Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights: Universal Agenda for Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Development

date: 21 October 2013

Bi-annual strategic consultations between the Belgian government and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

“It is time for the international community to reaffirm its commitment to sexual and reproductive health and rights.” These words opened the public outreach event organized in Brussels today on sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The event, organized on the occasion of the bi-annual strategic consultations between the Belgian government and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), addressed the future agenda of sexual and reproductive health and rights and their role for poverty reduction and sustainable development. The discussion focused on the importance of women’s empowerment as well as the need to focus on adolescents.

While the world is on track to achieve a reduction in extreme poverty by 2015, MDG 5 (improving maternal health and achieving universal access to reproductive health and family planning) remains the most off track of all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  In the developing world, 222 million women who want to delay or avoid a pregnancy are not using an effective method of family planning. In 2012 there were 80 million unintended pregnancies and an estimated 21.6 million of these,  most in developing countries, end in unsafe abortion causing the deaths of 47,000 women and adolescent girls – 13% of all maternal mortality. Adolescent girls are particularly at risk. They are less likely to be able to choose whether and when to have a child than older women and have a much higher unmet need for family planning. Globally, there are 6.1 million unintended pregnancies each year among 15-19 year olds and in Africa, leading ot an estimated 1.400.000 unsafe abortions in Africa. Half of all maternal deaths from unsafe abortion are in women under the age of 25.

The Belgian government is a major partner of UNFPA in support of its mandate to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled. With Belgian support, UNFPA aims to achieve universal access to sexual and reproductive health (including family planning), promote reproductive rights, reduce maternal mortality and accelerate progress on the MDGs. UNFPA also focuses on improving the lives of youths and women by advocating for human rights and gender equality and by promoting the understanding of population dynamics.

As part of its multilateral aid, Belgium contributed over 6,000,000 EUR annually in 2012 and 2013 to UNFPA, mainly to its core functioning. This policy of core financing for multilateral development agencies increases predictability and stability of funding and therefore enhances aid effectiveness. The fact that Belgium is the 14th largest contributor clearly demonstrates the importance the Belgian government attaches to UNFPA’s agenda of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

In addition to this core contribution, Belgium also financed UNFPA to combat fistula and promote maternal health in Burundi for almost 400.000 EUR annually over three years. And in 2013, Belgium supported UNFPA in strengthening the provision of sexual and reproductive health care in humanitarian action to the tally of over 500.000 EUR.

Earlier today, a high level delegation of UNFPA visited Brussels to discuss how to deepen and enhance the strategic relationship between Belgium and UNFPA. Such strategic consultations take place every 2 years.

“Belgium and UNFPA will continue pushing for an ambitious and progressive global agenda on sexual and reproductive health and rights. It is time to demonstrate leadership” were the concluding remarks of the Belgian cooperation.

Bi-annual strategic consultations between the Belgian government and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)