Country Profiles

United Kingdom

Context

The UK is one of the largest European donors of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and an active proponent of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and family planning (FP) within ODA.

UK

The UK met the target of 0.7% GNI to ODA from 2015-2020, after the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act enshrined this ongoing commitment in law. However, the UK’s legal commitment to 0.7% GNI to ODA was reduced to 0.5% for 2021 and beyond until fiscal tests are met. In September 2020, the Department for International Development (DFID) and Foreign and Commonwealth Office merged to form the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), and in September 2022 a Minister for Development was created who now attends Cabinet. The UK experienced political changes in 2023, with a change in Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary.

Policies & funding

In various strategies and policies, the UK has committed to taking a strong stand for women and girls through tackling the rollback on gender equality, and to promoting equity in both its programmes and in global processes such as the 2030 United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development. The UK has placed a strong emphasis on health, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and on gender equality.

Over the past few years, the UK Government has published various strategies setting out its international development priorities, including how it will work for women and girls in all their diversity across the world.

In March 2023, the UK published its International Women and Girls Strategy, which committed to placing girls’ education, protection and empowerment at the heart of its international development and foreign policy. It recognises how the vocal movement to rollback on gender equality threatens progress on SRHR, and commits the UK to use its power and standing within the global space to tackle this. The strategy takes a holistic view of SRHR, recognising how comprehensive access can impact education opportunities, and commits to prioritising often-neglected issues including safe abortion, comprehensive sexuality education and SRHR in humanitarian emergencies. The FCDO’s International Development White Paper that was released in November 2023 continues to support a comprehensive definition of SRHR, including abortion, bodily autonomy, and family planning rooted in human rights. It commits the UK to investment in comprehensive SRHR, spearheading a campaign to tackle opposition to gender equality and SRHR, and partnering with local and women’s rights organisations to increase their voices in the creation of innovative approaches to SRHR and to drive forward change. These strategies work alongside the previous 2022 Strategy for International Development, and the 2021 approach paper on Ending Preventable Deaths of Mothers, Babies and Children. The Action Plan on Girls’ Education also includes a specific policy commitment to FP2030.

UK funding to SRH/FP was significantly reduced in 2020/2021 as a result of the decrease in the size of the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the later reduction of ODA from 0.7% to 0.5% of GNI. The impact of the cuts were significant, and the UK is not on course to meet the commitments they made at the ICPD+25, including a 287 million Euros (425 million GBP) pledge to the UNFPA Supplies Partnership from 2020-2025 (split into two agreements). The UK’s contributions to UNFPA core funding were also reduced from 22 million Euros (20 million GBP) in 2020 to 9 million Euros (8 million GBP) in 2021, representing a 60% cut, and they have remained at that level for 2022 and 2023. However, the UK is still the leading donor to UNFPA Supplies, and it contributed 78 million Euros (60 million GBP) each in 2022 and 2023.

In 2023, the UK also announced a further 50% cut to its flagship Women’s Integrated Sexual Health (WISH) programme, which is already operating at reduced capacity due to previous budget cuts, and assessments already predict that these cuts will reduce the number of unsafe abortions and maternal deaths averted. Despite substantial reductions to SRHR programmes, the UK remains one of the larger European contributors to SRH/FP and the broader SRHR agenda.

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Internationally vocal

The UK has been a champion of FP and SRHR for many years, including hosting the Family Planning Summits in London in 2012 and 2017 to reinvigorate support on FP2020 commitments. The UK is also vocal on its support for SRHR in global forums including at the UN, where in October 2022, they co-led a cross-regional statement on women and girls’ right to bodily autonomy, supported by over 70 co-signatures. In November 2022, the UK hosted the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict conference, where it released a political statement with positive commitments to defend comprehensive SRHR and ensure access to SRHR “at the onset and throughout crises”. And in April 2023, as part of it series on rollback the UK held a dialogue at Wilton Park focused on sexual and reproductive health and rights as part of its commitment to global partnership building.

chamiya mohamad

Key documents

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