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.
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.
Belgium’s Minister of Development Cooperation, Alexander De Croo, decided to renew Belgium’s support to ‘She Decides’ with €2 million support for UNFPA Supplies in 2018 and in 2019 and with support for UNFPA-UNICEF’s Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, in 2018-2021 with €2 million/year.
Since ‘She Decides’ was launched, Belgium has also dedicated more attention and support to SRHR in its bilateral cooperation with partner countries. In the most recent multiannual agreements with Guinea, Burkina Faso and Senegal, SRHR is one of 3 priorities.
Belgium supports Guinea bilaterally with a total budget of €37.7 million, €5 million of which is dedicated to reinforce sexual and reproductive rights. In Burkina Faso, €4 million out of the €39 million budget will be dedicated to programmes advancing sexual and reproductive rights.
In Senegal, Belgium supports the country with €39 million, €9 million of which is destined for reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health. Enabel, the Belgian development agency, is in the process of translating the agreements on SRHR into concrete programmes and projects to be run between 2018 and 2022.
Despite progress in safe deliveries, 830 women die every day due to pregnancy and delivery related complications and millions of women live with long lasting health problems as a result of them. Fistulas are one of the most serious delivery complications. Fistulas can lead to still births, incontinence, stigma, shame and social exclusion and in some cases the mother’s death. Approximately 2 million women live with the complication. Reasons enough to put the problem in the spotlight.
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 ensure medicines of good quality and much needed reproductive health supplies? On November 8, the Belgian development cooperation and Be-cause health, the Belgian platform on international health, organised a seminar on access to quality medicines and supplies for sexual reproductive health and rights. Some key take aways.
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.
Thursday May 11th, Federal Parliament, Belgium. MPs played ‘snakes and ladders’, a life-size game on the health and rights of girls worldwide. The MPs were the pawns in the game and found themselves confronted with the obstacles girls in developing countries face.
There are about 1 billion girls in the world, many of which face discrimination and inequalities. Each year 16 million girls between 15 and 19 give birth. Complications related to pregnancies and delivery are the 2nd most important cause of death for girls in that age group. Every year 3 million girls run the risk of mutilation and every day 39,000 girls are subject to child or forced marriage.
The Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda want girls’ health and rights to be high on the political agenda. They call upon the Belgian development cooperation to continue focusing on this particular group.
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.