Sexual and reproductive health and rights beyond 2015: UN concludes negotiations on sustainable development agenda

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The final intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda took place in New York July 20-31, 2015 culminating in the adoption of Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by 193 Member States on Sunday evening, August 2 after long and arduous negotiations. Representatives of regional sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) networks from around the world, together with UNFPA, advocated tirelessly at these negotiations–as we have during each of the previous intergovernmental negotiation sessions–to ensure that the post-2015 agenda guarantees human rights, particularly the SRHR of all people everywhere; brings gender equality to the forefront; recognizes young people’s role as key agents of change; and includes the active participation of civil society in shaping global development, both at country and global levels.

The informal consultations were led by Member States with the broad and active participation of Major Groups and civil society stakeholders, such as yourselves. The impact of civil society advocacy was recognized by the co-facilitators and several Member States, and Amina Mohammed, the Secretary-General’s special advisor on post-2015, thanked civil society for their engagement and particularly recognized CSOs’ technical inputs, indicating a clear mandate for our continued engagement in the process. Statements made by Major Groups and other Stakeholders, including by SRHR Campaign members can be found here here.

The outcome document from this informal process will serve as the basis for the agreement to be formally launched at the Sustainable Development Summit in September. As this was an informal process, there will be two formal sessions to adopt this agenda at the 69th and and the 70th sessions of the General Assembly. In the lead up to September, Member States can make reservations to the document during the 69th session, by making a statement or submitting the reservation in writing, but were not able to attach any reservations to the outcome document itself.  A few countries mentioned concerns and reservations with portions of the text, but it is not common practice to go to the Summit with a document that not all Heads of States can agree to.

Post-2015 Intergovernmental Negotiations Outcome Document

The final outcome document is available here. Our partners at the ngosbeyond2014.org website compiled an August 1 version with the track changes from the final session, which is available here (the website also has useful analysis of the negotiations from an SRHR perspective). The final edits did not impact text on our issues. The outcome document contains the following sections:

  • The Preamble
  • The Declaration
  • The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Targets
  • Means of implementation and the Global Partnership
  • Follow up and review

The Preamble

Recognizes that the goals and targets “seek to realize the human rights of all and to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.”

The Declaration

Overall, gender equality and women’s rights were mainstreamed throughout the document, and included in sections regarding health, education, and inequalities within and between countries. Accordingly, the Declaration (§20) states, “The systematic mainstreaming of a gender perspective in the implementation of the Agenda is crucial.” The standalone goal on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls (Goal 5) is an important win.

Paragraph 11 in the Declaration includes language reaffirming ICPD and Beijing, though in the end the reference to “and their review conferences” was deleted by the co-facilitators however there is a reference to their follow-up conferences, and it is still an important reaffirmation of the ICPD agenda.

Paragraph 16, in referring to the off-track MDGs, includes reproductive health in the list, together with maternal, newborn and child health.

Para 19 of the political declaration and preamble clearly state that this was a framework grounded in commitments to human rights for all people, without distinction of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, disability or other status.” Both lists of prohibited basis for discrimination in the document are open and include “other status” which is an advocacy win in ensuring non-discrimination for all people. The “other status” language was particularly supported by networks advocating on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Paragraph 25  includes language on the “demographic dividend” and a few Member States focused on youth rights and employment; however, the language on young people could have been stronger, particularly in regards to their participation in the implementation and follow-up and review of the SDGs.  Youth are left out of the goals and targets so it was important to build on these commitments in the text.

Paragraph 26 on health includes a commitment to reduce preventable maternal mortality by 2030 and to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, family planning, information and education. Although the Declaration does not mention reproductive rights, they were retained in target 5.6.

A paragraph on family, highlighting its role as contributor to sustainable development, raised concerns among Member States and many advocates. The SRHR Campaign urged Member States to call for deletion of this paragraph and presented a statement to the co-facilitators with the same request (available here).  Our advocacy and support from Member State champions resulted in the deletion of this paragraph.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Targets

Our important advocacy during the Open Working Group to ensure the inclusion of targets on both ensuring universal access to  sexual and reproductive health care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes under Goal 3 on ensuring health lives (target 3.7) and on ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform of Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences under Goal 5 (target 5.6) in the SDG proposal paid off. The co-facilitators were not willing to accept major changes to the existing targets, and we successfully continued to advocate to defend inclusion of both targets.

Means of Implementation and Follow-up and Review

The Means of Implementation section mentions the participation of civil society two times (§60 on Global Partnership and §70 on Task Team on Science, Tech and Information); youth are not mentioned, despite our advocacy to ensure their inclusion in implementation of the SDGs. Also, in the Follow-up and Review section, civil society is mentioned in §79 re: national and sub-national reviews and in §84 re: the role of the HLPF, however this language could have been stronger. The participation of youth in the follow-up and review of the SDGs is not mentioned. Unfortunately, the outcome document doesn’t define specific accountability mechanisms for follow-up and monitoring of progress on this ambitious agenda. This will be an important area for further advocacy at the country level. There is a commitment to disaggregate data by income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migration status, disability and geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts in §74g. This will be an important area for follow up as work continues on the indicator framework, led by the Inter-Agency Expert Group on SDG indicators.

The sections of the Agenda that most directly concern us (and which we fought to keep) include the following:

Preamble

(paragraph 3)

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets which we are announcing today demonstrate the scale and ambition of this new universal Agenda. They seek to build on the Millennium Development Goals and complete what these did not achieve. They seek to realize the human rights of all and to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.They are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental.

Declaration

11. We reaffirm the outcomes of all major UN conferences and summits which have laid a solid foundation for sustainable development and have helped to shape the new Agenda. These include the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development; the World Summit on Sustainable Development; the World Summit for Social Development; the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, the Beijing Platform for Action; and the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+ 20”). We also reaffirm the follow up to these conferences, including the outcomes of the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States; the Second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries; and the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.

16. Almost fifteen years ago, the Millennium Development Goals were agreed. These provided an important framework for development and significant progress has been made in a number of areas. But the progress has been uneven, particularly in Africa, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing States, and some of the MDGs remain off-track, in particular those related to maternal, newborn and child health and to reproductive health. We recommit ourselves to the full realization of all the MDGs, including the off-track MDGs, in particular by providing focussed and scaled-up assistance to least developed countries and other countries in special situations, in line with relevant support programmes. The new Agenda builds on the Millennium Development Goals and seeks to complete what these did not achieve, particularly in reaching the most vulnerable.

20. Realizing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will make a crucial contribution to progress across all the Goals and targets. The achievement of full human potential and of sustainable development is not possible if one half of humanity continues to be denied its full human rights and opportunities. Women and girls must enjoy equal access to quality education, economic resources and political participation as well as equal opportunities with men and boys for employment, leadership and decision making at all levels. We will work for a significant increase in investments to close the gender gap and strengthen support for institutions in relation to gender equality and the empowerment of women at the global, regional and national levels. All forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls will be eliminated, including through the engagement of men and boys. The systematic mainstreaming of a gender perspective in the implementation of the Agenda is crucial.

26. To promote physical and mental health and well-being, and to extend life expectancy for all, we must achieve universal health coverage and access to quality health care. No one must be left behind. We commit to accelerating the progress made to date in reducing newborn, child and maternal mortality by ending all such preventable deaths before 2030. We are committed to ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education. We will equally accelerate the pace of progress made in fighting malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, hepatitis, Ebola and other communicable diseases and epidemics, including by addressing growing antimicrobial resistance and the problem of unattended diseases affecting developing countries. We are committed to the prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases, including behavioural, developmental and neurological disorders, which constitute a major challenge for sustainable development.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

3.1 By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births

3.7 By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes

Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

5.1 End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere

5.2 Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation

5.3 Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation

5.6 Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences

Follow-up and Review

74. Follow-up and review processes at all levels will be guided by the following principles:

[…]

e. They will be people-centred, gender-sensitive, respect human rights and have a particular focus on the poorest, most vulnerable and those furthest behind.

[…]

g. They will be rigorous and based on evidence, informed by country-led evaluations and data which is high-quality, accessible, timely, reliable and disaggregated by income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migration status, disability and geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts.

Next steps

We have achieved so much in these last few years, and especially in these last few months. This ambitious and transformative agenda, the tangible result of painstaking negotiations among 193 Member States and targeted civil society advocacy at the country and Mission levels, represents an historic moment. This new development agenda for the next 15 years not only prioritizes our issues, but it affirms universal human rights and gender equality as a prerequisite for the realization of the SDGs.

 

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