The World Bank Board of Directors opted to defer a decision on changing its Strategy for Health, Nutrition, and Population after representatives from several European countries voiced objections to the proposals. Whitney Debeviose, the US representative on the World Bank’s board, proposed to change language describing reproductive services for women in developing countries from “reproductive health services” to “age appropriate access to sexual and reproductive healthcare,” weakening the Bank’s commitment to women’s reproductive healthcare and restricting younger women from accessing sexual and reproductive health services, Reuters reports. Directors from Belgium, France, Germany, and Norway sent a letter on April 19 demanding that the World Bank clarify its endorsement of family planning programs.
Opponents of the changes are concerned that the new language is a result of the Bush administration’s conservative agenda, the New York Times reports. The current Bush-appointed president of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz — who formerly served in Bush’s cabinet as Deputy Secretary of Defense — has recently announced that he does support family planning in the Bank’s programs, saying, “We have a new health strategy going to the board, which I think makes it very clear, and I want to make clear, personally: I think reproductive health is absolutely crucial to what I have said over and over again is a major part of the development agenda, which is making sure that women can contribute equally with men.”
Just last week, however, it was leaked that World Bank Managing Director Juan Jose Daboub — who was hired by Wolfowitz in 2006 — deleted all references to family planning from a loan program for Madagascar. Some are worried that family planning may have also been excluded from programs in other countries.
The World Bank has loaned more than $3 billion to developing nations over the past 30 years for population and reproductive heath programs to tackle issues including HIV/AIDS, unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancy related illnesses and deaths, Reuters reports.