National focus: Danish Family Planning Association fights to keep politicians committed to SRHR

After the Danish general election in June, the new centre-right government has proposed historic cuts to ODA. Although the new Minister of Foreign Affairs has spoken passionately about the Danish commitment to SRHR, the proposal for the financial bill for 2016 contains cuts to UNFPA, UNAIDS and other SRHR initiatives. The Danish Family Planning Association is therefore looking into ways to carry out advocacy along with other civil society organization to keep the Danish politicians committed to SRHR.

At the general election in June 2015, a new one-party centre-right government was formed by the Danish Liberal Party. Mr. Kristian Jensen was appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs (now also covering issues related to development aid), and he soon made it clear that his biggest task would be to implement the long-awaited ODA cuts.

Back in 2013, the Danish Liberal Party had already rolled out a plan outlining how a new centre-right government would carry out historic cuts to Danish ODA and shift focus from traditional ODA to a more business-oriented development cooperation. The Danish ODA level would be cut from 0.87% of GNI to 0.7% of GNI – amounting to more than €388 million – from one year to another.

Despite this, it had always been stated that the Danish commitment to women’s rights and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) would remain strong and that these issues would continue to be a strategic priority in Danish development cooperation. Mr. Jensen reiterated these statements several times following the election and in the weeks leading up to the UN Sustainable Development Summit.

Therefore, it came as a surprise when the proposal for the Danish financial bill for 2016 was presented at the end of September containing a 48% cut to UNFPA, along with cuts on a number of SRHR initiatives such as UNAIDS. Furthermore, the government has also proposed a general 26% cut to Danish civil society organisations.

The draft finance bill is now being negotiated but it seems inevitable that massive cuts will be made since both the Danish People’s Party and the Liberal Alliance have voiced their support for the government’s proposed cuts in ODA. This also marks a frightening tendency: only few political parties and politicians seem willing to voice strong support for Danish ODA.

The Danish Family Planning Association  has therefore joined forces with other Danish civil society organisations to carry out advocacy work towards the Minister of Foreign Affairs while also engaging in a constructive dialogue with the minister and other politicians from a number of parties to ensure that SRHR remains a top priority in Danish development cooperation. DFPA has also been working closely with the Danish All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on SRHR to make sure that a broad political support for SRHR is maintained.

This advocacy can also be instrumental in affecting the long term strategic priority given to SRHR since the new government has announced that all parts of Danish foreign policy, including development cooperation and defence policy, will be reviewed to increase coherence and strengthen the Danish focus on commercial interests and prevention of refugee streams.

See Denmark’s country profile for more information.