Demographic bonus or planet threat? Why Indonesia is at the center of population debates and solutions.

ICFP15 IndonesiaWhile many conferences come and go, the news that Indonesia will host the 2015 International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) is important. It’s important for family planning and it’s important for Indonesia and the Asia Pacific region. Family planning, long neglected in many parts of the world, is now experiencing something of a resurgence, especially in Indonesia. And this comes not soon enough. With population pressures contributing to climate change, disease pandemics, resource constraints and conflict, with no hyperbole at all population planning could be said to be the key to the greatest challenges and opportunities facing our planet.

Indonesia has long been considered one of the leaders in population planning, halving its fertility rate between 1976 and 2002. After that a combination of financial pressures and political inaction led to a drop in resources. This has changed thanks to new government policies combined with a USD240 million investment in the newly created Indonesia Health Fund by the Gates Foundation, Tahir Foundation and eight other Indonesian businesspeople. As in many parts of the Asia Pacific region, Indonesia faces the challenges of social norms combined with access to technologies and public financing. Indonesia considers its large, young population to be a “demographic bonus”, a stance that could be seen to be at odds with a drive towards population growth reduction. However recently it signed an MOU for a new $40 million family planning program with Johns Hopkins University.

The issues facing the ICFP include creating demand for contraceptives, access to and quality of services; youth needs and participation; the demographic dividend; engaging and countering faith based organizations; financing; and accountability and advocacy. Simply put, the primary question facing the ICFP and its participants should be: how can we work together to make good quality family planning services and products freely accessible and desirable to those who need them? Tulodo looks forward to seeing you at the ICFP.

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Nicholas Goodwin

Behaviour change and international development guy.

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