Senate debates

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


London Summit on Family Planning

7:50 pm

Photo of Claire MooreClaire Moore (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

In July this year women and men gathered together at the London Summit on Family Planning. The summit was designed to support the UN Secretary-General's global strategy for women's and children's health—Every Woman Every Child. This event was shadowed by sister events in Sydney, Brussels and Washington, and through the marvellous effect of social media—most of which I do not understand—we at the Sydney event, which was a wonderful time, were able to see images of women gathered in these various places, all with a single focus: to look at the issues of every woman and every child.

It has generated a unique opportunity for global commitment to expand accessible, voluntary and quality family planning services. The summit focused on equity and rights, highlighting the need for freedom of access to a range of contraceptives for married and unmarried women, marginalised communities and teenagers—indeed, for anyone, anywhere, who sought to have that choice.

This summit supported and built on innovative public, private and civil society partnerships which are needed to work together to transform the lives of women and girls. One of the driving forces of the summit was the amazing work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a truly wonderful example of an innovative public-private partnership. This foundation is guided by the belief that every life has equal value. The foundation sees its mission as helping all people lead healthy and productive lives. The foundation's global health and development programs are dedicated to the mission by ensuring that life-saving advances with a strategic focus on family planning reach those who need them most.

At the global level the foundation seeks to promote family planning as indispensable to achieving the Millennium Development Goals—as you know, Madam Acting Deputy President Stephens, we have spoken many times in this place on the importance and the urgency of the Millennium Development Goals. The foundation invests an extraordinary amount of money in raising the awareness of the importance of family planning among donors, governments and the private sector to enhance the efficiency of contraceptive procurement and distribution, thus engaging donors, governments and civil society to better coordinate efforts and increase resources to fund family planning.

It is predicted that the greatest future global population growth will occur in towns and cities in developing countries. For the first time, in 2008, the urban share of the world's population reached 50 per cent. Urban populations, particularly in Africa and South Asia, are predicted to double between 2000 and 2030. Urban births are concentrated amongst the poorest populations, and a significant number of these births are unintended. Also the maternal, infant and reproductive health status of the urban poor is comparable to—or worse than, in some cases—that of rural residents. The reason I am stating this is that often the focus of aid and concern is on rural parts of countries. Whilst that remains important, one of the major issues at the summit was looking at urban communities as well. This is not a competition; it is ensuring that needs are identified clearly and the response from the government, civil society and the UN is to those needs.

I have not met Melinda Gates, but she is an extraordinary woman. She explained the priorities to the audience of the London summit. We were able to hear this speech will sitting in our Sydney location. She said:

Family planning is a priority for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation … we are increasing our investment in family planning by $560 million over the next eight years. That amounts to a doubling of our current investment, bringing the total figure to more than $1 billion from now until 2020.

She went on to say:

The Gates foundation has not prioritised family planning by accident.

The core of Melinda Gates's contribution was made to women across the world when she said:

We have devoted a lot of time and effort to studying family planning programs. The data about both the breadth and depth of their impact is extremely compelling. Helping women gain access to contraceptives saves lives. It improves the health of mothers and children. It increases children's school attendance. It leads to more prosperous families. At the national level, it has even been linked to GDP growth.

The outcome is that the family planning summit 2012 successfully raised resources to deliver contraceptives to an additional 120 million women, at an estimated cost of US$4.3 billion. Donors made new financial commitments amounting to US$2.6 billion, exceeding the summit's financial goal. These resources, principally funded by country governments through their health budgets, and supported through contributions from consumers and external donors, need to be sustained at the local level.

I am so proud that Australia was one of the key donors. Australia plans to spend an additional $58 million over five years on family planning, doubling annual contributions to $53 million by 2016. This commitment will form a part of Australia's broader investments in maternal, reproductive and child health of at least $1.6 billion over five years to 2015, subject to budget processes. In July, on the eve of the London Summit on Family Planning, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr, announced Australia would double its aid funding for family planning services in developing countries to $50 million a year by 2016 as part of a global campaign to prevent unwanted pregnancies and save around 200,000 lives. In addition, Australia would commit to a global effort to raise up to $2 billion for family planning services. By being part of the global commitment, we were able to put our own contribution and, in many ways even more importantly, to build awareness amongst other donor countries of the importance of this cause. As we know, the dollar at the moment is very, very fragile and people are calling on demands from budgets across the world. To have this international contribution and commitment at the London Summit on Family Planning reflects a knowledge and awareness of what our world needs to make a difference. The world's women and families will thank the donors by acknowledging that we will make a real difference in their lives.

We understand this is not the first global conference about poverty reduction or women's rights, and it cannot and must not be the last. At the turn of the century Australia, along with 189 other countries, adopted the Millennium Development Goals through the Millennium Declaration, and we are moving rapidly towards the 2015 end-date. No-one believes that every goal will be achieved by 2015, but what we can identify and show is the commitment by countries across this world to make change. And what we need is an effective evaluation of the changes that have occurred and to identify where we have not met the goals. It is not a sign of failure to say that we have not met every goal. It is a genuine challenge to every country to ensure that we see where we need to move forward to ensure that the women and children of this world will be the major beneficiaries of the changes to which we are all committed.

The work done at the Family Planning Summit in London and the commitments made by governments and philanthropists like Bill and Melinda Gates through their foundation will extend the hopes of the Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty and, importantly, to improve maternal and reproductive health. Family planning will be strengthened by integrating it into a larger reproductive, maternal and newborn and child health strategy and linking it into the important HIV services to support and strengthen the continuum of care while filling critical gaps in access to family planning. Consequently, we will accelerate progress on MDG4, reducing child mortality, and MDG5, improving maternal health, including the important MDG target 5B, universal access to reproductive health, and then of course looking on to MDG6. We are playing the game of 'which MDG?' and moving forward.

There has been progress, and forums like the summit show that progress but also put down the challenge for all of us. I am proud that Australia is taking its place on the international stage by committing to being part of this future. We also need to raise this certain point: it is one thing to make commitments to be a donor but it is another thing to put the money in. So these groups need to continue to have support and encouragement, because the numbers are not immaterial; they are real and if we are going to make a difference this money has got to be provided.


No comments