Why was the Countdown 2030 Europe tracking methodology created?

  • C2030E is a group of European NGO partners working in 12 European countries and with the EU institutions to advocate with their governments for support to SRH/FP and associated rights. The consortium is led by IPPF European Network.
  • C2030E needed a consistent way to collect national data for local advocates – the C2030E Partners – to track what their national governments were committing and expending on SRH/FP, using national expenditure reports, easily to refer to in national advocacy activities. This consistent approach would be useful to assess trends across years and donor countries, even though individual governments report internally in significantly different ways.
  • C2030E Partners looked at the SRH/FP financial data available but, despite their added value, some shortcomings made them unsuitable for local advocacy, namely:

Although systematised, official and in the public domain, the data was questioned by many national government counterparts. This is mostly because there is huge scope for different interpretation and classification of the codes, both among donors and within their own administrations, thus affecting the quality or comparability of data. Moreover, some individual donors report non-directly related SRH/FP expenses under CRS codes for population assistance – such as migration -, hence inflating key findings. The data was also not published quickly enough to be useful for national advocates to use for monitoring purposes.

This relied partly on the OECD DAC data, and therefore faced the same challenges as above. In addition, data on population assistance were collected through questionnaires, directly sent to donors. The initial little detail on SRH and FP financial breakdowns was overcome on the initiative of C2030E, but the often-low response rate on these details kept the use of these data for monitoring purposes challenging.

Many national advocates found that the presentation of these reports is excellent to depict cross-country comparisons in donor trends. But the data source is again OECD DAC, which is out of date for the purposes of national advocacy and timely monitoring of European donor funding. Plus, the attributed percentages applied to CRS codes – based on a global reporting sample – does not allow to accurately depict how the individual European donors contribute to SRH/FP.

  • There was no systemised forum for presenting policy trends in SRH/FP across European donors. C2030E partners had this first-hand knowledge of their local scenes, and wanted to place financial trends within this wider context, but they lacked a forum to do so; this made it difficult for them to ‘match’ political commitments from their governments with funding allocations, a key component of advocacy and accountability.

How has the Countdown 2030 Europe tracking methodology worked so far?

C2030E partners collect data on their country’s financial contributions in current prices and in reference to specific streams of support, namely: 

UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO, World Bank. This is automatically categorised as being spent on the ICPD category of SRH/FP. Until 2021, the reference to collect the proportions of core funding benefitting SRH/FP was the NIDI questionnaire to multilateral organisations, that used to be updated annually or biannually and in the context of the UNFPA-NIDI Resource Flows. The overall percentages presented decreased significantly since 2017, as the report refers to the combined FP and RH percentages rather than the much broader ‘population assistance’ percentages, to ensure a clear focus on SRH/FP funding.

Projects may be implemented by organisations beyond UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO, World Bank. Earmarked funding for UNFPA projects on SRH/FP is also included in the ‘overall funding allocated to UNFPA’ indicator.

This stream can include entities of international, national or even local status.

This type of funding, or government-to-government cooperation, has been the most challenging data to identify. This is because this is the lengthiest data collection for donors themselves, as they must rely on their Embassies, and often partner countries do not track how much of the received bilateral funding goes to SRH/FP (especially through general or sectorial budget support). In several countries, this has led to increased demands from civil society for transparency and accountability for this type of international cooperation stream.

the report used 2017 constant prices for comparability.

C2030E partners obtain their data from national annual reports, direct government contacts and from online national databases – which later inform OECD DAC. This may be complemented by other bilateral contacts with SRH/FP government counterparts and/or parliamentary questions.

  • C2030E represents summary data on a dedicated web-based platform: All data can be changed in ‘real-time’ – i.e. as it happens. So, when elections happen in country X that affect SRH/FP, or when financial commitments are made in country Y, the C2030E partner can alter their national profile
  • Policy data, a key feature of the report, is public; financial data may be restricted, only accessible to C2030E partners given their strong relationship with their own governments. This is because some government counterparts do not always feel comfortable with sharing financial data that is not always an official record yet.

What changes with this report and the 2021 reviewed methodology?

  • new measure

Even though this report continues to measure European donors’ support to SRH/FP, it also expands the scope of its assessment. European donors tend to increasingly embrace a more comprehensive definition of what is sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), going beyond the specific elements of FP and SRH. This expanded definition is aligned with the tendency to further integrate SRH into other services and sector-wide approaches, as both the ICPD Programme of Action and the Sustainable Development Goals call for. This vision is also endorsed by C2030E and is aligned with the new SRHR definition from the Guttmacher-Lancet Report, which has been already embraced by some European donors. For that reason, the new tracking methodology introduced by the 2021 report includes other essential interventions that provide a more complete picture of European efforts to advance the SRHR agenda in low- and middle-income countries:

- HIV/AIDS and other STIs, in line with ICPD costed package

- Prevention and integrated responses to Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) that go beyond SRH/FP (so far only SRH/FP focused responses were included)

- Comprehensive sexuality education

- Initiatives specifically targeting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex or Queer (LGBTIQ+) persons

- Safe abortion

- Other initiatives to foster human rights-based, gender-responsiveness, intersectionality and change of social norms in relation to SRH/FP

The report thus includes two different sets of findings: i) the first referring to SRH/FP, in line with what has been collected in previous years and ii) an extended set that considers the broader SRHR agenda – by default, the latter will always include the former.

It is however important to note that not all European governments use all these interventions to measure their investments on SRHR, with some completely detaching, for example, expenditures on HIV/AIDS and other STIs, SGBV or even harmful practices.

  • The analysed streams

Core support to multilateral organisations: European funding in support of SRHR now includes the same four multilateral bodies (UNFPA, UNICEF, WHO, World Bank), in addition to UNAIDS. Moreover, as UNFPA-NIDI Resource Flows came to an end, since 2021 the report uses instead percentages provided directly by UNFPA, and calculates a five-year trend of OECD-DAC coefficients from the other multilateral organisations. Contributions to the GFATM also moved from international organisations & initiatives to this stream, in order to further align with OECD reporting.

Given the importance of this stream to some European donors, the exclusion of this channel would underrate respective investments. Examples of European countries that substantially rely on this channel to invest on SRH/FP are Belgium, France and Ireland.  As governments have been striving to improve transparency of their annual funding, this stream started being accounted for as of 2021, for 2020 data;

as some European donors substantially rely on this channel to advance the SRHR agenda, the list of collected initiatives has been extended in order to better depict European investments through this channel. Furthermore, contributions from the GFF are since 2021 calculated based on the Facility’s internal reporting of funding benefitting SRHR (while before these were accounted for following donors’ own way of reporting).

  • Three other changes are observed in terms of approach:

for a more enriched depiction of cross-country comparison in funding trends, this report adds an indicator calculating the percentage of donors’ spending on SRH/FP and SRHR as part of their annual ODA.

while before the report would assess transparency specifically related to bilateral cooperation, the current version focuses on the donors’ overall transparency level of ODA. External sources are used as baselines, such as the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) or Publish What You Fund (PWYF), that can be then adapted by partners

for the past years, updated financial data from EU institutions had not been available at the time of writing of this report. This has however changed with the publication of the EU Aid Explorer website, which registers real time responses. It is hence possible to collect EU data at the same time as other European donors and reorganise it accordingly.

What are the novelties introduced in this report?

This year, the tracking report also includes three new elements:

Italy was included in the present tracking report to further complement the European donors sample. As this is the first year of analysis of the country’s contributions to SRH/FP and SRHR, overall variations across years are provided both with and without the addition of Italy, to ensure comparability. The analysis of individual European donors' funding trends excludes Italy, being the data only available for 2021.

Prior to the 2021 report, core multilateral funding contributing to SRH/FP and SRHR relied on the UNFPA-NIDI Resource Flows data. As this project came to an end, contributions from agencies are now calculated based on their own reporting. The same is applicable to the Global Financial Facility (reported under international organisations and initiatives).

The current tracking report includes impact numbers from European governments’ investments on FP. Calculations are based on the Guttmacher’s Family Planning Investment Impact Calculator, which is an interactive tool for estimating these impacts in LMICs. As it is not always possible to separate donors’ investments on FP and SRH, only some of the FP programmes are selected for these calculations, to illustrate the minimum impact reached in 2021.

What added value does the Countdown 2030 Europe tracking offer?

  • Obtaining data primarily from national annual sources allows for reporting to be aligned to national reporting and coding systems, rather than often less-detailed coding into OECD DAC categories. This is nationally-owned and up-to-date data that reflects the country’s vision.
  • The process of collecting data helps to build the relationship of trust and communication between the advocacy partner and the government SRHR focal point person, while it broadens networks for advocacy with government departments beyond the traditional SRH/FP ones. This level of proximity also allows for interpretation and discussion around how data is categorised, unlike OECD DAC data.
  • Gathering the same data, in the same formats, within a network allows advocacy partners to compare their data availability and trends over time; this gives them the information to approach their national counterparts with requests for more transparency.
  • Tracking both policy and financial data together allows for analysis of trends within wider realistic contexts (i.e. numbers, and increases/decreases in values over time, are not presented in isolation but instead understood within a wider context of what is going on in the country).
  • Data collected by C2030E partners is the most recent financial data available in the country and policy data is real-time.
  • C2030E is unique in actively and routinely using the data it collects for increasing donors’ accountability and transparency. C2030E thus bridges research and advocacy. Several case studies have highlighted how this has improved donor accountability and data transparency over time.

Data updates and comparability with prior reports

While Countdown’s methodology has remained consistent over time, the yearly updates of financial data may lead to retroactive adjustments. For example, in 2020, full dataset since 2012 was revised to further streamline the methodology across partners, namely in terms of i) what is reported as SRH/FP and ii) how, or which streams are used to report funding. Percentages provided by NIDI for core funding were also updated since 2015 and 2020 data referred to percentages from the previous year, given the absence of updated figures. Finally, in 2021, the accounting method for EU funding of earmarked multilateral programmes has been reorganised in line with other European donors. As such, findings from the different yearly reports should not be used as a time series.