If it is necessary for others to fill the decency gap in view
of recent decisions [in Washington ], we will do it.


- Poul Nielson, European Union Development and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner

On July 22, 2002 the United States withdrew $34 million in funding that Congress had approved for the United Nations Family Planning Agency (UNFPA). President George W. Bush said the U.S. withheld the money because the UNFPA supports coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization programs in China and that evidence gathered by a U.S. fact-finding mission to China in May 2002 had persuaded him to withhold the money.

The President held this position despite the reports of three international investigative teams -- including one hand-picked by the Bush Administration. All three investigative teams recommended funding for UNFPA?s work. Past U.S. administrations have supported the organization on condition that no U.S. money be spent in China. The fund has honored this agreement by putting U.S. money into a separate account. The UNFPA spends about 1.5% of its budget in China, but only in 32 counties where the Chinese government has agreed to lift its one-child policy.

... We find no evidence that UNFPA has knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in the PRC [People's Republic of China ].
-- U.S. Department of State investigation

The UNFPA runs family planning programs in 142 countries, providing contraception and gynecological services and programs for preventing teen-pregnancy and HIV/AIDS. The UNFPA said the U.S. contribution would have allowed the agency to prevent two million unwanted pregnancies, nearly 800,000 induced abortions, more than 77,000 infant and child deaths, and 4,700 maternal deaths. The Bush Administration eventually reallocated the funds to the U. S. Agency for International Development.

The European Union, aghast at President Bush's decision, stepped forward to help alleviate the shortfall. In July 2002 the EU approved a ?32 million program to help 22 developing countries. The joint EU-ACP (African, Caribbean & Pacific) program, in partnership with the UN Population Fund and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, targets family planning and advice on population, health and sexual matters.

The US decision is regrettable and counter-productive. The decision to cut funding to the UNFPA may well lead to more unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and increased dangers for mothers and infants. The losers from this decision will be some of the most vulnerable people on this planet. Reproductive health services are crucial elements in the fight against poverty and the UNFPA and the IPPF deserve strong support to continue their activities.

- Poul Nielson, EU Development and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner

The EU took its stance in accordance with 1994's International Conference for Population and Development -- which recognised that sexual and reproductive health is a crucial element in the fight against poverty, the cornerstone of EU development policy.

Not all Americans agreed with President Bush's decision. Two women in particular -- Jane Roberts of Redlands, California and Lois Abraham of Taos, New Mexico -- started campaigns to raise money to close the $34 million funding gap created by President Bush's decision. Independently of each other, Jane and Lois sent email messages to their friends asking them to send a $1 bill or check to the United Nations Family Planning Agency, then forward the message on to their friends. Their goal was to reach 34 Million Friends and raise $34 million. Funds raised from their campaign go towards UNFPA's core program budget to make up for the withdrawal of US support. To date, the fund has raised over $725,000.

Contributions to the fund can be made at:

http://www.unfpa.org/support/34million.htm
Sources:
http://www.eurunion.org/News/press/2002/2002042.htm
http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20021125&s=biuso
http://www.unfpa.org/news/2002/pressroom/34million.htm
http://www.now.org/issues/global/101002global.html
http://www.familyplanet.org/featuredproj23.php
http://www.openhere.com/current/931640922.stm

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