Ask the Expert: Sarah Craven on Renewed U.S. Support for UNFPA

Sarah Craven, Director of UNFPA Washington D.C.

Sarah Craven is the Director of UNFPA’s Washington D.C. office, where she works with American leaders on supporting essential sexual and reproductive health. She answered our questions about what the Biden-Harris Administration’s renewed support for UNFPA means for women and girls everywhere: 

FOU: What does renewed U.S. support mean for UNFPA’s work? What does it mean for women and girls around the world?  

Sarah Craven (SC): We are delighted by the renewed financial and political support from the Biden-Harris Administration. This news could not come at a more important time. UNFPA, with its important work addressing the needs of women and girls around the world, has had a real setback this year with the impact of COVID-19. We need to redouble our efforts to address and uplift the needs of women and girls, and the renewed American support will make all the difference. 

Q: You mentioned COVID. But, why is right now an important time for renewed American funding for UNFPA? Why is it important for women and girls that this happens now? 

SC: UNFPA has a very bold agenda. We are trying to change the game for women and girls by meeting the three zeros: zero unmet need for family planning, zero preventable maternal deaths, and zero gender-based violence, including traditional harmful practices such as FGM and child marriage. We can’t do it alone. UNFPA needs partnership from the government, civil society, and the private sector. Everyone needs to pitch in to help us meet this agenda. The United States returning could not come at a better time. 

Q: What specific programs or issue areas do you think are most in need and would benefit from U.S. support? 

SC: The United States has always been a leader in the area of international family planning and sexual and reproductive health. In particular, the United States has been a key partner on the needs of women and girls in humanitarian settings. We are looking forward to renewing that partnership. We had great success under a previous administration where we were able to ensure healthy birth outcomes in some of the most unstable places in the world. Women who were fleeing violence and persecution were protected from sexual violence. We hope and anticipate that we will be able to once again, work with the U.S. on ensuring that women and girls in fragile or unstable contexts are able to feel safe, protected, and maintain their dignity. 

Q: Given the new administration and political make-up of Congress, is support for UNFPA a given?  

SC: UNFPA supports the non-political and non-partisan agenda of helping vulnerable women and girls around the world, including life-saving work in emergency situations.  There should be support for UNFPA regardless of the make-up of the Congress or who is in the White House. It’s always important to elevate and uplift the needs of women and girls worldwide. Women and girls are often the most vulnerable and the most forgotten when it comes to budgets or public policy. We can take nothing for granted in terms of political support. Even in the best of times, societies to not always prioritize women and girls. When women and girls are diminished, we are all diminished. 

Q: Now that the U.S. Government is supporting UNFPA, how important is it for individuals to support the organization 

SC: We’re never going to succeed in the ambitious agenda that we have set for ourselves if we just rely on one source of support. We need to have partnership and collaboration from everyone: governments, the private sector, and the American public. The American public has always been a strong supporter of UNFPA’s work and of our agenda helping women and girls worldwide. It’s so gratifying to see the engagement of American citizens in supporting this global work. 

To read more about U.S. funding for UNFPA, please see USA for UNFPA’s Statement on the Renewal of U.S. Funding for UNFPA and The Recent History of U.S. Funding for UNFPA.

Dana Kirkegaard
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