Article | 02 Mar, 2023

Integrating voluntary, rights-based family planning in conservation

Carina Hirsch, IUCN SSC CEESP Biodiversity & Family Planning Task Force Co-Chair, Advocacy & Projects Manager at the Margaret Pyke Trust

A landslide vote led to the passing of a Resolution entitled Importance for the conservation of nature of removing barriers to rights-based voluntary family planning. One of the most important results of the Resolution has been the establishment of the IUCN SSC CEESP Biodiversity & Family Planning Task Force, bridging the gaps between sectors and changing policy.

content hero image

The “in person” panel at the COP27 Side Event Removing barriers to family planning within African climate policy processes: (from left to right) Carina Hirsch, IUCN SSC CEESP Biodiversity & Family Planning Task Force Co-Chair & Advocacy & Projects Manager at the Margaret Pyke Trust; Abebe Shibru, Marie Stopes Ethiopia, Country Director; Flavia Myekwaso, Senior Climate Change Officer, Ministry of Water and Environment, Government of Uganda; Raymond Ruyoka, Executive Director, Youth Advocacy and Development Network, Uganda; Deepa Pullanikkatil, Nationally Determined Contribution Coordinator, Ministry of Tourism & Environmental Affairs, Government of Eswatini; and Duduzile Nhlengethwa-Masina, Nationally Determined Contribution Focal Point & Director of Meteorology, Government of Eswatini. The event also saw video contributions from two organisations represented on the Task Force: Dr. Samukeliso Dube, Executive Director, Family Planning 2030 and Kerryn Morrison, Head of Africa Conservation, Endangered Wildlife Trust.

Photo: Margaret Pyke Trust

The IUCN SSC CEESP Biodiversity & Family Planning Task Force was set up as a result of the landslide vote at the 2020 World Conservation Congress passing Resolution 072 entitled Importance for the conservation of nature of removing barriers to rights-based voluntary family planning. The Task Force responds to a significant gap, not only within the IUCN, but within conservation policy and practice more broadly, to reflect the realities of the 21st century, particularly the inextricable links between human and environmental health. The Task Force responds to the growing awareness among conservationists that community health actions are increasingly critical for conservation actions to be successful. Indeed, there is a growing alliance of conservation organizations recognizing that genuine and substantive action to further human health and associated gender equality outcomes is part of conservation.

The Task Force is chaired by the Margaret Pyke Trust and its members include leading experts from across the globe in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights, biodiversity conservation, demography and those in direct contact and dialogue with their national policymakers. The Task Force is gender and geographically balanced and features representation from senior levels of IUCN members as well as non-traditional conservation organizations including Family Planning 2030 (or FP2030, the global partnership to empower women and girls by investing in high quality, rights-based family planning), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Family Health International 360 (or FHI 360, a leading global health non-profit organisation to improve the health and well-being of people around the world) and Pathfinder International. These leading health NGOs have a strong track record of improving access to health and improving health systems in low-income countries, and especially in last mile communities, where environmental and health challenges increasingly overlap. 

In its first year, the Task Force has already accumulated an impressive range of achievements. To maximize impact there are a number of working groups including one on Training & Education (developing tailored training modules to build the knowledge base of conservationists on the integration of sexual and reproductive health and rights and family planning in conservation), FP2030 Commitments (a group of conservation organizations have been supported to formalize work they are already undertaking to further health goals, with health partners, as part of their broader conservation work. This work embodies research, project implementation or policy commitments, and more organizations are planning to make such commitments), Conservation Classification Scheme (creating a dialogue and providing evidence on how removal of barriers to family planning should be included under this scheme in the future), Global Species Action Plan and Amphibian Conservation Action Plan (providing inputs to these key conservation policy documents aiming to include the removal of barriers to family planning as actions or targets for the first time). The Task Force has also been active and present at the key climate and conservation policy making forums: COP27 and COP15 respectively, hosting events on the importance of removing barriers to family planning within African climate policy process and the significance of removing barriers to family planning in conservation, respectively.

This is a unique Task Force, within a unique union, ultimately aimed at bringing sectors together for improved gender, health, livelihood and environmental goals. This spirit of bringing sectors together was reflected in the simultaneous launch of a Task Force supported guidance document entitled “Climate change engagement: A guide for SRHR organisations” at the International Conference on Family Planning & COP27 - truly a cross-sectoral initiative. 

The Task Force has already hit the ground running this year with more conservation organizations expressing interest in formalizing an FP2030 commitment, additional organizations seeking Task Force inputs and guidance on developing statements on the issues of integration and removal of barriers to family planning, and plans to engage at COP28 are also underway. So, watch this space and please get in touch if you want to be part of the action!