnibus spending bill which allocates $545 million in funding for family planning and reproductive health in 2009, almost a 20 percent increase over the previous year. President Obama also re-funded the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) with a $50 million contribution. And the administration is making international family planning and reproductive health a priority, despite funding challenges. As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton explained in a speech accepting Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger Award, “I and the Administration are not wavering in our commitments to development assistance even in these tough economic times.”
There are other signs of support for women’s rights and multilateral engagement on behalf of the US. In the NGO briefing at CPD Pollack indicated that the US will work to ratify the Convention to End All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The US is the only industrialized country that has failed to do so. In a presentation at the CPD, Scott Radloff, Director of the US Agency for International Development’s Office of Population and Reproductive Health said that the US is likely to endorse the Millennium Development Goals in the weeks ahead.
These and other actions–especially at the CPD–show that change and a new direction have come to the US, which will once again support the empowerment and autonomy of women to make decisions about their reproductive health.