Our world is increasingly unequal, with sharp differences in terms of wealth, power, rights and opportunities. That is the focus of this year’s UNFPA report The State of World Population 2017 – WORLDS APART: reproductive health and rights in an age of inequality. On 25 October, Nadine Krysostan from the UNFPA Brussels Office, presented the report in the Belgian parliament.
The federal development aid for health and reproductive health increased from €141 million in 2015 to €146 million in 2016. The support is still well below the level of 2014 though. €164 million was spent on these sectors in 2014. The total expenditure of the Directorate-General for Development (DGD) increased with 11.8% in 2016. This means the federal government is investing relatively less in development aid for health and reproductive health because the proportion of aid dedicated to these sectors decreased from 14% in 2015 to 12.7% in 2016. Sensoa discussed these results in an analysis of the federal development aid for health and reproductive health.
On the 18th of July 2017, Belgium presented its first Voluntary National Review on how it is implementing the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development at the United Nations’ High Level Political Forum.
At the Family Planning Summit in London, donor governments, southern governments and philanthropic institutes promised to invest 5 billion dollars in sexual and reproductive health services in developing countries.
Eighty-nine parliamentarians from 57 countries called on G7 governments to urgently address the challenges of migration, particularly as it affects women and girls. Their appeal came at an international parliamentarians' conference in Rome ahead of the G7 summit in Italy. Belgian Members of Parliament Petra De Sutter, Sabien Lahaye-Battheu and Daniel Seneseal were amongst the participants.
The Commission on Foreign Affairs of Belgium’s federal parliament has unanimously adopted a resolution for the implementation and follow-up of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the 2030 Agenda.
The resolution identifies the challenges with regard to SRHR. To mention a few: 225 million women who want to prevent or avoid pregnancy lack access to contraception, one in three women is a victim of partner violence or sexual violence in her lifetime and every year 16 million teenagers give birth. The 2030 Agenda contains specific targets to tackle these problems, such as universal access to family planning and the elimination of violence against girls and women.
The members of parliament call upon the Belgian government to implement the Agenda and to encourage other countries to do so. They want systematic attention for SRHR in the negotiations of collaboration programmes with partner countries of the Belgian development cooperation. They also want Belgium to increase the support for SRHR within international organisations, such as the WHO, UNICEF and UNWOMEN, and to call on other countries in the UN Human Rights Council and other international forums to protect and promote SRHR.
The resolution was submitted by Hon. Sabien Lahaye-Battheu, president of the Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda. With Belgium presenting its Voluntary National Review to the UN in mid-July the timing is perfect.
Thursday May 11th, Federal Parliament, Belgium. MPs played ‘snakes and ladders’, a life-size game on the health and rights of girls worldwide. The MPs were the pawns in the game and found themselves confronted with the obstacles girls in developing countries face.
There are about 1 billion girls in the world, many of which face discrimination and inequalities. Each year 16 million girls between 15 and 19 give birth. Complications related to pregnancies and delivery are the 2nd most important cause of death for girls in that age group. Every year 3 million girls run the risk of mutilation and every day 39,000 girls are subject to child or forced marriage.
The Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda want girls’ health and rights to be high on the political agenda. They call upon the Belgian development cooperation to continue focusing on this particular group.
During a meeting with the ‘Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda’, an informal parliamentary group following up the gender, health and rights dimensions of the 2030 Agenda, Deputy Prime Minister De Croo discussed his plans for She Decides, the global fundraising initiative in support of sexual and reproductive health and rights.
At the Commission’s 50th session, the UN Member States failed to reach an agreement. The Commission for Population and Development is the most important UN Commission for the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The theme of the Commission’s 50th session was ‘Changing population age structures and sustainable development’. Special attention was thus going to the needs of over 1.8 billion young people in the world.
Member states spent more than 10 days negotiating. The final version of the draft resolution contained important references to the sexual and reproductive health needs of young people and comprehensive sexuality education. The final version was rejected though when the US and a number of African countries, more particularly Egypt, Cameroon and Djibouti wanted to have sections on SRHR deleted.
An important win for women’s rights activists at the 61st session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women as the Commission recognized sexual and reproductive health and rights as human rights of women, “that include their right to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on all matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence, as a contribution to the fulfilment of their economic rights, independence and empowerment”.