President Joko Widodo at the opening of the International Conference on Family Planning in Nusa Dua, Bali, on Monday. (Photo courtesy of ICFP)

Jokowi Says Family Planning Key to Ensuring Global Peace


JANUARY 25, 2016

Nusa Dua, Bali. President Joko Widodo on Monday opened the fourth installment of the International Conference on Family Planning, describing family planning as a "strategic investment to ensure that future generations can be successful" and key, in the long run, to ensuring global peace.

The conference, which brings together thousands of experts and activists on family planning and sexual health and rights from all over the world, is being hosted by Indonesia's National Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in the United States.

The first lady, Iriana, Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Coordinating Welfare Minister Puan Maharani and Health Minister Nila Moeloek also attended the opening ceremony in Nusa Dua, Bali.

It is the first time the event, themed "global commitments, local actions" this year, is held in Indonesia. It was originally scheduled to be held in November last year, but was canceled as eruptions of Lombok's Mount Rinjani volcano forced airports to close.

'Healthy mothers, healthy children'

In his opening speech, Joko said effective family planning programs were needed if the world wants to see "healthy mothers, healthy children and healthy, prosperous families."

Family planning is also key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the president added, and thus it is crucial in ensuring "global peace and security, and world prosperity."

Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) issues are an essential part of the 17 SDGs for 2030 that world leaders agreed upon last year.

The goals include ending poverty, ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education, achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all, at all ages.

Challenges for Indonesia

For the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), one of the core organizers of the ICFP, Indonesia is a priority country, even though its decades-old national family planning program is recognized internationally as a major success.

Indonesia's fertility rate has declined from 5.6 in the late 1960s to 2.6 now, as use of contraceptive devices also greatly increased.

Apart from family planning, the UN and other international organizations are also working to improve the maternal health situation in Indonesia and to curb the spread of HIV, as part of the broader sexual and reproductive health and rights agenda.

According to 2014 data from UNAIDS, an estimated 600,000 to 720,000 people in Indonesia live with HIV, but prevalence is rising, especially among women and young people.

Puan, the welfare minister, told delegates that Indonesia remains committed to progressive family planning programs and that the country would continue to improve access to, and quality of, family planning services.

Married couples in Indonesia have easy access to various means of contraception, but access to such commodities and services for unmarried people remains controversial, especially in religiously conservative parts of the country.

Pre-conference events on Sunday and Monday addressed the role of youths in family planning in Indonesia and elsewhere, and that of faith-based organizations such as Muhammadiyah, the country's second-largest Islamic socio-religious organization.

High rates of child marriage are common in certain parts of Indonesia, while another challenge is the still-common practice of female genital mutilation.

Funding and philanthropy

In a video message to delegates aired at the opening ceremony, Melinda Gates announced that her foundation would be spending an additional $120 million in the next three years to boost its family planning advocacy programs.

The message was welcomed by delegates, as UNFPA executive director Babatunde Osotimehin explained that worldwide funding for family planning programs has been falling, just as more people than ever need such programs.

"Family planning is not about health, it is about rights and empowerment, " Osotimehin said in his opening speech. "We made some progress, but it is not enough ... We need to recommit ourselves."

Various speakers noted the need for the private sector to play a greater role, and four business leaders were praised at the conference for doing just that.

Indonesian businessman Tahir, the founder and chairman of Mayapada Group, received a Global Humanitarian Award for Women's and Children's Health.

The awards are meant to recognize “individuals who, with great vision and leadership, have invested private wealth to advance reproductive, maternal, neonatal and child health, especially family planning, at the country and global level,” the ICFP said in a statement.

Tahir, through his Tahir Foundation, is one of the key funders of Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

"Wealth often comes with great responsibilities," he said in his acceptance speech, thanking his country for all the opportunities it had given him. "Giving back is a logical consequence."

Other awardees were Arif Naqvi, founder and CEO of private equity investing firm the Abraaj Group, and co-founder and chairwoman of the Aman Foundation Fayeeza Naqvi, and Christopher Hohn, co-founder of the Children's Investment Fund Foundation.

Christopher Elias, the president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Global Development Program, also stressed the need for sustained funding.

"Investment in family planning is one of the best investments a country can make," Elias told delegates. "Everyone benefits and those benefits last a lifetime."