While I was visiting with youth peer educators yesterday with the Brazilian Society for Family Welfare
in the Cachoeirinha favela
(see Vicky Markam’s post for details
– we were on the same trip), UN member states reached consensus in the Rio+20 negotiations. But, according to reports, although the outcome document includes some mention of reproductive health, gender equality, and women’s empowerment, it fails to explicitly recognize the link between reproductive rights and sustainable development.
Many women’s rights and health observers have, from the start, encouraged this link.
Karen Newman, speaking to ECSP in April during the Planet Under Pressure conference – a precursor to Rio – said she hoped this week would offer an opportunity to look at “sustainable development in the round” and “re-identify family planning as a core development priority,” given its human rights and health implications and relationship to population growth.
Jenny Shipley (Former Prime Minister of New Zealand) wrote just yesterday on CNN that “we are at a moment in history where we still have time to make a difference. It is essential that the global discussion in Rio not be blind to the potential solutions that access to voluntary family planning could offer to many of the world’s problems.”
“We can no longer afford this outrageous oversight, driven by old-fashioned tradition, discrimination, and pure ignorance,” said Gro Harlem Brundtland (Former Prime Minister of Norway and Former Head of the World Health Organization) at a side event on Monday. “Now is the time to agree to unleash the largest untapped potential for sustainable development and stop all discrimination against women and girls.”
But now that preliminary agreement on the outcome text has been reached, reports have filed in that the connection many were hoping for is absent. Zonibel Woods, blogging on RH Reality Check, wrote:
From the start of the negotiations, gender equality and women’s human rights, including reproductive rights, have continuously been challenged by a few governments, claiming that [these] had “nothing to do with sustainable development.”The lack of consensus among the wider international community may also undercut efforts to highlight reproductive rights in the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals/Sustainable Development Goals framework and as governments ready for the follow-on to the International Conference on Population and Development in 2014. A concrete link to “sustainable development,” whatever form that takes, would help ensure that reproductive health is not side-lined.
This debate continued until the last few hours of the negotiations. In the end, the text includes a re-affirmation of both the Cairo and Beijing agreements, but it falls short by failing to recognize that reproductive rights are also critical to the achievement of sustainable development. If a woman cannot decide if and when to have children and if she is not provided with the reproductive health care that is her human right, it is challenging to contribute to sustainable solutions for the planet.
Immediately following the adoption of the text, women gathered and protested at Rio Centro, the main venue for the conference, and advocacy continues.
Heads of state will in all likelihood sign on to the outcome document by tomorrow (it could technically still be changed, but that appears unlikely). I will keep you posted on the final outcome and will be taking notes at a side-event this afternoon by USAID, the Aspen Institute, and Center for Environment and Population on the demographic dividend and sustainable development, which promises to be spirited given today’s news. You can tune in live to the webcast of that event at 2:30 EST on Ustream.
Sources: AllAfrica, Aspen Institute, CNN, IRIN, RH Reality Check, U.S. Department of State, USAID.
Photo Credit: United Nations Photo.