The European Council elected Belgian prime minister Charles Michel as President of the European Council. The president presides over and drives forward the work of the European Council and is the European Union’s principal representative on the world stage. He is elected for the period from 1 December 2019 until 31 May 2022. But who is Charles Michel and what is his track record on SRHR and gender equality?
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.
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.
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.
Intensified HIV testing and treatment efforts are reaching more people than ever but persistent barriers remain
75% of all people living with HIV know their HIV status, but increased efforts are needed to reach the 9.4 million people living with HIV who are not aware that they are living with the virus, UNAIDS 2018 reports shows.
On 26 July 2018, UNAIDS published the latest statistics on the global HIV epidemic. In 2017, an estimated 36.9 million people were living with HIV. 21 million people have access to treatment, a record high. Consequently, the number of AIDS related deaths has dropped, to 940,000 in 2017. The biggest successes lay in Eastern and South-Eastern Africa, with a 42% decline in the number of AIDS related deaths since 2010. They reflect the successful scale-up of treatment in the region. Access to treatment also improved in most other regions, although (much) more modestly.
More than 16,000 researchers, advocates, policy makers, funders and community leaders from more than 160 countries came together in Amsterdam for the 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018). They are all committed to achieving a world free from HIV. These are the main takeaways:
The federal development aid for health and reproductive health increased from €141 million in 2015 to €146 million in 2016. The support is still well below the level of 2014 though. €164 million was spent on these sectors in 2014. The total expenditure of the Directorate-General for Development (DGD) increased with 11.8% in 2016. This means the federal government is investing relatively less in development aid for health and reproductive health because the proportion of aid dedicated to these sectors decreased from 14% in 2015 to 12.7% in 2016. Sensoa discussed these results in an analysis of the federal development aid for health and reproductive health.
Together with other members of the Be Cause Health Working Group on SRHR, Sensoa developed three information sheets and infographics on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) with a particular focus on young people, gender and the linkages between HIV and SRHR.
These info sheets give an overview of the latest facts and figures and contain a number of guidelines for Belgian development stakeholders. The info sheets should contribute to a better knowledge and understanding among Belgian development stakeholders such as diplomats, Belgian Development Agency employees and representatives of NGOs as well as identify needs and good practices better. With this initiative, the Working group on SRHR aims to encourage Belgian development stakeholders to dedicate more attention to young people, gender and the links between HIV and SRHR in development programmes and policies.