The world is poised to make important strides toward gender equality and universal access to reproductive health. But we can only get there if we take decisive action now to expand on the progress of the past ten years. The 2012 London Summit on Family Planning was a pivotal moment for reproductive health and rights. Leaders from around the world gathered to affirm a woman’s fundamental right to shape her own life, plan her own future, and decide for herself whether and when to have children. They recognized that family planning is transformational, with the power to unlock human potential, break the cycle of poverty, and promote gender equality. They resolved that every person, no matter where they live—in a rich country or poor—should be able to enjoy the benefits of lifesaving, life-changing modern contraception. And they set out to make that vision a reality.
Ten years later, the goal is within reach. The work that flowed from the London Summit has borne fruit in a thousand ways: better family planning programs, more supportive policies, a wider range of contraceptive methods, stronger supply chains, greater clarity on financing, the codification of rights-based approaches, and a revolution in data capabilities. The number of modern contraceptive users in low- and lower-middle income countries has increased by a third overall, and in some countries has more than doubled. Although significant challenges remain, more people than ever before are taking charge of their reproductive health and choosing to use family planning. If we build on this groundwork and redouble our efforts—focusing on country-led, sustainably financed progress that is inclusive of all people and responsive to their needs—we can finally close the gap on universal access to contraception.
But the world in 2022 is facing another pivotal moment. Gender equality and reproductive health and rights are under attack. The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health imperils not only abortion access but also the right to contraception, the right to make personal medical decisions, and potentially the right of LGBTI individuals to marry and have children. This shocking reversal of progress echoes regressive movements around the world that seek to deprive people of bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom.
The global development agenda is also at an inflection point. The world is emerging from the COVID pandemic into a new era of inflation and lagging economic growth. Financial instability, the war in Ukraine and the refugee crisis, disruptions to global agriculture and supply chains, and the accelerating threat of climate change all contribute to an uncertain outlook for governments and donors. To ensure that the world stays on track for the Sustainable Development Goals—including the interlinked goals of gender equality, health, and prosperity—investments in family planning must be safeguarded and strengthened.
If we don’t act now, the hard-won gains of the last ten years could slip away.
The global community can meet this moment by choosing, once again, the path toward freedom and progress. Now is the time to recommit boldly to reproductive health and rights—for everyone, everywhere. The promise of the London Summit still beckons.