Human rights are at the core of FP2020’s vision and mission. Our goal isn’t just to reach 120 million additional women and girls with family planning; it’s to ensure that each one of those women and girls is able to exercise her basic rights to self determination, health, dignity, and equality. The fulfillment of human rights is not separate from FP2020 progress; it is FP2020 progress.


Visit our Rights-Based Family Planning microsite at: familyplanning2020.org/rightsinfp


Human rights are the inalienable entitlements of all people, at all times, and in all places. As articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and affirmed in treaties, human rights are legal obligations with the status of international law. Reproductive rights embrace certain human rights, and have been identified, agreed upon, and affirmed by international consensus in conference documents and declarations.

There are three main pillars of rights-based family planning:

  • Right to reproductive self-determination
  • Right to sexual and reproductive health services, information, and education
  • Right to equality and non-discrimination

The illustration on the next page shows how these three pillars form the basis of FP2020’s Rights and Empowerment Principles, and how FP2020’s Core Indicators measure various dimensions of rights-based family planning. More information and resources are available at FP2020’s Rights-Based Family Planning microsite.


Addressing rights is uniquely important in family planning programs. Family planning involves gender and power dynamics as well as religious and cultural sensitivities. And because family planning has demographic implications, governments set goals for use. Without a rights-based focus, the potential for coercion and abuse exists.


A rights-based approach to family planning is one in which all phases of a program are viewed through the lens of respecting, protecting, and fulfilling rights: establishing policy, conducting needs assessment, planning, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, and problem management. Rights-based family planning is driven by the needs and rights of the people the program is meant to serve, rather than the program’s numeric goals.

This doesn’t mean that numbers are unimportant. Numeric goals set a direction for progress and provide a yardstick for measuring it. The key is in remembering that the numbers are just indicators. The real success of a program lies in how well it meets the needs of the people it serves.


As FP2020 countries design, implement, and monitor their family planning programs, a commitment to rights must remain paramount. Determining how best to do this—how to operationalize rights and measure the extent to which rights are being fulfilled—is an ongoing concern in the family planning sector. A broad range of FP2020 partners are involved in different aspects of this work, from shaping guidelines to developing and evaluating programs, measurement tools, and accountability efforts:

  • In preparation for the 2017 Family Planning Summit, 35 representatives from governments, NGOs, and donors issued a Quality of Care Call to Action for family planning in FP2020 countries. It includes a detailed set of recommendations to improve quality of care in the context of rights-based family planning, and makes the case that rights contribute an extra dimension to quality of care that is additive.

Read the Quality of Care Call to Action at: summit2017.familyplanning2020.org/call-to-action.html

  • FP2020’s CIP Resource Kit, which provides technical guidance for countries developing a family planning costed implementation plan (refer here), is being updated to help operationalize rights-based family planning. Rights-Sizing Family Planning: A Toolkit for Designing Programs to Respect, Protect, and Fulfill the Rights of Girls and Women offers practical guidance on incorporating rights principles into every aspect of a country’s family planning program.
  • Uganda’s costed implementation plan was drafted through a rights-based lens, and includes explicit pledges to protect and fulfill human rights in the provision of family planning services. The Ministry of Health is collaborating with UNFPA and other partners to translate the plan into action at the national, district, and local levels. In 2017 the Evidence Project completed a study in Uganda to test and validate a Rights-Based Service Delivery Index, designed to measure both the results of rights-based interventions and the extent to which a facility is in compliance with rights principles. The results will be disseminated to stakeholders by the end of 2018.
  • Afghanistan joined the FP2020 partnership in 2016, and has embraced the rights based approach with its first country action plan. The country’s priorities include training providers on rights-based family planning services, linking family planning with women’s empowerment efforts, and creating a dedicated reproductive health counseling line for young people.
  • In India, the Community Action for Health (CAH) model uses data collection on local health services, report cards, and dialogues and hearings with health service providers and officials to ensure that the health needs and rights of the community are being fulfilled. The government is embracing CAH as a cornerstone of its National Health Mission, in partnership with the Population Foundation of India, and the program has the potential to serve as a social accountability mechanism for family planning services. National scale-up of the program began in the 2016–2017 fiscal year.
  • Ethiopia finalized its National Adolescent and Youth Health Strategy (2016–2020) at the end of last year. The guiding principles of the strategy include a rights-based approach, adolescent and youth ownership, equity and inclusion, a life-course approach, comprehensive care, adolescent- and youth-centered services, integration, and affordability. The strategy aims to expand access through out-of-school platforms and health care facilities, both public and private. It also identifies schools and higher education institutions as service delivery platforms for comprehensive sexuality and life skills education, as well as for counseling, treatment, and referral services.


Since the London Summit on Family Planning in 2012 there has been a call for ensuring that family planning programming be implemented in ways that respect, protect, and fulfill human rights. There is now global consensus that rights must be central in programs. FP2020’s partnership has been critical to translating human rights into tangible actions within family planning programs and measuring progress.

Senior Associate and Project Director,
The Evidence Project
Population Council
Washington, DC