Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Guest Blog: CHOICE @ UNGASE on MDGs

Close WO=MEN partner CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality is attending the UN General Assembly Special Event (UNGASE) on the Millennium Development Goals and the Post-2015 Development Framework. Youth Advocate Jolien Oosterheerd and General Board Member Michiel Andeweg give you a heads up about the process.

MDGs, SDGs and Post-2015

Let’s start off with the brief basics. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were signed in 2000 and created a global approach and overall vision in global development. The eight goals include promoting gender equality (3), improving maternal health and achieving universal access to reproductive health (5A&B) and combating HIV/AIDS (6). With the deadline of 2015 drawing near, it is time for Member States, UN agencies and CSOs to evaluate the achievements and challenges of the MDGs and see how to move forward from 2015 onwards. This General Assembly is marked as a start of this process.

And then we have the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). During Rio+20, the UN conference on sustainable development, Member States agreed on the development of a new set of goals: the SDGs. The Open Working Group (OWG), a 30 seats committee, has been mandated by the Member States to negotiate the SDGs. At first, the seats would have been filled by 30 different countries. Now, 72 countries are involved, so most of the seats are shared. The outcome document is expected to feed into the General Assembly of 2014. The role of civil society in this process is coordinated by the Major Groups and stakeholders (MG&S), which represent nine sectors of global society, such as the Women MG and the Children and Youth MG.

Dynamics

So, in short this is what we know about the processes, and the next steps have not been set in stone. It will be likely that Member States will push for a merge of the SDG and MDG processes into one framework. However, some Latin American countries are expected to strongly protect the SDGs. The African countries seem to see it the other way around; the predominant feeling is that the SDGs undermine the power of the MDG process.

However, this informal consensus is not reflected in the outcome document that is expected to be signed this Wednesday, at the UNGASE on MDGs.

So, to draw the expected picture of the process: the SDGs will be the ‘draft version’ of the Post-2015 process.

This means: every victory that we can make on the SDG process (on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), meaningful youth participation, gender equality, HIV and AIDS and/or education), is more likely to be picked up in the Post-2015 Development Framework. It is all about building a strong foundation towards the GA of 2014.

There seems to be another general consensus: unreached MDGs need to be part of the next agenda. How this will take form, is unclear; perhaps several of the goals will be merged.

It is possible the SDGs will be defined with a more narrow focus and with that, have fewer goals. If so, Member States will have to pick their battles. This could be dangerous for SRHR issues, which are much more specific than for example efforts to increase access to primary education. Countries that we know are ‘SRHR heroes’, might not pick our battles.

A strong focus in our advocacy efforts needs to be on indicator and target level. Rumour has it that it might be possible we will have one overall health goal. If this will happen, it’s essential for us to push for the inclusion of sexual and reproductive health and rights and youth friendly services herein.

Conclusion

To conclude: we, the gender equality, SRHR and youth movement need to step up our game in this process. The SDGs will (in direct or indirect ways) feed into the new development framework. Let us coordinate our joint effort towards a progressive and ambitious vision for sustainable development!

CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality is a Dutch youth-led organization that actively promotes and supports the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of young people worldwide.

Monday, September 23, 2013

68th General Assembly: New power paradigm​

Think tanks in various countries have worked double shifts lately: the international power map has thoroughly shifted in the past 6 months. The 68th General Assembly (UNGA) reflects the new reality.
To name a few:

·         Will there be a resolution on Syria and if so, how will it look like?
·         On Tuesday 24th September State Secretary Kerry meets with his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif to talk about the Iranian nuclear program: the first meeting in many years. Even more surprising: Ashton just announced that Zarif will talk with the 6 members of the Security Council on Wednesday 25th September.
·         Will the G77 agree with the draft statement of Ban Ki-moon?
·         The post-2015 agenda: the follow-up of the MDG's. ​

A heated debate 
These topics create enough elements for a heated debate, certainly from a women's rights & gender perspective. Several challenges arose:

1.       Security debate: the whodunit-debate on chemical weapons in Syria seems to distract the attention from the human suffering and losses, as was rightfully pinpointed by OxfamNovib. And, by the same token, the international community should practice what it preaches on Resolution 1325: Involve Syrian women on all levels of decision making. The UN should strive for human security and transformative justice.
2.       Gender and SRHR (Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights) are being pushed off the post-2015 development agenda. The High-Level Panel stressed in its report the importance of a gender standalone goal and gender mainstreaming. The latest proposal of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is much weaker. Apparently there are some strong forces acting against women's rights.
3.       There seems to be a MDG-fatigue: everybody is waiting for something new. But one cannot turn a blind eye on the lack of results for women's rights and health. Until new and women-friendly goals are set, we will need to face the facts and work to try to improve women's rights and SRHR.
Finally, together with a narrowing of the space for non-state actors, corporations seem to have an increased influence on decision making within the UN. Does this shift reflect the strive for a healthy balance with new partners and 'do no harm'? One of the new ideas at the UN General Assembley was a  "Conflict of Interest Check".


Contributions of the Netherlands

Minister of Foreign Affairs Timmermans held a warm plea for the rights of Syrian and other Arab women that have been fighting dictatorship during the Equal Futures Partnership meeting. State Secretary Kerry by adding "no team can win with of half of its players on the bench", referred to the importance of political participation of women. Minister Timmermans will meet leading women of the Syrian opposition on Tuesday 24th September. The strong stance on Human Rights is an important element of the Dutch campaign for a seat in the UN Security Council.

Minister Ploumen stressed that gender equality and women's rights are her top priority. Therefore gender-equality should be integrated as a separate goal and mainstreamed in the post-2015 agenda,  including SRHR and economic justice. As an example she mentioned the Memorandum of Understanding signed on Monday 23rd September between the Bangladeshi government, the Bangladeshi  employers association and the International Labor Organization (ILO) on the garment industry. This will also be stressed during the annual meeting of the
Clinton Global Initiative. Finally, Ploumen will pursue her fight against Female Genital Mutilation and Violence against Women in general.

​Elisabeth van der Steenhoven
Director WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform