In 2000, U.S. foundations spent $96 million on population-related initiatives, according to data collected by the Funders Network on Population, Reproductive Health, and Rights. By 2012, that spending had fallen to less than $7 million.
The numbers are stunning, but a few caveats are in order. First, these figures refer only to private U.S. foundations, not public funding. U.S. government spending on international population and family planning has held steady during the Obama presidency, albeit at a lower level than some advocates would like.Second, this data is only for foundations that are members of the Funders Network. While the Network includes most U.S. donors with an interest in population, reproductive health, and reproductive rights, some new entrants to the field – including Bloomberg Philanthropies – are not represented.
And third, the database relies on foundation staff to categorize their own grants. That means a grant for a family planning clinic in the Philippines may be classified by one funder as “population,” while an identical grant by another funder falls under “reproductive health.”
Yet even with these caveats, the drop-off in funding is significant. Broadly speaking, it reflects a sea change in the field of family planning and reproductive health. For decades, the field has been moving away from a focus on human numbers and toward a commitment to individual health and rights. Even those concerned primarily about population growth have embraced the new paradigm, as evidence shows the best way to slow growth is by addressing unmet need for reproductive health services by ensuring access to voluntary family planning services. That view was affirmed by world governments at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo.
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