Thursday, April 10, 2014

Silence before the storm

It’s Thursday 5 pm, and the international SRHR NGO community is flocking the entrance of the negotiation room. Actually, negotiations will only reconvene at 6 pm so I use my time to look back with you to the past day and half:

After skipping Monday due to a small negotiation room, the discussions went full force on Tuesday and Wednesday. The whole text was discussed, paragraph for paragraph, with particularly the African countries adding a lot of new text. Their intention was to delay the process to such an extent, that we can actually not reach agreed conclusions on Friday. While some countries within the African continent have very progressive national policies and laws concerning young people’s SRHR, safe and legal abortion, sexuality education amongst others, there has been a culture of domination by a few conservative African countries. Particularly amongst them Cameroon (who speaks for the continent), Egypt and Nigeria.

Charles Banda, from YONECO –Simavi’s partner- in Malawi: “Our country has a very progressive Gender Equality Act adopted in 2013, which contains references to safe and legal abortion, banning harmful traditional practices such as child marriage, and it strongly recognizes Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. It is frustrating to see my delegates align with the regressive African stance”. Unfortunately, countries such as Malawi do not speak up during the CPD. Ghana, who on Tuesday did speak out and introduced progressive paragraphs was forced back into the African Group position and had to withdraw their progressive paragraphs on Wednesday. A culture of domination seems to keep the African continent in a grappling deadlock.

On Thursday morning, the delegates received a ‘compilation text’ with all the suggestions made up to Wednesday evening. A 28-page document!! As this is impossible to negotiate (we would need a year), the chair was asked to make a streamlined text. At 2 pm this text was finally shared. Negotiations will reconvene at 6 pm… which we are waiting for now.

The streamlined text contains a lot of good references including SRHR and specifically for young people, comprehensive sexuality education, human rights, link with post-2015, gender equality and abortion (where not against the law). This document will now be on the table tonight and tomorrow, probably heavily attacked by amongst others the Holy See, Arab Group, African Group and Russia. While we and a great number of progressive countries from all over the world push for further advancements, including reference to ‘safe and legal abortion’.

It promises to be become a long day… we are ready for it, awaiting the delegates just outside the room.

by Rineke van Dam, Public Affairs Officer SRHR at Simavi


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