Funds for a Sustainable Future

As global leaders gathered in the UN Economic Commission for Africa headquarters in Ethiopia last week they had high finance on their minds.

High finance to the tune of trillions rather than billions of dollars - that's the kind of money it's likely to cost to pay for the sustainable development goals which are the targets set to end global poverty.

While there's still debate going on about the final SDGs world leaders face another massive challenge and that is how to pay for them.

The United Nations estimates that the price tag to meet the new goals is likely to be somewhere in the region of $172.5 trillion over the 15-year time frame.

Finding that kind of money to pay for the SDGs is no mean feat especially considering the current world's financial climate. The good news is that they overcame their differences to come up with a plan.

Granted, there are weakness and gaps in the final document, and it is clear that our work towards a fairer, more equitable world that addresses the systemic challenges that we face is far from over.

However, we need to now ensure that, from most remote and vulnerable rural communities to the richest streets of our big cities, individuals can reap the benefits of our commitment in their everyday lives.

Our work is not yet done. For the people of this planet and for the health of the planet itself, we must now turn the words we have into to action.

In Addis Ababa with the Action Agenda for Financing for Development, and in New York with the Sustainable Development Goals, and in every national capital in the world, the message has been clear - women and girls must be at the centre of our vision for a sustainable world.

It is up to us to make this a reality.

At the International Planned Parenthood Federation we have been working hard to make sure that sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are a big part of the SDGs - we don't believe that you can achieve poverty eradication without SRHR and gender equality.

The benefits of gender equality speak for themselves. A recent study commissioned by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) project found that if every Ethiopian girl who drops out of school was instead able to finish her education it would add US$4 billion to the country's economy over the course of her lifetime.

But we must always remember that gender equality isn't just smart economics, it is also a fundamental human right. We must fight for and fund gender equality not for the financial benefits it brings, but to make sure that every woman, every girl, has access to the sort of life that she is entitled to.

But what worries us when it comes to the realities of the finances is that there is already a big funding shortfall when it comes to SRHR.

The current funding levels for SRHR are below what is necessary to meet current needs. For example, we know that 225 million women and girls around the world want contraception but can't get it.

The Guttmacher Institute estimates that the total cost of sexual and reproductive health care is $39.2 billion annually.

Meanwhile the conversations continue globally about funding such as those surrounding the Global Financing Facility (GFF) which is being spearheaded by the World Bank Group, Canada and the Governments of Norway and the United States as a new sustainable mechanism for funding Reproductive Maternal Newborn Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH).

In May the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon laid it out on the line how crucial this year is in terms of the future. He said: "This year, we can make history by adapting an ambitious, sustainable development agenda and a universal climate agreement. But without the right financing and policies, we cannot achieve our ambitions... Addis Ababa can be the starting point for a new era of global partnership."

The stakes couldn't be higher and that's especially true when it comes to sexual health. It can't be business as usual - the agreement newly made in Addis will change the future of development.