Defending women’s rights at the CPD

Amy Boldosser is Senior Program Officer for Global Advocacy at Family Care International.

As I wrote in a previous post, the UN Commission on Population and Development (CPD) held its annual meeting last week in New York. The CPD’s mandate is to further the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action, a groundbreaking 1994 agreement that confirmed the central place of women’s rights and access to reproductive health in population and development policy.

UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin
UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin

Remarks by UN leaders made it clear that the stakes in these discussions are very high. In his report to this year’s CPD, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that current funding levels for family planning, reproductive health services, and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS are so low that they jeopardize the fulfillment of both the ICPD Programme of Action and the Millennium Development Goals. The Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs noted the cost-effectiveness of investments in family planning: “For every dollar spent on modern contraceptives, $1.30 is saved in maternal and newborn care.”  Babatunde Osotimehin, the new UNFPA Executive Director, stated it clearly: “Investing in the health and rights of women and young people is not an expenditure, it is an investment in our future.”

After a long week of intense  negotiations lasting late into the night, the Commission’s final Resolution reaffirmed the ICPD Programme of Action; it also welcomed the UN Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health which aims to reduce maternal, newborn, and child mortality.  Support for implementation of the Global Strategy was also reiterated by a number of governments in their formal statements to the CPD.

For those of us who work on global health, the connection between women’s reproductive health and rights and broader development and population issues is an obvious one.  Unfortunately, a small but vocal minority of governments led by the Vatican, which is not a member state but has observer status at the United Nations, refuse to recognize that interconnectedness and opposed rights- affirming language in negotiations on the CPD Resolution for this year. These opposition governments at the CPD raised repeated roadblocks in negotiations on language around women’s rights — and particularly references to gender, abortion, sexuality, reproductive rights,  comprehensive sexuality education, and the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people— challenging international commitments that date as far back as the ICPD in 1994.  Their stalling tactics included repeatedly questioning the  definitions of such basic terms as “reproductive health commodities,” “fertility,” and even “girls.”  One African CPD delegate put it best: “A small minority are intent on ignoring the facts on the ground and the need of working on measures to save the lives of women.” In the end, the Commission safeguarded the rights of women and young people to access education and lifesaving services in its final Resolution, but this result did not come without a struggle. This year’s experience shows the urgent need for continued advocacy to protect sexual and reproductive health and rights, both for their own sake and because they are crucial for sustainable development.

The theme of the 2012 CPD will be “Adolescents and youth.” A number of youth-led advocacy groups were key players at this year’s meeting. (You can read about the CPD Youth Caucus here, and can also see video of their powerful statements at the CPD.) The opposition is sure to be out in force again next year, opposing policies that educate and empower young people, and FCI will work in close alliance with youth-led groups and other advocates from around the world to ensure that the development goals laid out at the ICPD, including universal access to reproductive health, finally become a reality for all women and young people.

New focus on stillbirths

Each year, there are more than 2.6 million stillbirths — over 7,000 every day. About 98%of  them occur in developing countries, and two-thirds to families living in rural communities. What this means is that many of the same factors causing maternal deaths also lead to stillbirths — and that the solutions to both problems are largely the same. Every pregnant woman needs accessible, high-quality antenatal care, skilled childbirth care, and emergency obstetric care. These basic, essential services are crucial to preventing stillbirths, saving women’s lives, and preventing childbirth injuries like obstetric fistula, as well as vastly improving survival statistics for newborns. Once again, we see that it’s all about the continuum of care.

This week, The Lancet published its Stillbirth Series, which highlights the rates and causes of stillbirth, explores cost-effective interventions to prevent them (as well as maternal and neonatal deaths), and lays out the critical actions needed to cut stillbirth rates in half within 10 years. It also features comments from parents, illustrating “the unique tragedy for families of the birth of a baby bearing no signs of life.”

1,000 economists call for financial tax to support development efforts

In a letter  released yesterday, a thousand eminent economists from more than 50 countries called for the establishment of a global Financial Transaction Tax.

Writing to finance ministers from the Group of 20 (G20) countries, representing the world’s leading economies, and to Bill Gates, who has been asked by the G20 to examine innovative ways to fund development and climate change, the economists wrote:

This tax is an idea that has come of age. The financial crisis has shown us the dangers of unregulated finance, and the link between the financial sector and society has been broken. It is time to fix this link and for the financial sector to give something back to society. Even at very low rates of 0.05% or less, this tax could raise hundreds of billions of dollars annually and calm excessive speculation… This money is urgently needed to raise revenue for global and domestic public goods such as health, education and water, and to tackle the challenge of climate change.

Together with advocacy partners from a range of health and development issues, FCI has been working for two years to build support for a tax on financial transactions (widely known in the U.K. as a “Robin Hood Tax“), with proceeds going to fund global health and poverty efforts. While the effort has not yet picked up steam, or attracted government support, in the U.S., there is significant momentum in Europe, where both France (host to this year’s G20 summit) and Germany have expressed strong support for the idea.

 

FCI at the UN Commission on Population & Development

Amy Boldosser is Senior Program Officer for Global Advocacy at Family Care International.

Governments and civil society groups from around the world are gathered at the United Nations in New York for the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) this week, and FCI is here advocating for progressive policies in support of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The theme of this year’s CPD is “Fertility, Reproductive Health and Development” and the Commission is also focusing on the future of the Cairo Programme of Action, a groundbreaking agreement adopted by 180 governments at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994. The ICPD & Cairo Programme of Action are important because they confirm that women’s rights and access to reproductive health are at the center of population and development policy.

FCI's Debra Jones making statement to the 44th CPD.
Debra Jones makes FCI's oral statement

In addition to conducting high level advocacy during the Commission, Family Care International also presented oral and written statements to the Commission highlighting that women — when they can control their fertility, when they are empowered and enabled, and when their rights are recognized — are drivers of economic growth and sustainable development. FCI also linked the ICPD to the Millennium Development Goals, in particular MDG 5 on maternal health, which recognizes that achieving universal access to reproductive health is critical to reducing maternal mortality and to fostering sustainable development.

The ICPD is also reinforced by the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, which recognizes that investing in the health of women and children builds more stable, peaceful, and productive societies, reduces poverty, stimulates economic growth, is cost-effective, and helps women and children realize their fundamental human rights. FCI is also focusing on the importance of access to comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for young people.

The CPD will continue its work through the end of the week, and FCI and our advocacy partners are continuing our advocacy efforts to ensure  that women’s rights and gender equality are central in the outcomes of the Commission. Follow The FCI Blog for further posts on the Commission on Population and Development, including updates from side events and plans for next year’s Commission, which will focus on youth.

 

Making Accountability Count

Written by: Ann Starrs, President, Family Care International

The following was originally posted by Maternal Health Task Force on the MHTF Blog on Jan 25, 2011.

When UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon formally launched the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health last September during the 2010 UN General Assembly meeting, a range of stakeholders made commitments totaling $40 billion for improved maternal and child health programs and services. The Global Strategy, a plan to save the lives of 16 million women and children in the world’s poorest countries, cuts across all the Millennium Development Goals, especially those related to health (MDGs 4, 5 and 6). It is designed to serve as a global roadmap to identify and mobilize resources, policies, and critical interventions, with engagement by governments, donors, academic institutions, health professional associations, NGOs, corporations, and many others.

These ambitious goals and generous pledges, promising though they may be, are not enough to bring real change. That will come only when commitments are translated into real money and concrete action. As my organization, Family Care International, wrote in our own commitment to the Global Strategy, “commitments don’t save lives until they are actually delivered.”

During a strategy meeting in Washington, DC last Friday, I shared an overview (here) on the Global Strategy, noting that accountability will be the key to ensuring that the Global Strategy drives clear, quantifiable progress toward achievement of MDG targets by 2015. The Global Strategy document stated this clearly:

Accountability is essential. It ensures that all partners deliver on their commitments, demonstrates how actions and investment translate into tangible results and better long-term outcomes, and tells us what works, what needs to be improved and what requires more attention.

Last month, the UN announced the establishment of a high-level Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health, co-chaired by the President of Tanzania and the Prime Minister of Canada. This Commission, with members from developed and developing countries, academia, civil society and the private sector, is charged with developing a framework for tracking resources and results at the global and country levels. Its two working groups — on ‘accountability for resources’ and ‘accountability for results’ – are already hard at work; the Commission’s draft report is due to the UN this May.

As a member of the results working group, I will return to the MHTF blog soon to solicit your input on appropriate indicators, measurement needs, and accountability mechanisms (each working group has posted a “discussion forum” page here) , and to report back on our progress.