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.
At the Family Planning Summit in London, donor governments, southern governments and philanthropic institutes promised to invest 5 billion dollars in sexual and reproductive health services in developing countries.
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.
As part of the She Decides-Initiative, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation, Alexander De Croo visited Benin and Senegal, partner countries of the Belgian Development Cooperation. In Benin, the Minister signed two programmes promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The Trump-Pence administration has decided to cease all support to the United Nations Population Fund UNFPA. In 2016 only US support to UNFPA helped to prevent 2.340 maternal deaths, 947.000 unplanned pregnancies and 295.000 unsafe abortions. It allowed an estimated 800.000 people to freely decide about their number of children. US support to UNFPA also reached no less than 9 million people in humanitarian emergencies and refugee camps, where the organization provides sexual and reproductive health services and tries to prevent genderbased violence.
On the eve of the international conference She Decides in Brussels, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo launched Body & Rights, a bilingual (French/Dutch) website with an e-tutorial on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Ahead of the high level She Decides conference of March 2nd in Brussels, Belgium’s All-Party Parliamentary Group ‘Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda’ called a parliamentary pre-meeting in the federal parliament. The implications of the Global Gag Rule (GGR), the rise of anti-choice movements and the question how to counter the effects of the GGR were on the agenda.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo announced €10 million Belgian support for the She Decides Global Fundraising Initiative. This initiative is to respond to the drop in development aid for family planning. International support for family planning is threatened with the reintroduction of the so-called Global Gag Rule under the Trump-Pence administration. The rule stipulates that family planning providers who inform or refer clients to abortion centers are no longer eligible for USAID support. With the rule $600 million of support for family planning is under threat. This while the Global South is already faced with a high unmet need for family planning services and contraceptives. 225 million women would like to prevent or delay pregnancy but lack access to modern methods of contraception. Universal access to family planning is one of the fundamental targets to realize gender equality, as adopted in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Apart from Belgium, other countries expressed their support for women worldwide during the ‘She Decides’ conference of March 2nd, including Luxemburg, Cape Verde, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Canada.