“By restoring U.S. funding for UNFPA, the UN Population Fund, and creating a new, high-level State Department position to advance global women’s issues, President Barack Obama has signaled that the United States will help lead the world in the area of global women’s health and rights.
Since day one, the Obama Administration has taken a series of steps to renew U.S. leadership on behalf of evidence-based sexual and reproductive health and family planning policy. These policy and budgetary initiatives are consistent with agreements reached during the 2000 UN Millennium Summit, where the United States pledged to do its part to respond to the world’s most pressing development challenges, including poverty, gender inequality and disease.
Every minute of every day, one woman dies in childbirth, making maternal mortality the largest health inequity in the world. By withholding funding, for seven straight years, from UNFPA – the world’s leader in advocating for universal access to reproductive health – the previous administration perpetuated the problem. For example, the $34 million withheld by the Bush Administration in one year alone, could have helped UNFPA prevent 2 million unintended pregnancies, 800,000 abortions, 4,700 women’s deaths and more than 77,000 infant and child deaths.
The appointment of Melanne Verveer as the U.S. State Department’s new ambassador-at-large for international women’s issues is a critical first step in elevating the rights and needs of the world’s women and girls within U.S. policymaking. Women and girls are three-fifths of the world’s one billion poorest people. Women are two thirds of the 960 million adults in the world who cannot read, and girls are 70 percent of the 130 million children who are out of school. When women and girls are educated, healthy, skilled, and empowered, it has a ripple effect that impacts families, communities, nations and our world.
We are hopeful that President Obama’s actions signal the U.S.’ willingness to re-engage with the international community on the critical challenges of improving the reproductive health and well-being of all women and girls. Working together, the international community can come closer to moving the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) from goals to realities.
The UN Foundation, a public charity, was created in 1998 with entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner’s historic $1 billion gift to support UN causes and activities. The UN Foundation is an advocate for the UN and a platform for connecting people, ideas, and capital to help the United Nations solve global problems. We build partnerships, grow constituencies, mobilize resources and advocate policy changes to support the UN’s work for individual and global progress. The UN Foundation’s work – focused on select global problems – is decreasing child mortality, improving disaster relief, protecting diverse cultures and environments, creating a clean energy future, empowering women and girls, and improving U.S.-UN relations. For more information, visit www.unfoundation.org.