All over the world, we see sudden and drastic restrictions on democratic freedoms. Our movements are monitored increasingly. Public meetings are prohibited; the state of emergency is announced; legislative debates are postponed and, in certain countries, the operation of parliaments is suspended or their oversight role is severely curtailed in favour of the executive branch. All over the world, governments are ramping up digital surveillance. In Europe for example, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán granted himself dictatorial powers to ignore laws indefinitely and to suspend elections and referendums. In Israel, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued an emergency decree preventing the parliament from meeting, in what newspaper Haaretz called a 'corona-coup'. Experts are already pointing to the increasing pressure on the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls everywhere in the world.
Despite the international backlash against SRHR and an increasing anti-women’s rights sentiment entering our decision-making spaces both in Europe and across the Atlantic, the past year saw financial and political commitments solidified and support for SRHR championed by European donor countries in many global fora, including Belgium.
This year Belgium will preside the UNAIDS constituency with Portugal, Luxemburg and the Netherlands in the Programme Coordination Board (PCB) of UNAIDS, the governing board of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV. The UNAIDS PCB sets the overall policies and priorities for UNAIDS and decides on the organisation’s planning and execution. Challenges discussed within the board include how to keep up international support for HIV response, but can also include discussions on the impact of big donor countries’ policies on the HIV/AIDS response, think of the detrimental effect of the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy (or Global Gag Rule) by the US on integrated SRHR-HIV service delivery in countries in the Global South.
Parliament calls on government to step-up the promotion of gender equality in Belgium's development cooperation
On March 15 the Belgian Chamber of People's Representatives adopted a resolution to promote gender equality and women's emancipation in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. The resolution, an initiative by MP Fatma Phelivan, calls on the Belgian government to step-up it's efforts.
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 promote and protect sexual health and rights in times of populism and conservatism? This was the key question of the EuroNGOs’ conference, the European network of organisations that advocate sexual and reproductive health and rights, organised in Brussels on 27-28 September. Growing support for conservative and populist movements leads to a political and societal climate in which sexual and reproductive health and rights are marginalised if not criminalised.
Member associations of the International Planned Parenthood Federation stand to suffer from the Global Gag Rule or Mexico City Policy. Across the world, IPPF expects to forgo $100 million in funding from the United States Government.
In 32 countries, including Belgian partner countries Burkina Faso, Burundi, Mali, Senegal, Uganda, Tanzania and Flemish partner country Mozambique, IPPF member associations have indicated they will forgo funding because of their refusal to sign the Global Gag Rule.
The Trump administration has proposed to cut all support for international family planning and reproductive health in its budget proposal for 2018. This amounts to a budget of $607.5 million. The budget cut is unprecedented.
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.
During a She Decides visit to Benin and Senegal, the Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation, Alexander De Croo announced an increase of his support to the UNFPA and International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).