Lack of information, misinformation, myths about sex and contraception, poor access or even no access to contraception, but also the lack of dialogue about contraception use and pregnancy between partners cause many (young) women to become pregnant unplanned. These challenges mean that one of the most fundamental choices, to become pregnant or not, is not a free and informed choice for many women worldwide. This is the gist of the State of The World Population report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 2022.
The UN Commission on the Status of Women negotiated the relations between climate change and gender inequality. This was a perfect opportunity for the Parliamentarians of the 2030 Agenda and the Advisory Board on Gender and Development to organise a seminar on the impact of climate change on women and girls’ SRHR.
40 participants, including parliamentary assistants, cabinet members and experts of the Directorate General for Development (DGD) as well as civil society stakeholders and academics were provided with a window into the challenges that climate change poses for the health and rights of women and girls in low income countries (LIC).
Belgium’s international support for sexual and reproductive health rises, but lacks systematic attention for HIV
Sensoa's annual review of the expenditure of the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (DGD) shows that expenditures for health and reproductive health increased from €133 million in 2019 to €141 million in 2020. This is mainly due to an increase in the expenditures for reproductive health from €24.86 million to €33.45 million, and particularly due to the increased investment in sexual and reproductive health in Belgium's existing governmental cooperation programmes with partner countries.
Sensoa asks Minister of Development Cooperation Meryame Kitir to continue on this growth path, established during the previous legislature. Maintaining and expanding this level requires that sexual and reproductive health and rights, including HIV, systematically receive the necessary attention and resources within the new bilateral cooperation programmes.
40 years ago the first people dying of aids were registered. At a seminar with the Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda, Prof. Marie Laga (ITM) explained how the epidemic grew at an alarming speed in the 1990s and 2000s. As it hit countries in Southern Africa, life-expectancy in countries such as Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia and South Africa dropped below the level of the 1960s. Things started to change when in 1996 anti-retroviral treatment (ART) became available for people in the wealthy North. However, the drugs were unaffordable for patients living in the South. It was only thanks to activists’ campaigns that political recognition and action came about, and brought about fundamental change with the creation of international coordination through UNAIDS, and increased funding through the Global Fund and PEPFAR. This led to a rapid scale-up of people’s access to ART, standing at 2% in 2001 and amounting to 73% today. However, with 1.5 million new infections in 2020, we are not seeing ‘the end of aids’ yet and HIV prevention remains the biggest challenge.
In 2021, the UK Government is moving to further reduce its aid budget from 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) to 0.5%. Analysis of estimated funding between 2019 and 2022 compared to 2015 to 2018, indicates that gender equality focused programming is severely affected, and women and girls will suffer disproportionately from reductions in funding to critical sectors. The Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) said these changes are the result of COVID-19’s impact on public finances.
The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released its early figures for development assistance spending across donor countries in 2020. These figures offer the first tangible evidence of the global pandemic’s impact on EU development aid spending. In absolute terms, EU 2020 aid increased by 7.8% (72.7 billion USD) compared to 2019. However, this rise is mainly the result of a fall in Gross National Income (GNI) prompted by the global pandemic. For the nineteen DAC EU Member States, this represented 0.5% of their ODA/GNI ratio – still far below the longstanding international commitment of 0.7%. The EU institutions’ ODA rose by 25.4% in real terms.
The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) took place in New York, late March. The CSW is instrumental in promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women. The priority theme for this year’s session was: “Women's full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.”
Like-minded countries (EU, Mountains (Norway, Canada, Iceland, Australia, NZ, Switzerland) and the Santiago Group (Latin America countries), including the US delegation) were quite aligned towards the CSW-text, but constantly faced the conservative voices from Russia, Holy See, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. While an agreed outcome was eventually adopted, the UN Member States were not able to agree on key issues - such as sexual and reproductive health and rights, Young Women and Girls’ participation, intimate partner violence, Multiple and Intersecting Forms of Discrimination, Women, Peace and Security and Women’s Human Rights Defenders (WHRD).
Belgian MPs shared their SRHR promises for 2021 in a joint campaign with EPF on social media. They did so on the occassion of World Women’s Day.
Members of the Belgian All-Party Parliamentary Group ‘Parliamentarians for the 2020 Agenda’ individually commit to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights nationally and internationally. Each MP has set personal goals. MPs commit to take up the challenges regarding young people’s access to contraceptives and the morning-after pill; the extension of the abortion law, the fight against forced marriages, incest, gender-based violence at the work place, period poverty and more. For you to discover in the video-slide show or in the visuals below.
The policy declaration and note of new Minister for Development Cooperation Meryame Kitir builds on the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. This crisis demonstrates the importance of strong public sectors, such as health care, education and social protection.
ODA makes up a crucial lever to ensure sustainable recovery, so the declaration reads. The Belgian government has committed to a growth path to reach 0.7% by 2030.
The new Minister of Development Cooperation is Meryame Kitir, member of the Flemish social-democratic party and a popular politician from the province of Limburg. She has a migration and working-class background and grew into politics through her involvement as a labour unionist. Her parliamentary work focused on social affairs, which will be an asset when engaging with Belgium’s international development cooperation.