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.
For World Aids Day, the ‘Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda’ invited UNAIDS Brussels Representative Dr. Jantine Jacobi, Burundian youth representative Fabien Ndikuriyo, Stéphanie Drèze of MSF and Dr. Gert Scheerder of Sensoa to discuss the HIV epidemic worldwide, in Belgium and in Belgium’s partner countries.
Belgium’s all-party parliamentary group ‘Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda’ hosted a seminar on 25 years ICPD Programme of Action in the Belgian Senate, days after the ICPD Nairobi Summit of 12-14 November.
UNFPA Brussels Director, Sietske Steneker, introduced the MPs to the successes as well as the unfinished business in realising the ICPD Programme of Action. In the past 25 years, maternal mortality dropped by 40%, adolescent birth rates by one third, early marriages by one fourth and more women had access to family planning.
At the same time, progress has been slow and uneven. In Sub-Saharan Africa, maternal mortality remains an enormous challenge. Worldwide, only 50% of all women have the right to decide to use family planning. The barriers are multiple, including the out-of-pocket costs, the mentality of service providers, and, at the core of it all, the persistence of gender inequality.
On October 10th, at the federal parliament in Brussels, the ‘Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda’, Belgium’s APPG on sexual and reproductive health and rights, kicked off for a new legislative period. The group unites parliamentarians from all colours, invested in advancing gender equality, health and rights internationally, as put forward in the ICPD Programme of Action and the SDGs.
The group, likely to make up around 30 members, will see to Belgium’s international role to achieve the ICPD PoA and the SDGs, and more specifically SDG 3, to achieve health and wellbeing for all, and SDG 5, to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment. They will do so by convening regularly, informing the public, participating in international delegations, visiting the field, inquiring the government and drafting resolutions.
More than half of the world’s population currently lives in cities, with one in three living in slums. By 2030, the world is projected to have 43 megacities with more than 10 million inhabitants, most of them in developing regions. While one in eight people currently live in 33 megacities worldwide, close to half of the world’s urban dwellers reside in secondary cities with fewer than 500,000 inhabitants. These secondary cities, particularly in Africa and Asia, are also expected to grow very fast. Reason enough for Be-cause Health, Belgium’s platform on international health, to take the urban turn, and put the spotlight on how to ensure the right to health in cities. In tandem with the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Sensoa organised two panels that took on the challenges of health service delivery in mega-cities and urban slums.
Which parties believe Belgium should advocate the rights of LGBT+ people worldwide? Which parties believe Belgium should continue its leading role in ‘She Decides‘, the global initiative on SRHR and gender equality? Which parties believe sexual and reproductive rights should be a priority within development cooperation policies?
Sensoa analysed the attention for SRHR in the election programmes of the Belgian political parties in view of the 2019 Belgian federal and regional elections. This analysis showed that several political parties, from the right to the far left, think SRHR should remain a priority during the next government term.
“Belgium is determined to build a world in which no one, not a single child, not a single young person, not a single woman nor a single girl is left behind.” These were the closing words with which Belgium reconfirmed its strong commitment to the full implementaton of the International Cairo Programme of Action (ICPD) at the 52nd CPD, 1-5 April 2019.
On Thursday the 28th of February in Brussels, the ‘The State of African Women’ report was presented on the eve of International Women’s Day at the federal parliament. Gina Wharton, policy advisory at IPPF European Network presented the research report by the Dutch KIT Royal Tropical Institute, a report that is part of an awareness project that goes by the title ‘Right by Her’. The research report maps the realisations as well as the gaps in the ratification and implementation of the Maputo Protocol by African states. This protocol is a legally binding instrument in which the rights of African women have been recognised by the member states of the African Union.
On World Aids Day, the ‘Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda’, the Belgian all-party parliamentary group committed to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Agenda, bore testimony as to why they wear the red ribbon. The red ribbon is the symbol of solidarity with people living with HIV.
MPs from all political colours expressed their support for the continued global HIV response. They conveyed personal messages to the public, explaining why HIV should be of concern to all of us.
The ‘Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda’ also rallied their peers as well as Ministers, pinning ribbons to their chests at the start of parliament’s plenary debates.
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.