Belgium and 57 other countries call for the protection of SRHR and the promotion of a gender sensitive response to the Covid-19 pandemic
In a powerful joint statement, 58 countries, including Belgium expressed their concern about the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls’ human rights, the deepening of existing inequalities and the worsening discrimination of other marginalised groups such as persons with disabilities and people living in extreme poverty.
Audit shows decreasing Belgian support for health and reproductive health in its international cooperation
The share of Belgium’s total expenditure on international cooperation spent on health and reproductive health has fallen to 11% in 2018, the lowest percentage in 4 years. A downward trend is found over the course of the previous legislative period, from 14% in 2015, 12.7% in 2016 and 12.4% In 2017. The trend is shown in the audit of the 2018 ODA expenditure by DGD, conducted by Sensoa, the Flemish centre of expertise on sexual health, which compared the 2018 expenditure with previous years.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo has suspended the preparations of a new cooperation agreement with Tanzania. The human rights situation has been deteriorating, especially with regard to LGBTI, young mothers and pregnant teenagers.
The minister had been preparing a new cooperation agreement, a follow-up to the current one, but decided to suspend talks given the outright attacks on the LGBTI community, especially since the governor of Dar Es Salaam’s call to hunt down gay people.
The minister also expressed concerns over the rights of pregnant girls and young mothers. They are not allowed to go to school during their pregnancy and are forbidden to resume their education after they have given birth. The minister was quoted as saying “This way you take away girls’ future and make them enter a negative spiral with no escape. It condemns them to a life of dependency.”
The Worldbank and the European Union have also reconsidered their support to the country. The Worldbank rejected a 300 million dollar loan earlier this month and the European Union announced it will reconsider its collaboration with the country.
Belgium’s Minister of Development Cooperation, Alexander De Croo, decided to renew Belgium’s support to ‘She Decides’ with €2 million support for UNFPA Supplies in 2018 and in 2019 and with support for UNFPA-UNICEF’s Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, in 2018-2021 with €2 million/year.
Since ‘She Decides’ was launched, Belgium has also dedicated more attention and support to SRHR in its bilateral cooperation with partner countries. In the most recent multiannual agreements with Guinea, Burkina Faso and Senegal, SRHR is one of 3 priorities.
Belgium supports Guinea bilaterally with a total budget of €37.7 million, €5 million of which is dedicated to reinforce sexual and reproductive rights. In Burkina Faso, €4 million out of the €39 million budget will be dedicated to programmes advancing sexual and reproductive rights.
In Senegal, Belgium supports the country with €39 million, €9 million of which is destined for reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health. Enabel, the Belgian development agency, is in the process of translating the agreements on SRHR into concrete programmes and projects to be run between 2018 and 2022.
With a High-Level Panel on the European Development Days, Belgium raised attention for the unmet needs of adolescents.
June 6, Brussels. "Unsafe abortion is more accessible then contraceptives”, Young EDD leader Archane Phonsina said, in her testimony of young women’s challenges in the DR Congo. Phonsina lost one of her best friends to an unsafe abortion and is one of the leading voices for adolescents’ access to family planning and safe abortion in her country. “Simply speaking about family planning is still stigmatised and many girls will have at least two unsafe abortions in their lifetime”, she explained.
During the diplomatic days, vice prime minister and minister of development cooperation Alexander De Croo addressed the Belgian diplomatic staff on sustainable development. The Minister pointed out the progress made over the past ten years with regard to human rights in half of the partner countries of the Belgian Development Cooperation. With the Ibrahim Index on African Governance in his hand, he underlined that human and economic development go hand in hand with progress regarding human rights, gender equality and non-discrimination of minorities and sexual minorities.
How to ensure medicines of good quality and much needed reproductive health supplies? On November 8, the Belgian development cooperation and Be-cause health, the Belgian platform on international health, organised a seminar on access to quality medicines and supplies for sexual reproductive health and rights. Some key take aways.