PSN speaks at expert meeting on family planning and sustainable development

March 20, 2012

SOURCE: PSN / Countdown 2015 Europe

PSNs Karen Newman has delivered a presentation at a high-level expert meeting on Family planning and inclusive and sustainable development in the future of European development cooperation held in Brussels today.

Credit: UN Photo/Jean Pierre Laffont

The event, an International Dialogue on Family Planning and Inclusive and Sustainable Development in the Future of European Development Cooperation brought together European civil servants, key donors and other, civil society experts in the field of reproductive health and rights and sustainable developments, to make the case for addressing unmet need for family planning, set out the links to sustainable development and discuss how European policy makers can take the agenda forward.

The event was held by Countdown 2015 Europe with the following objectives:

  • To learn about the unmet need for family planning and the importance of addressing it in a human rights perspective.
  • To build knowledge about and support for the connections between the unmet need for family planning and key emerging issues in development debates: inclusive growth and sustainable development.
  • To dialogue on how European policy makers can take the lead in responding to the unmet need of family planning in the future aid framework and the main 2012 political opportunities.

Looking to the European development agenda

PSN’s Karen Newman gave a key note presentation at a session looking at the importance of a European development agenda that addresses the unmet need for family planning in support of overall sustainable development. The presentation focused on the neglect of the third, social pillar of sustainable development, which has been absent in recent sustainable development debates, including Rio+20, MDGs beyond 2015 and the EC Agenda for Change.

European donors must introduce this important social pillar into current sustainable development debates Karen argued, by showcasing the importance of linking sustainable development with the need to address the unmet need for family planning.

Karen’s presentation concluded that to advance this approach European policy leadership will be crucial:

  • To and through the remaining Rio+20 process
  • For shaping the Sustainable Development Goals that emerge post-Rio+20
  • For negotiating the Post-MDG Framework, including:
  • Preserving the focus of the MDGs, while learning from some of the framework’s mistakes
  • Ensuring that social equity, and sexual and reproductive health and rights in particular, are identified as priorities in their own right, and as key strategies for achieving equitable, sustainable development

Read: Karen’s presentation Family Planning and Sustainable Development: Policy Options for Moving Forward

Further information about the meeting and a press release is available on the Countdown 2015 Europe website.

Climate-linked migration poses growing humanitarian threat

March 13, 2012

SOURCE: Asian Development Bank (ADB)

Climate change will cause an upward surge in migration this century, and governments in disaster-prone Asia-Pacific nations must promptly enact a broad range of measures to stave off future humanitarian crises, according to a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) report released today.


Credit: ADB

Millions are being displace by environmental disasters

The report, Addressing Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific, notes that more than 42 million people in the region were displaced by environmental disasters over the past two years alone. An undetermined number of those displaced became migrants, unable to return home or choosing to relocate to safer ground.

"The environment is becoming a significant driver of migration in Asia and the Pacific as the population grows in vulnerable areas, such as low-lying coastal zones and eroding river banks," said Bindu Lohani, Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development of ADB."Governments should not wait to act. By taking steps now, they can reduce vulnerability, strengthen resiliency, and use migration as an adaptation tool rather than let it become an act of desperation."

Governments must improve migration management

The report is among the first to identify policy responses to the impacts of environmental events on migration in Asia and the Pacific. The report points out that while most migration will continue to take place within countries, greater cross-border movement is also foreseen and governments will need to cooperate more closely on migration matters. The report identifies existing international agreements, guidelines, principles, and dialogue forums that can be more effectively used to improve migration management.

To accommodate the anticipated increase in migrant flows to the region’s megacities, the report recommends greater investments in urban infrastructure and basic services. The report also identifies a need to protect migrant rights and to provide migrants with equitable access to education, health, water and sanitation.

The report cites the importance of strengthening the resilience of climate-threatened communities. Areas for action include improving disaster risk management systems and creating livelihood opportunities. The report also notes that reducing transfer fees for migrant remittances can provide additional resources for migrant-sending communities to improve their adaptive capacity.

Climate adaptation costs for Asia-Pacific nations are estimated at a staggering $40 billion through 2050, and while there are environmental funds, none are currently dedicated to addressing climate-induced migration issues. The report recommends governments work with the private sector to introduce sea level index-based insurance, catastrophe bonds and weather derivatives to draw investors into financing and managing the risks posed by climate change.

The full report Addressing Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific is available to download from the ADB website.

This article, published by the Asian Development Bank, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.

Children left behind in worlds city boom: UN

February 28, 2012


More than one billion children now live in crowded cities around the world but too many are stuck among the poorest of the poor without electricity, water or education, according to a new report from UNICEF.


Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

Urbanisation is outpacing service provision for children

"Urbanisation leaves hundreds of millions of children in cities and towns excluded from vital services," the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said.

In a few years, the report said, the majority of children will grow up in towns or cities rather than rural areas. Children born in cities already account for 60 per cent of the increase in urban population.

Cities are growing faster than governments can keep up with and already one in three urban dwellers lives in a slum, The State of the World's Children 2012 report said.

The report said infrastructure and services are not keeping up with urban growth, and poor families often pay more for substandard services. Water can cost 50 times more in poor neighbourhoods where it has to be bought from street vendors than it does in wealthier districts linked to mains pipes.

Children need to be prioritized by planning

With an urban childhood increasingly becoming the norm, UNICEF said more attention has to be given to children in planning, to get children into schools and protect the tens of millions of children forced into under-age labour and sexual trafficking.

"Hundreds of million of children today live in urban slums, many without access to basic services," said UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake in the report.
"They are vulnerable to dangers ranging from violence and exploitation to the injuries, illnesses and death that result from living in crowded settlements atop hazardous rubbish dumps or alongside railroad tracks," he added.

The full report State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an urbanised world is available on the UNICEF website.

This article, published by AFP, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.

Nature Climate Change Journal publishes letter by PSN

February 24, 2012


A letter from PSN has been published in the March 2012 issue of Nature Climate Change Journal, highlighting increased investment in voluntary family planning programmes that respect and protect rights as a cost-effective strategy for supporting climate change adaptation.

Credit: Liz Gilbert/David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Courtesy of Photoshare

Family planning is often overlooked

What’s family planning got to do with it? is a letter submitted by PSN to the Nature Climate Change Journal in response to a news feature which gave an overview of demographic issues in relation to climate change. The news article briefly touched on the role of family planning programmes in influencing population growth, but neglected to consider the vast unmet need for family planning that exists in developing countries.

Population growth exacerbates climate vulnerability

In the article, presenting key findings from research previously conducted by PSN, Sarah Fisher and Karen Newman stress that population growth in some of the countries hardest hit by climate change is exacerbating their vulnerability, by compounding a number of climatic impacts, including soil degradation, fresh water scarcity, and biodiversity loss. In many developing countries experiencing high rates of population growth there is a vast unmet need for voluntary family planning programmes.

The letter advocates that addressing this unmet need by increasing access to family planning programmes that respect and protect rights offers a cost-effective strategy for supporting climate change adaptation: a ‘win-win’ for women, the environment and climate justice.

Read: the correspondence piece. It can also be found on the Nature Climate Change website 

Civilisation faces perfect storm of ecological and social problems say Blue Planet prize winners

February 20, 2012

SOURCE: The Guardian

Celebrated scientists and development thinkers today warn that civilisation is faced with a perfect storm of ecological and social problems driven by unsustainable population increase, overconsumption and environmentally malign technologies.


Credit: UN Photo/Logan Abassi

Stark warnings

In the face of an "absolutely unprecedented emergency", say the 18 past winners of the Blue Planet prize - the unofficial Nobel for the environment - society has "no choice but to take dramatic action to avert a collapse of civilisation. Either we will change our ways and build an entirely new kind of global society, or they will be changed for us".

The stark assessment of the current global outlook by the group, who include Sir Bob Watson, the government's chief scientific adviser on environmental issues, US climate scientist James Hansen, Prof José Goldemberg, Brazil's secretary of environment during the Rio Earth summit in 1992, and Stanford University Prof Paul Ehrlich, is published today on the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the UN environment programme (UNEP). The paper , which was commissioned by Unep, will feed into the Rio +20 earth summit conference in June.

Rethinking the perpetual growth myth

Apart from dire warnings about biodiversity loss and climate change, the group challenges governments to think differently about economic "progress".

"The rapidly deteriorating biophysical situation is more than bad enough, but it is barely recognised by a global society infected by the irrational belief that physical economies can grow forever and disregarding the facts that the rich in developed and developing countries get richer and the poor are left behind.

"The perpetual growth myth ... promotes the impossible idea that indiscriminate economic growth is the cure for all the world's problems, while it is actually the disease that is at the root cause of our unsustainable global practices", they say.

The group warns against over-reliance on markets but instead urges politicians to listen and learn from how poor communities all over the world see the problems of energy, water, food and livelihoods as interdependent and integrated as part of a living ecosystem.

"The long-term answer is not a centralised system but a demystified and decentralised system where the management, control and ownership of the technology lie in the hands of the communities themselves and not dependent on paper-qualified professionals from outside the villages," they say.

We must look to social solutions

"Community-based groups in the poorer most inaccessible rural areas around the world have demonstrated the power of grassroot action to change policy at regional and national levels... There is an urgency now to bring them into mainstream thinking, convey the belief all is not lost, and the planet can still be saved."

The answer to addressing the critical issues of poverty and climate change is not primarily technical but social, say the group. "The problems of corruption, wastage of funds, poor technology choices and absent transparency or accountability are social problems for which they are innovative solutions are emerging from the grassroots."

To transition to a more sustainable future will require simultaneously redesigning the economic system, a technological revolution, and, above all, behavioural change.

"Delay is dangerous and would be a profound mistake. The ratchet effect and technological lock-in increase the risks of dangerous climate change: delay could make stabilisation of concentrations at acceptable levels very difficult. If we act strongly and science is wrong, then we will still have new technologies, greater efficiency and more forests. If fail to act and the science is right, then humanity is in deep trouble and it will be very difficult to extricate ourselves.

Recommendations, including reproductive health and rights

The paper urges governments to:

  • Replace GDP as a measure of wealth with metrics for natural, built, human and social capital - and how they intersect.
  • Eliminate subsidies in sectors such as energy, transport and agriculture that create environmental and social costs, which currently go unpaid.
  • Tackle overconsumption in the rich world, and address population pressure by empowering women, improving education and making contraception accessible to all.
  • Transform decision-making processes to empower marginalised groups, and integrate economic, social and environmental policies instead of having them compete.
  • Conserve and value biodiversity and ecosystem services, and create markets for them that can form the basis of green economies.
  • Invest in knowledge through research and training.

"The current system is broken," said Watson. "It is driving humanity to a future that is 3-5C warmer than our species has ever known, and is eliminating the ecology that we depend on for our health, wealth and senses of self.

This article, published by The Guardian, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.

The demographic dividend and development: New briefing from PPD ARO

February 16, 2012

SOURCE: Partners in Population and Development Africa Regional Office (PPD ARO)

A new policy briefing is available from PSN member Partners in Population Development Africa Regional Office providing information to help promote policies to support a demographic dividend in Africa.

Credit: Manoocher Deghati/IRIN

The new briefing from PPD ARO sets out what the demographic dividend is, and the opportunities it creates for more rapid economic growth and human development for a country as more resources are available for investment in economic development and family welfare.

Highlighting that the time is now for Africa to reap a demographic dividend, the briefing sets out investments that must be made to support demographic dividend, including in the areas of health, education, job creation, and prevention of early marriage.

The briefing was developed for policymakers participating in the high-level ministerial meeting held November 30, 2011 in conjunction with the Second International Family Planning Conference in Dakar Senegal.

The briefing is available in English and French from the PPD ARO website.

Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar connect family planning with environmental health

February 15, 2012

SOURCE: by Eric Zuehlke Population Reference Bureau

A new article published by Population Referenfce Bureau (PRB) highlights an integrated population, health environment (PHE) project by PSN member Blue Ventures.


Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

Family planning good for the environment too

Remote rural communities in developing countries typically face the related challenges of extreme poverty, poor health, and environmental degradation. And population growth often exacerbates these challenges. In communities that face environmental challenges along with high fertility and high maternal and child mortality, health programs that include family planning can have great benefits for the health and well-being of women and families, with positive influences on the local environment. Meeting the reproductive health needs of women and ensuring environmental sustainability by connecting family planning with environment programs has proven to be a "win-win" strategy.

Yet this connection has often been seen as controversial or irrelevant to environmental policymaking.

While more developed countries have low populations, they have much higher per capita consumption and resource dependence. However, developing countries, with their faster rates of population growth, are contributing a growing share of CO2 emissions, due to rapid deforestation which releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The United Nations Development Programme's 2011 Human Development Report pointed out that developing countries face a double burden of being more vulnerable to wider environmental challenges such as climate change but also having to cope with immediate environmental problems such as resource depletion and poor water quality.

This is where family planning comes in. Expanding family planning is a response to an existing need, and it gives women autonomy and equity. A study analyzing data from 2008 found that unintended pregnancy accounts for up to 41 percent of all births worldwide. According to UNFPA, it is "the factor in population growth most amenable to program and policy interventions." In addition, over 200 million women worldwide have an unmet need for family planning. Researchers estimate that the demand for contraception will grow by 40 percent over the next 15 years. The context of family planning has shifted from population control decades ago to individual rights. And the impetus for programs is coming from local communities and developing countries.

Two programs in rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa show how conservation and environmental initiatives can help extend the right to reproductive health care to women and communities that are remote and well beyond the range of existing health care systems. These programs show the overlapping benefits attained when responding to the needs of local communities, improving environmental sustainability, and ensuring women and families' health.

Improving access to family planning in Democratic Republic of Congo

The World Wildlife Fund , through partnerships with local nongovernmental organizations and the Ministry of Health in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is working to improve access to family planning in rural areas with existing conservation programs to give women more autonomy to limit their births and improve maternal and under-5 mortality.

Focusing on Salonga National Park in central Democratic Republic of Congo, the projects began with women reporting no access to family planning services. After decades of civil war, the women were completely beyond the reach of government and other aid organizations. The closest health center to either give birth or access other health services is up to 30 kilometers away and has few personnel, very limited equipment, and often no medicines. Because of this challenge, the programs focus on training community-based health workers who distribute contraceptives and provide guidance and counseling in rural villages. Public awareness campaigns, based on face-to-face dialogue, focuses on the benefits of family planning on women's health and income and how these benefits extend to children, families, and the entire community. Women with access to family planning services will know how to space births, have the time to recover from childbirth, and have the strength to work in their own businesses or in agriculture, leading to more income.

Working with local communities to help women gain access to family planning influences the local environment. Since mainly women collect wood and work in the fields, their health affects conservation activities. In these programs, local women participate in land management training and learn about family planning. As a result, women are healthier to participate in conservation activities, decreasing the population pressure on the environment. Through working with the local community to respond to their needs and ensuring access to reproductive health, new opportunities have opened up to work more closely together on conservation as well.

Meeting unmet need and ensuring sustainable fishing in rural Madagascar

Madagascar is an environmental treasure in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Eastern Africa. The island is home to 5 percent of global biodiversity and 80 percent of its flora and fauna are found nowhere else in the world. Yet it also ranks as a "least developed country," with GDP per capita at US$438. Its population of 21 million is one of the fastest-growing in the world and is projected to reach 29 million by 2025. Maternal mortality is extremely high, with 469 deaths per 100,000 births, and only 29 percent of married women are using modern contraception.

But these national-level figures mask disparities. In Andavadoaka, a coastal area in the remote southwestern part of the island that depends on fishing, fertility rates are higher than the national average. Women average six to seven children each, and there is little access to reproductive health care or education; the closest facility that provides reproductive health care is 50 kilometers away through a desert. High fertility and unmet need for family planning is stressing the environment. Growing demands for resources are outstripping supply. In one area, the number of fishermen has almost tripled from 535 to 1,510 in 20 years. And in 2011, 60 percent of the fish caught were juveniles, a trend that points to unsustainable fishing practices.

Blue Ventures, a UK-based marine conservation organization dedicated to conservation, education, and sustainable development in tropical coastal communities, started a marine conservation program in the area to support sustainable resource use. The Velondriake program, "to live with the sea," covers an area of 640 square kilometers and is the first and largest locally managed marine area in the western Indian Ocean.

In 2007, Blue Ventures opened the first regional family planning clinic and by 2011, 40 villages were covered by multiple sites. The clinics focus on "reaching the hardly reached" through involving the local community in peer-led education campaigns, group discussions, educational films, and community events such as theater, sports, and cultural activities. As a result, contraceptive prevalence has risen from under 10 percent in January 2007 to almost 35 percent by January 2011, and the fertility rate has fallen by about one-third since the start of the project.

This article, published by PRB, has been reproduced by PSN.

Resilient people resilient planet: New UN report on global sustainability

January 30, 2012

SOURCE: Population Institute

A group of global policy makers examining ways to combat challenges such as climate change, water scarcity and human consumption patterns, has presented its findings to the UN Secretary-General.


Credit: UN

Stark warnings for global sustainability

The UN Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on Global Sustainability has just released its final report Resilient People, Resilient Plant: a future worth choosing.

The panel, which was chaired by Tarja Halmen, president of Finland, and Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa, took an appropriately broad view of sustainability, looking at measures of human development, as well as environmental and natural resource indicators. And not surprisingly it paints a mixed picture. While highlighting progress with respect to a number of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), it also notes the continued deterioration in many of the resources and biosystems on which continued human progress depends.

Most importantly, it acknowledges that the current human trajectory is not sustainable, and it warns that, “The signposts are clear: We need to change dramatically, beginning with how we think about our relationship to each other, to future generations, and to the eco-systems that support us….Continuing on the same path will put people and our planet at greatly heightened risk.”

People must be empowered to make sustainable choices

The report makes 56 specific recommendations, a number of which deserve special recognition, including support for expanding family planning and reproductive health options, incorporating sustainability considerations into national strategic planning, creation of a Sustainable Development Index, improvement in gender equity, and the development of a set of "sustainable development goals" setting targets across a range of sustainability indicators for all countries to work towards.

But perhaps the most noteworthy part of the report is its recognition of the need for a people-centered approach to sustainable development. The report stresses that we need to empower people to make sustainable choices. And that certainly applies to the need to empower women to be able to decide the number and spacing of their children.

With Rio+20 in sight

Today’s report is a welcome contribution to the growing global debate over sustainability, but the real test will come in June, when world leaders assemble for the Rio+20 Summit. We need a strong and renewed commitment from world leaders to sustainability. Without it, it appears unlikely that the human trajectory will change in time to avoid the real life consequences that flow from living unsustainability. Indeed, we are already struggling with some of those consequences: climate change, falling water tables, depleted fish stocks, etc. The question is whether reports such as this one will spur us to move decisively to avoid far more serious damage to people and the planet.

The full report is available on the UN website.

This article, published by The Population Institute, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.

Help us keep women & newborns a UK government priority

January 20, 2012

SOURCE: Manifesto for Motherhood Coalition & PSN

PSN and other members of the Manifesto for Motherhood coalition have sent a letter encouraging the UK government to remain committed to reproductive, maternal and newborn health.

Credit: UN Photo/UNICEF/Marco Dormino

Choices for women: one year on

One year on since the introduction of the Choices for women: The UK’s Framework for Results for improving reproductive, maternal, and newborn health in the developing world, the Manifesto for Motherhood Coalition wants to know how our government is keeping its promises to women and children in the developing world and encourages the Government to remain dedicated to our international commitments on family planning and a safe pregnancy and child birth.

January 2012

Dear Secretary of State,

Choices for Women: planned pregnancies, safe births and healthy newborns - one year on.

First of all let us congratulate you for keeping women and children at the heart of Government's international development agenda. We share your vision of a "developing world where all women are able to exercise choice over the size and timing of their families, where no woman dies giving birth and where all newborns survive and thrive".

Under your leadership, as a result of this vision, the Department for International Development launched Choices for women: planned pregnancies, safe births and healthy newborns - The UK's Framework for Results for improving reproductive, maternal and newborn health in the developing world in December 2010. The framework promised that the UK will double its efforts for women’s and children’s health and will achieve the following results by 2015:

  • Save the lives of at least 50,000 women during pregnancy and childbirth and 250,000 newborn babies by 2015
  • Enable at least 10 million more women to use modern methods of family planning by 2015, contributing to a wider global goal of 100 million new users
  • Prevent more than 5 million unintended pregnancies
  • Support at least 2 million safe deliveries, ensuring long lasting improvements in quality maternity services, particularly for the poorest 40%.

One year on since the introduction of the Choices for women we would like to know:

  1. How the Government is keeping the promises it made to women and children in the developing world and ask you to provide details about the funding committed so far and how these commitments will be upheld in the coming years?
  2. What measures have been put in place to promote accountability for results at all levels with increased transparency?
  3. What activities and measures have been put in place to realise the UK’s international commitments on sexual and reproductive health and rights and advocate for other countries to do the same?
  4. How the Government envisages the goals and principles of Choices for women will be reflected in the post 2015 development framework?

As there has been no annual assessment on the progress made within the Choices for women framework so far, we urge you to develop a detailed evaluation framework and publish the results.

We, the Manifesto for Motherhood Coalition, eagerly look forward to your response. 

PCCA responds to the Rio20 zero draft

January 19, 2012


The Population and Climate Change Alliance (PCCA) has issued a response to the zero draft of the Rio+20 outcome document, setting out recommendations for ensuring a necessary focus on the importance of population dynamics and reproductive health and rights for sustainable development.


An important event

The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) 'Rio+20' will take place in June this year. The conference will be an important event that is set to influence not only the sustainable development agenda, but also the international development agenda post-2015.

What about reproductive rights?

The PCCA is extremely concerned that the zero draft of the outcome document for the conference, released last week, contains no reference to reproductive health and rights, and very limited focus on population dynamics, gender dynamics and other important and related issues.

In response to the zero draft, the PCCA has produced a document setting out suggested changes and additions, to promote focus on the critical issues of population dynamics and reproductive health by the Rio+20 agenda.

Zero draft negotiations: Advocating for reproductive rights

Negotiations on the zero draft begin formally at the UN next Wednesday, 25 January, and to contribute to the process country UN missions are able to submit written input to the negotiations by Monday 23rd January.

The PCCA has circulated our recommendations widely, and organisations undertaking advocacy work on sexual and reproductive health and rights in relation to Rio+20 are invited to use the document as they wish, beginning with the forthcoming negotiations on the zero draft and thereafter.

Organisations are invited to share the document with the national delegations for Rio+20, and to share it widely with colleagues, partners and other stakeholders.

Read: The PCCA recommendations and suggested revisions and additions.