Ensuring Funding for UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund
What is UNFPA?
UNFPA, or the United Nations Population Fund, is the largest international source of funding for reproductive health services, including family planning, in the world. With the backing of the international community, UNFPA supports programs that help women in more than 140 countries plan their families, avoid unwanted pregnancies, and safely undergo pregnancy and childbirth. UNFPA's programs also help men, women, and young people to protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, and combat violence against women. At a time when 350 million couples worldwide lack access to modern contraceptives, over half a million women die as a result of complications from pregnancy or childbirth every year, and 14,000 people—half of them between the ages of 15 and 24—are infected with HIV every day, UNFPA is a critical source of ongoing support to developing countries worldwide. During crises, UNFPA also provides humanitarian relief. For example, the agency is currently making emergency obstetric care available to women in Iraw, where maternal mortality rates have tripled since 1990 and 1 woman in 45 can expect to die in childbirth.
The Good News First
Putting public health over the politics of the past eight years, on March 24, 2009 the Obama Administration announced its commitment to release the $50 million Congress appropriated for UNFPA in Fiscal Year 2009. This announcement sends a signal to the Congress and the rest of the world that the United States will once again work as an international partner in promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights. IWHC will continue its work to ensure that the United States continues its support in the future – something that is needed given that some Congressional attacks continue.
History: The Bush Administration’s Refusal to Fund UNFPA
In May 2001, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell testified to Congress that UNFPA “provides critical population assistance to developing countries” and recommended that the Administration maintain funding for the agency. Despite this recommendation, and a bipartisan congressional agreement on a $34 million U.S. contribution to UNFPA, the Bush administration cut off all funding for the agency in July 2002. As a justification, the Administration invoked the Kemp-Kasten amendment, a little-known provision that was first applied to foreign aid appropriations bills in 1985. Kemp-Kasten prohibits foreign aid funding for any organization that "supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization,” as determined by the President.
The Administration’s decision to apply Kemp-Kasten to UNFPA funding was based on false accusations made by the Population Research Institute (PRI)—a small, extremist organization that opposes all forms of contraception—that UNFPA supports forced abortion and sterilization in China. The claims were refuted by four separate investigative teams, including one sent by the U.S. Department of State. All four teams recommended the reinstatement of UNFPA funding, stating that, contrary to PRI’s accusations, UNFPA was playing a vital role in efforts to end coercive population control measures in China. Nevertheless, the Bush administration has continued to withhold funding.
After the initial funding freeze in 2002, the Bush administration promised that the $34 million withheld from UNFPA would be redirected to family planning programs in 19 countries, including 13 African countries, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Yet in January 2003, the State Department announced its intention to use these funds for non-family planning programs in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Administration has blocked the release of funds Congress intended for UNFPA five more times since July 2002 – preventing nearly $200 million from being used for UNFPA's work worldwide.
The Administration’s position on UNFPA leaves the United States standing alone. UNFPA’s work is admired the world over – with 180 countries providing support for its work.
Click here to read about attempts to reinstate funding for the UNFPA in the Bush Era.
Click here to read detailed testimony about UNFPA’s work in China from Nicolaas H. Biegmann, former IWHC board member and chair of an international team sent to investigate charges against UNFPA.
Click here to read PLANetWIRE's analysis of the Kemp-Kasten Amendment.
Click here to read UNFPA's statement on the Administration's refusal to release funds for the agency.
What You Can Do>>Take advantage of opportunities to act. For timely alerts about congressional efforts to reinstate funding, check our action page regularly, or join our email action list. Visit Stay Informed, Take Action, our congressional factsheet, to find out about bills currently before Congress.
Make a contribution to UNFPA through the 34 Million Friends Campaign, a national grassroots movement dedicated to finding 34 million people willing to support the agency. Click here for more information.
Links of InterestUNFPA's website
UNFPA's Campaign to End Fistula
34 Million Friends of UNFPA
Page last updated in April 2009. For more information, contact email@example.com.