Ottawa, 23 October 2018 – More than 90 parliamentarians from over 70 countries have agreed on a forward-looking declaration that aims to foster understanding of, and consensus around, the urgency to address the current political discourse on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Jean-Jacques Flahaux (MR) and Petra de Sutter (Groen), members of the Belgian all-party parliamentary group, ‘Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda’, participated in the conference.
The power to choose. That is the central theme of the 2018 State of the World Population (SWOP), the annual report of the UN fund on population, UNFPA, which was presented in the Belgian parliament on Nov 8th.
Individuals and couples need to be able to choose if, when and how many children they want. It sounds simple but it’s not. Reproductive rights are violated when health services are not able to provide essential care and means, such as contraceptives, or when women and young people have no access to information about relationships and sexuality. In these cases it is hard to prevent unplanned pregnancies.
Roel Deseyn, federal MP and chair of the Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda travelled to Tanzania in late June as part of a delegation of European politicians. He spoke to Tanzanian MPs, policy makers, NGO staff and youth activists about the many challenges relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
According to Professor in bio-ethics Peter Singer (DM, 7 July) population growth has become a taboo due to “a bizarre coalition of the Vatican, which has always been against anticonception and birth control, on the one hand, and radical feminists on the other, who gave priority to women’s freedom to choose how many children they want.” I choked in my coffee. Peter Singer is not an opponent of women’s rights, quite the contrary. And indeed, immediately after, the professor stated that these feminists “had a point, namely that family planning is a women’s right”. “But”, he continued, “at the level of the collective this leads to problems they forget to take into account, as an increase of young children equally increases the need for more schools, hospitals, jobs, etcetera.”
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.
UN Member States failed to reach a consensus on a resolution on Sustainable Cities, Human Mobility and International Migration, the main theme of the 51st Commission on Population and Development, April 9th-13th. It is the third time in the past four years that the CPD remains without agreed conclusions.
“In too many contexts, she has actually never decided anything. Telling her that she decides WITHOUT giving her the foundation upon which to do so, could be naïve at best – and irresponsible at worst. We cannot raise expectations of autonomy and agency without providing a foundation for this to actually happen.” Lina Abirafeh, Director of the Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World at the Lebanese American University in Lebanon and She Decides Champion’s message was clear. Abirafeh delivered the key note at the She Decides’ anniversary event in the Belgium parliament, which sought to answer the question ‘Can She Decide in times of crisis?’, focusing on women’s and girls’ access to SRHR during humanitarian crises.
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.
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.