UNFPA Secures Role in Humanitarian Settings

By Stefano Gennarini, J.D. | July 11, 2017

A resolution adopted by the Economic and Social Council last month probably ensures UNFPA will not only be a protagonist in humanitarian operations, but that UNFPA receives the funding to do so.

For the first time the humanitarian resolution of the Economic and Social Council has endorsed the Minimum Initial Service Package, or MISP, a set of policy proscriptions and priorities to guide humanitarian operations in the area os “reproductive health.” While this is not entirely UNFPA’s baby, the agency stands to gain much as marketer and distributor of the commodities and services that make up the package, principally contraceptive and abortifacient drugs, as well as personnel on the ground to push progressive social policies in humanitarian planning.

While delegations opposed the inclusion of MISP as too proscriptive, donor countries, including the United States, would not contemplate a resolution without this. Once again, donors got their way. While the inclusion of MISP in humanitarian operations is merely “recommended” in the resolution it still ensures that all humanitarian operations will now use MISP as normative guidance.

It it important to note that the same joint UN agency working group that produced MISP also promotes access to abortion. The Holy See was the only delegation to warn against using humanitarian settings to promote abortion when the resolution was adopted in Geneva last month.

Only a few weeks ago my colleague Susan Yoshihara suggested that UNFPA, the UN population fund, is an agency without a purpose. It was founded in the 1970s to deal with what was once perceived as unsustainable population growth. But the urgency of population growth is no longer felt and UNFPA has sought out for itself an increasing role in humanitarian settings, all the while still spending 60% of every dollar it receives on contraception.


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