The She Decides conference was a powerful moment for our movement to rally together after the recent return of the Global Gag Rule, which has created huge funding gaps for family planning. The She Decides conference underlined the importance of the She Decides initiative as a key platform to build momentum on family planning, and to help shape new global partnerships. The Ministerial conference convened more than 400 government representatives from over 50 countries, as well as bilateral donors such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Conference was hosted by Alexander De Croo, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Development Cooperation of Belgium, and was co-organised with Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation (the Netherlands), Isabella Lövin, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate (Sweden), and Ulla Tørnæs, Minister for Development Cooperation (Denmark).
What were the outcomes?
The She Decides Conference kick-started the process of securing maximum political and financial support to family planning worldwide so that the most vulnerable women and girls can decide their own destinies. In total €181 Million was pledged, and many expressions of support from countries across the globe highlighting their political support to deliver life-saving programmes. This is a major accomplishment given the short timeframe in which the conference was organised. However, as the total gap is over $600 million per year this can only be the beginning.
How did Countdown 2030 Europe contribute?
Countdown 2030 Europe partners played a crucial role in the She Decides conference, and were closely involved in all stages of this initiative.
Rutgers, initially supported the Dutch Government when they announced the initiative and have housed the public appeal. They have since sent a letter to the chief negotiator for the government formation process to maintain SRH/FP as a priority of the Dutch development cooperation policy.
Sensoa, our Belgian partner, collaborated with the Belgian Government in preparing the conference and organised the parliamentary pre-meeting where both Belgian and Dutch Ministers for DEVCO expressed their strong support for SRH/FP and called upon others to join the initiative both politically and financially. Participants discussed the implications of the Global Gag Rule and strategized on how to counter its effects
RSFU of Sweden worked alongside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the preparation to the She Decides conference, as well as inputting key messaging on SRH/FP which were incorporated into Minister Lövin’s statement at the conference.
The Danish Family Planning Association were also very actively involved in briefing Minister Tørnæs ahead of the Conference.
Pre-Conference support for SRH/FP:
Väestöliitto, as part of the Finnish APPG, hosted an event on the global gag rule with Finnish MEP Heidi Hautala ahead of the She Decides Conference. Having attended the meeting, the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development made a pledge of €20million at the She Decides Conference. Strong pledges from Norway on SRH/FP at the She Decides conference were also facilitated by our partner Sex Og politikk, who are ensuring Norways’ continued engagement. Equipop, The Spanish Family Planning Federation, the Irish Family Planning Association and Santé Sexuelle have all worked diligently around the She Decides initiative to ensure national governments’ participation in committing to defending women’s rights and family planning, as well as working towards further political and financial pledges. The Family planning summit in the UK will be the next big engagement for civil society on the issue of family planning. Plan UK are coordinating civil society engagement and working with DFID to ensure a strong link to comprehensive SRH/FP as part of the Summit.
European Commission support to She Decides and family planning
There was strong commitment from the European Commission on continued support to SRH/FP, education, information and preventative health programmes at the conference. IPPF European Network played an integral convening and coordination role at the conference, and since the adoption of the Global Gag Rule has been in close contact with the cabinet of Commissioner Mimica on the impact for SRH/FP in the build up to the “She Decides” initiative. At the conference, Commissioner Mimica reiterated support to the work of IPPF, UNFPA, UNICEF, as well as others- to improve the lives of women and girls.
The Conference was just the beginning. The challenge is now to keep up the momentum, and we will continue to work with Governments and other actors to ensure that this journey becomes a reality.