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Ireland not invited to world summit on family planning

The British Government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation did not extend an invite to Ireland for this week’s London Family Planning Summit.

Image: Tim Ireland/PA Wire/Press Association Images

IRELAND HAS NOT been invited to take part in an important global summit on family planning which takes place in London this week.

Together with the British Government and the United National Population Fund (UNFPA), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has organised the conference to begin moves to make affordable contraceptives, information, services and supplies available to an additional 120 million women and girls in the world’s poorest countries over the next seven years.

The foundation has invited a number of Governments, international organisations and representatives from civil society and the private sector to take part in the gathering, which will double up as a pledging conference.

Junior Minister at the Department of Foreign Affairs Joe Costello has confirmed that Ireland was not extended an invitation to participate. Donor governments who will attend the meeting in Central London include Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the US.

Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald raised the issue in the Dáil last week and challenged the Foreign Affairs Minister to outline why the Government had not sought an invitation to take part in the summit.

Costello said that even without a seat at the table on Wednesday, Ireland continues its strong support for family planning activities in developing countries.

“Ireland has a strong track record of support for family planning services, including support for global initiatives and at national level through Government health sectors,” he said. “We also support the work of NGOs, which is complementary to this Government-level work, in order to increase access to family planning services.”

Since 2006, Ireland has provided about €30 million in support of the reproductive, maternal and family planning programmes of the UNFPA.

Summit aims

The summit, which begins tomorrow, hopes to remove and reduce barriers to family planning across the developing world where currently more than 200 million women and girls who do not want to get pregnant lack access to contraceptives, information and services.

The Gates’ foundation believes that it is time for “developing countries, donors, international agencies, the private sector, and civil society to come together to help the world’s poorest women”.

“Unintended pregnancies have a much wider impact on the life chances of women and their children – and this is an issue that is affecting whole communities in the world’s poorest countries,” explains UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin.

Together, we are urging world leaders to remember that every country has both a moral obligation and a vested interest in tackling the death toll of mothers and their babies.

Organisers of the summit say that contraceptives are one of the best investments a developing country can make. Each US dollar spent on family planning can save governments up to six  dollars on health, housing, water, and other public services, they claim.

Every year, there are about 75 million unplanned pregnancies across developing countries.

The summit “will call for unprecedented global political commitments and resources that will enable 120 million more women and girls to use contraceptives by 2020″.

“Reaching this goal could result in over 200,000 fewer women and girls dying in pregnancy and childbirth and nearly 3 million fewer infants dying in their first year of life,” according to its mission statement.

Other pledges include sustaining coverage for the 260 million women in the same countries who are presently using contraceptives.

The one-day event will feature statements from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as lectures by India, Indonesia, Sengal and Ethiopia about results, lessons and commitments from their respective governments.

There will also be a number of panel discussions on integrating family planning with women’s and children’s health services.

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