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.
At the 2018 Partners’ Forum in New Delhi in December, the stakeholders of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) concluded with new commitments to address ongoing challenges with regard to the health of mothers, newborns and children worldwide. Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s announced a US$ 100 billion investment in health services by 2025.
A delegation of six MPs, including Belgian senator and member of Flemish parliament Orry Van de Wauwer, member of the Belgian ‘Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda’, participated in the PMNCH Forum. The PMNCH is an alliance of more than 1000 organisations in 192 countries of the sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health communities.
The delegation’s visit began with a site visit to the Hamdard Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Hospital and Maternal Health Clinic, where the MPs shared good practices on improving maternal and child health in their respective countries. MPs also participated in a concurrent session on the role of parliamentarians in ensuring accountability for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ Health and the case of Universal health Coverage.
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.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo has suspended the preparations of a new cooperation agreement with Tanzania. The human rights situation has been deteriorating, especially with regard to LGBTI, young mothers and pregnant teenagers.
The minister had been preparing a new cooperation agreement, a follow-up to the current one, but decided to suspend talks given the outright attacks on the LGBTI community, especially since the governor of Dar Es Salaam’s call to hunt down gay people.
The minister also expressed concerns over the rights of pregnant girls and young mothers. They are not allowed to go to school during their pregnancy and are forbidden to resume their education after they have given birth. The minister was quoted as saying “This way you take away girls’ future and make them enter a negative spiral with no escape. It condemns them to a life of dependency.”
The Worldbank and the European Union have also reconsidered their support to the country. The Worldbank rejected a 300 million dollar loan earlier this month and the European Union announced it will reconsider its collaboration with the country.
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.
Belgian senator Petra De Sutter president of the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development
Belgian senator and member of the Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda, Petra De Sutter, was elected president of the European Parliamentary Forum for Population and Development (EPF) in Ottawa, on October 24th. The forum unites parliamentarians from all over Europe who commit themselves to the sexual and reproductive health and rights of each individual. Petra De Sutter will preside EPF for the next three years and is taking over from Swedish politician Ulrika Karlsson.
Ottawa, 23 October 2018 – More than 90 parliamentarians from over 70 countries have agreed on a forward-looking declaration that aims to foster understanding of, and consensus around, the urgency to address the current political discourse on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Jean-Jacques Flahaux (MR) and Petra de Sutter (Groen), members of the Belgian all-party parliamentary group, ‘Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda’, participated in the conference.
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.