UNAIDS’ recent report finds that worldwide goals for 2020 have not been reached, despite past years’ efforts. More people know their HIV-status, more people have access to medicines and more people have an undetectable viral load thanks to treatment. Yet, the efforts to prevent new infections have been less successful. The number of new infections among adults has hardly dropped in the past 4 years. Not a single region reached the goal to decrease new infections by 75% compared to 2016.
LGBTI-persons and particularly young people ran increased risks of verbal and physcial violence during the lockdowns, and many struggled with depressions and thoughts of suicide. Especially those who could not ‘out’ themselves at home endured very challenging times. Being disconnected from their peers pushed young LGBTI-persons even more into social isolation, says senator, member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and chair of the ‘Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda’, Fourat Ben Chikha, at the Human rights conference held in Copenhagen during the World Pride late August. The impact of the measurements on the human rights of LGBTI-persons needs close monitoring, so he said, to allow the adoption of necessary (preventive) actions to guarantee their rights.
Over 100 parliamentarians from all over the world had gathered in Copenhagen to discuss the contemporary challenges for LGBTI-persons. Also, MP Goedele Liekens and Flemish MP and senator Orry Van de Wauwer, both members of the ‘Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda’ were present. Former member and current Vice-Prime Minister Petra De Sutter represented the Belgian government at the World Pride.
The parliamentarians for the 2030 agenda and UNFPA Brussels co-hosted the Belgian launch of UNFPA’s 2021 State of the World Population report that carries the meaningful title ‘My Body is Own’/ ‘Mon Corps m’Appartient’. UNFPA presented its report that discusses what bodily autonomy is and how we can measure it. It poses the question how we can achieve bodily autonomy for everyone.
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).
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.
Back to square one? What is the impact of COVID-19 on the realisation of the Sustainable Development Agenda?
The ‘Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda’ see to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, and Belgium’s role therein. During a webinar on September 29th the parliamentarians looked at where we are 5 years into the 2030 Agenda and enquired into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its realisation.
Prof. Dr. Olivier Degomme, Director of the International Centre for Reproductive Health (ICRH-Ghent University) took stock of the consequences of the pandemic on SDG3, ‘good health and well-being for all’. He showed the worldwide measurements have serious consequence for the access to contraceptives, family planning services and maternal health. Recent research of the WHO indicated that 90% of all countries reported interruptions of essential health services, and 68% reported interruptions of family planning services.
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.
Anti-gender movements have been on the rise in Europe and beyond, outright questioning gender equality, opposing sexual and reproductive rights of women, sexual minorities and young people’s access to information and education about their sexuality. The current Covid-19 response has provided these professionally organised groups with new opportunities to reinforce their agendas.
Everyone's social life is affected by the corona epidemic. However, many women are forced to work from home now, often in combination with children at home. Even before the crisis, statistics showed that women generally do more unpaid domestic work and have more caring responsibilities than men, including caring for children, the sick and the elderly. With increasing pressure on hospitals and health services, women will inevitably have to meet even more of the growing unpaid care needs. This includes cleaning, preparing food or looking after seriously ill or disabled people.
UNAIDS broke it down: