Family Planning, International Policies

Where Does Reproductive Health Stand in the Sustainable Development Goals?

Defining the world’s next development agenda is a huge job, and so it’s not surprise that the process has been going on for more than 18 months. But as we edge ever-closer to the 2015 deadline of the Millennium Development Goals—and the U.N. General Assembly in September where official negotiations will begin—things are starting to come into focus.

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This week, the Co-chairs of the Open Working Group (OWG) shared the zero draft for the 12th session which will take place June 16-20. With only 10 days of formal negotiations remaining, these last two sessions are crucial to defining proposed goals and targets for the Sustainable Development Goals.

So, what’s new in the latest draft of the Sustainable Development Goals?  Well, for starters, we’re actually talking about goals now, having made the important shift from focus areas.

A “leave no one behind” spirit clearly prevails throughout the first round of 17 goals—from “End poverty in all its forms everywhere” to “Attain healthy life for all at all ages.” While not necessarily catchy, these statements are hard to oppose. See the full list of goals and targets here.

As for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), here’s where we currently stand within the current proposed goals and targets:

  • Goal 3: Attain healthy life for all at all ages
  • Target 3.8 Ensure universal accesses to sexual and reproductive health for all
  • Goal 5: Attain gender equality, empower women and girls everywhere
  • Target 5.9: Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights in accordance with the Programme of Action of the ICPD.

The inclusion of the Programme of Action of the ICPD is a positive development, as it recognizes the existing international agreements on SRHR, and therefore provides a strong baseline for negotiations around this target. However, the omission of sexual rights is a critical mistake, for sexual rights are fundamental to the full realization of human rights. There are many voices speaking out on this, for example, a statement presented by Argentina on behalf of 50 states at OWG 8 urged the co-chairs to recognize SRHR in full. We are hopeful that that call is heard.

It was also pleasing to see under Goal 6 (secure water and sanitation for all for a sustainable world), target 6.2 outlines: By 2030 provide universal access to safe and affordable sanitation and hygiene including at home, school, health centers, and refugee camps, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls. This reference recognizes the need for adequate private and gender-separated facilities to help keep girls in school with adequate menstrual hygiene facilities. Under Goal 2 (hunger, nutrition and sustainable agriculture),  target 2.2 explicitly states the need to address the nutritional needs of pregnant and lactating women. This is important not only for the mothers but also their children.

Nonetheless, there is still work to be done. It is disappointing to see no mention of population dynamics within the entire document (including in consideration of things like sustainable consumption or production, cities and human settlements, or means of implementation). Population dynamics—including population growth, migration and urbanization—influence all sectors such as demand for food, waste management and urban transportation. Sectoral planning must take into account population size and projected changes. Amidst discussions of the “data revolution” and “means of implementation,” we hope that population dynamics enters the conversation. It is too important to be side-lined.

With the informal negotiations next week (June 9 -13) at which Member States will begin responding and editing the draft, and the formal Open Working Group 12 (June 16-20) where Major Groups will join, this document is a strong starting point for conversations. In collaboration with the Population and Sustainable Development Alliance, PAI is urging member states to retain and strengthen the SRHR targets, (including comprehensive sexuality education) and to mainstream gender, gender-disaggregated data, and population dynamics.  Now is the time to speak to member states to ensure that the final report from the Open Working Group in September reflects the priorities we know are so important.

See what’s next on the road to the Sustainable Development Goals with this timeline:

One Response to “Where Does Reproductive Health Stand in the Sustainable Development Goals?”

  1. B Kokamonakey

    An intelligent visitor from outer space arriving here to look for other intelligent life forms, would presumably do some research. He, she or it would logically come to the conclusion that one species was taking a far larger share of the resources than it should at the expense of the rest of the planet. The being would say, “Hang on all these problems you have like global warming, conflict over resources, looming food shortages, species and habitat depletion could be alleviated by limiting human population growth, so what are you doing about it?” The Earth spokesperson replies, “We are thinking about it but we do not want to upset anyone’s religious convictions or their ethnic customs or their “rights”. Actually we talk a lot but do nothing other than reduce infantile mortality in poor countries and spend loads of money on fertility treatment. We have spent very little on new contraceptive methods in the last 30 years but, wow, IVF methods improve in leaps and bounds!” At that point our visitor would return to the space ship and write off planet Earth as crazy, unintelligent, self-destructive beings. Simply; surely inability to deal with reality is a sign of insanity?

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