The decision by US president Joe Biden to refund the UN population fund, UNFPA, offers “a ray of hope for millions of people around the world”, said the agency’s executive director.
Dr Natalia Kanem said the announcement on Thursday would have an “enormous” impact on the agency’s work, particularly as the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.
In 2017, the Trump administration halted funding to the UNFPA, claiming it supported coercive abortion and involuntary sterilisation – claims strongly denied by the agency.
The US was one of the agency’s largest funders. In 2016, it provided $69m (£50m) to support its work in more than 150 countries.
“Ending funding to UNFPA has become a political football, far removed from the tragic reality it leads to on the ground. Women’s bodies are not political bargaining chips, and their right to plan their pregnancies, give birth safely and live free from violence should be something we can all agree on,” said Kanem.
She added that the pandemic had hit particularly hard the vulnerable communities in which the UNFPA works. “US support will be instrumental in helping us build back better and fairer.”
US secretary of state Antony Blinken said his department would appropriate $32.5m to support the UNFPA this year.
“UNFPA’s work is essential to the health and wellbeing of women around the world and directly supports the safety and prosperity of communities around the globe, especially in the context of the global Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Blinken also confirmed that the US would withdraw its support for the “Geneva Consensus Declaration” – an anti-abortion policy introduced last year by the then secretary of state Mike Pompeo, and signed by more than 30 countries, including Brazil, Hungary and Uganda.
“The United States is re-engaging multilaterally to protect and promote the human rights of all women and girls, consistent with the longstanding global consensus on gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights,” said Blinken.