Press Room




Chris Elias
International Conference on Family Planning
January 26, 2016

Thank you, Oying. And my thanks too to the Government of Indonesia – represented by BKKBN – and the Gates Institute.

As all of us here know, we have been working on this challenge for some time.

And it is great that people like Melinda are bringing more attention to the issues and driving the topic up the global health agenda.

As she was saying there, we really have much to do and no time to lose so it’s great to get this important conference back on the calendar.

Your Excellency, President Jokowi; Ministers; Professor Babatunde; and all the champions of family planning here today...

…At the Gates Foundation, we want to see a world where every person has the opportunity to lead a healthy, productive life.

It’s a simple idea, but a grand ambition.

And one critical factor to achieving it is empowering women and girls to transform their lives.

We know that better health, better education, and better economic opportunities for women and girls are the first steps to building more prosperous communities and countries.

We also know that unplanned pregnancy puts all that at risk.

That’s why our FP2020 goal is ambitious – because the ripple effects are so enormous.

It is also an important milestone on the road to the vision of universal access set out in the sustainable development agenda.

Thanks to the hard work of everyone in this room we are seeing progress.

Indonesia deserves enormous credit for introducing a comprehensive family planning strategy that it is saving lives, improving health, and putting the country on track to reach its FP2020 goal.

Likewise, the Ouagadougou Partnership in francophone West Africa recently exceeded its ambitious family planning goal by almost 20 percent.

So the dedication of this community is transforming the lives of women, their families, and their societies across the world.

That is the good news.

The bad news is that this progress, welcome as it is, isn’t yet matching the scale of our global ambition.

We are falling behind and we owe it to the millions of women and girls around the world still missing out to get back on track.

To do that we need to act smarter, we need to act together, and – above all – we need to act now.

It will be too late if we put off our decisions for another two years.

Our approach has to start with examining the evidence and analyzing the data so that we know what’s working and – just as importantly - what isn’t.

In November, FP2020 released three years of rich data that we, as a community, must use to identify gaps and opportunities to accelerate progress.

FP2020 as a movement is shifting its focus and prioritizing a few key areas to do just that – you’ll hear more about that throughout the week and at Thursday’s FP2020 plenary.

For our part at the Foundation, we have identified three areas we believe have great potential to accelerate progress towards our shared FP2020 goal.

And, as Melinda announced in her message, we are committing an additional $120 million over the next three years to those areas.

You heard a little from her just now. Let me say a bit more.

First, advocacy.

There is a critical need to make the case consistently and compellingly for budgets, policies, and programs that ensure more women and girls can access contraceptives.

Investing in family planning is one of the best investments countries can make.

If a young girl is able to prevent unplanned pregnancies, she is more likely to complete her education.

If a woman spaces her pregnancies, she can more fully participate in the economy and has a better chance of lifting her family out of poverty.

If she has fewer children, both she and her children are more likely to be healthier.

And when health improves, life improves by every measure.

So not only does everyone benefit – those benefits last a lifetime.

Getting that message across will be especially important over the next two years if we are to get back on track to FP2020.

So we are supporting the efforts of this community by helping to grow global support for family planning – investing in advocates and engaging new, young, and diverse campaigners to make sure the issue remains firmly on the agenda.

Second, improving the quality of services women and girls receive – including by getting the private sector more involved.

Everyone deserves quality services no matter where they get their contraceptives.

That means better counselling and information.

And it means comprehensive access to a range of family planning methods – in particular the long-acting reversible and injectable contraceptives that are among the most effective.

Expanding the number and type of contraceptives available is critical.

Data from the past 30 years show that when one additional contraceptive method is made available to at least half a population, total use consistently increases by up to eight percent.

The private sector has an important role to play alongside the public sector in providing access to a wider range of contraceptive choices.

Research shows that nearly half of all women in their reproductive years in Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean, rely on social marketing organizations, pharmacists, and community clinics run by local midwives for their family planning needs.

In sub-Saharan Africa about a third do.

These trends highlight the importance of ensuring high quality services across the board and are encouraging us to think differently about where to apply our efforts.

If the evidence shows that women and girls in parts of the world are increasingly using private health services, then that is where we will reach them, and so that is where we should be.

With this in mind, we believe it makes sense to build on successful programs, which are bringing commercial rigor and techniques to the family planning sphere.

As such, we will support SMOs with a flexible financing model to deliver higher quality services and offer a wider choice of contraceptives at affordable prices.

Not only will this complement what’s available in the public sector, it will help us get to more women and girls, including some of the hardest to reach.

Which brings me to our third focus area: We will fund programs that expand access for the most marginalized.

In particular, the evidence shows that we can have a big impact by increasing resources to the urban poor, who are among the world’s most disadvantaged and disenfranchised groups.

Over the last few years, program and evaluation experts in India, Nigeria, Kenya and Senegal have tested and identified a variety of high-impact solutions.

In concert with other programs, these have improved the quality of services, boosted demand, and increased access to contraceptive options for more women and girls.

Across six cities in Nigeria, for example, the percentage of women using modern contraception increased by 10.5% over a four year period.

In Senegal, there was a 19 percentage point increase over the same period among the poorest wealth quintile across six cities, with one actually recording a 24 percentage point increase.

These exciting results are understandably generating demand from some local governments that want to replicate these solutions in their local communities.

So through a new “Challenge Initiative” program, we will offer an incentive for donors and country governments to expand these proven interventions across parts of Africa and Asia.

The Gates Foundation will support regional hubs that cover the costs of providing technical assistance to governments to get these proven innovations off the ground.

And with the largest generation of young people in history about to enter their reproductive years, an essential part of our work will be to reach young people.

So we will also make specific investments to quickly learn how to more efficiently and more effectively reach adolescents.

Advocacy, improving quality, and spreading access to the urban poor and adolescents are not the only areas where progress can be accelerated.

They are simply among the ones where the data indicates we can make a significant difference.

At this conference, we need to challenge each other on where else the data and evidence leads – and most importantly, what concrete steps can we take to get back on track to meet our 2020 goal.

Each of us has a role to play.

As donors, we must ask ourselves: What more can we do to align our funding and support with the costed plans that other governments have in place?

If you’re a government minister, ask yourself: What more can I do to provide women and girls in my country with the range of contraceptives they want and need?

If you’re an advocate, ask yourself: What more can I do to hold governments to account?

We have the expertise and experience right here this week to achieve a world where women and girls are empowered to make their own decisions about their own lives.

A world where they don’t just survive but thrive.

Let’s make the most of it.

Thank you.


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