After a seven-year hiatus from contributing to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United States is in the process of making approximately $50 million in funding available to the organization.

In his first week in office, President Obama announced his intention to work with Congress to restore U.S. funding for UNFPA in order to “join the 180 other donor nations working collaboratively to reduce poverty, improve the health of women and children, prevent HIV/AIDS and provide family planning assistance to women in 154 countries.”

Now, with the enactment of the fiscal year 2009 appropriations bill, it appears that the first U.S. contribution to UNFPA will arrive just as experts from around the world prepare to gather at the United Nations for a global review of population and development priorities. The review, an annual meeting of the Commission on Population and Development, will take place on March 30–April 3 in New York City. It is the first of several United Nations events that will mark the 15th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994.

At the conference, the United States and 178 other member states signed on to an ambitious 20-year plan for international development. The plan was guided by the principle that stabilizing population growth and fighting poverty are fundamentally interrelated goals, neither of which can be achieved without investing in the rights of women.

In 2000, an even larger group of countries, including the United States, reaffirmed this commitment by signing on to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While the United States has honored parts of that pledge, largely through the efforts of the U.S. Agency for International Development, it has fallen far behind other developed countries’ investments in the developing world. In fact, among developed countries, the United States is tied for last place in the percentage of gross national income it devotes to foreign assistance.

Reinstating funding for UNFPA and rescinding the anti–family planning “global gag rule” are excellent first steps by the Obama administration to make up for ground the United States has lost over the past decade. But much more remains to be done to restore U.S. leadership on global sexual and reproductive health issues. With “Cairo plus 15” as a central theme, the upcoming United Nations meeting is a prime opportunity for the United States to reassert its commitment to fulfilling the promises made in 1994.

As part of the proceedings, the Guttmacher Institute and UNFPA will convene representatives from the British, Norwegian and U.S. international aid agencies in a parallel session to discuss priorities in funding for population and development. The panelists will also explore how the donor agencies can work together to maximize investments in global sexual and reproductive health.

Click here for information on:

What the United States can do to restore its leadership in global sexual and reproductive health policy

What the Obama administration has done so far to promote global health and development

A look back at “Cairo plus five” and “Cairo plus 10