Audit shows decreasing Belgian support for health and reproductive health in its international cooperation
The share of Belgium’s total expenditure on international cooperation spent on health and reproductive health has fallen to 11% in 2018, the lowest percentage in 4 years. A downward trend is found over the course of the previous legislative period, from 14% in 2015, 12.7% in 2016 and 12.4% In 2017. The trend is shown in the audit of the 2018 ODA expenditure by DGD, conducted by Sensoa, the Flemish centre of expertise on sexual health, which compared the 2018 expenditure with previous years.
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.
On April 1st the UN Commission on Population and Development unanimously adopted a political declaration reaffirming the importance of the ICPD Program of Action. 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development by 179 UN Member States in Cairo, Egypt in 1994.
To date, no fundamental change in governance has been seen, Perspective 2030, the Belgian coalition of NGOs monitoring the realisation of the 2030 Agenda of which Sensoa is a member, stated. The coalition published a critical report that took stock of Belgium’s efforts since signing on to the Agenda in 2015.
On Thursday the 28th of February in Brussels, the ‘The State of African Women’ report was presented on the eve of International Women’s Day at the federal parliament. Gina Wharton, policy advisory at IPPF European Network presented the research report by the Dutch KIT Royal Tropical Institute, a report that is part of an awareness project that goes by the title ‘Right by Her’. The research report maps the realisations as well as the gaps in the ratification and implementation of the Maputo Protocol by African states. This protocol is a legally binding instrument in which the rights of African women have been recognised by the member states of the African Union.
The power to choose. That is the central theme of the 2018 State of the World Population (SWOP), the annual report of the UN fund on population, UNFPA, which was presented in the Belgian parliament on Nov 8th.
Individuals and couples need to be able to choose if, when and how many children they want. It sounds simple but it’s not. Reproductive rights are violated when health services are not able to provide essential care and means, such as contraceptives, or when women and young people have no access to information about relationships and sexuality. In these cases it is hard to prevent unplanned pregnancies.
Kicking off with the success story of Ireland’s long road towards the recognition of the right to abortion, the annual 2018 EuroNGOs conference sought to re-energise the European SRHR community for the road ahead under the banner ‘Act on Hope’. Over 150 participants gathered in the heart of Ghent to share and exchange the lessons learned and to discuss the challenges promoting SRHR at home and in the world.
“Progress in SRHR requires confrontation of the barriers embedded in laws, policies, the economy, and in social norms and values (….) that prevent people from achieving sexual and reproductive health.”
This is what the Guttmacher-Lancet Commission “Accelerate progress – sexual and reproductive health and rights for all” states in no uncertain terms. The report documents the magnitude of the SRHR needs, provides a comprehensive definition of SRHR and a roadmap on how to advance universal access to SRHR.
The commission underlines that the improvement of people’s health depends on individuals’ ability to make decisions about their own sexual and reproductive lives and respecting the decisions of others. The commission’s report is the result of two years of joint collaboration of 16 respected SRHR experts from different parts of the world. Belgian Prof. Dr. Marleen Temmerman was one of them.