As the world sets a Sustainable Development Agenda for the next fifteen years supported by an updated Global Strategy for Women’s, Newborns’, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, it does so in a period of emergent and protracted crises with the majority of those affected being women, children and adolescents, lacking access to life-saving services, facing grave exclusion, marginalization, and exploitation and perishing in higher numbers.
To address these challenges and provide recommendations on how best to break down the humanitarian and development divide, a group of experts representing UN agencies, governments, civil society, academia and foundations met in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates from 10-11 February 2015. The meeting was hosted by HE Reem Al Falasy, the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, under the patronage of HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, sponsored by HRH Princess Sarah Zeid and convened by UNFPA. It is intended that its outcomes will be integrated into key international processes including the updated Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy and the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit.
HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak stated, in a speech delivered on her behalf by Reem Al Falasy, Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, “we have witnessed a number of severe humanitarian situations in the last 15 years that challenge us to re-think our approach to aid and development. The UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, consistently and passionately supported efforts by the country’s women to play a full role as partners in society, contributing not just at home, but overseas. We are committed to helping and supporting women who need access to quality maternal health care that can help save their lives and their babies’, wherever they are. We are committed to the health and welfare of newborns, children and adolescents and we know this means providing them with quality services in all circumstances, so that they may grow into healthy adults. That is precisely why the Every Woman Every Child initiative is so important to the world’s joint efforts for the health and wellbeing of women and children, today and tomorrow.”
Exhorting her colleagues to think about the interests of the millions of girls today are aged ten who will grow to adulthood over the course the incoming development agenda, Kate Gilmore, Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA, quoted Florence Nightingale, whose work on humanitarian crises founded modern nursing, “Were there none who were discontented with what they have, the world would never reach anything better.”
Participants called for the updated Global Strategy to provide for every woman and every child in every setting. Clearer measures are needed to better support countries and the international community to uphold human rights and assist women, children and adolescents across the life-course and in all settings including in emergencies – by providing access to essential health care services, lifesaving interventions and stronger health care systems overall. Reliable and secure access to life saving commodities, such as those necessary to protect women and adolescent girls from unwanted pregnancies, to support protection from sexually transmitted infections and respond to HIV/AIDS, is essential in the context of emergencies. Programmes that engage boys and men in support of better sexual and reproductive health outcomes also have an important and yet largely unexplored role to play.
The experts stressed that meeting reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent (RMNCAH) health needs and human rights in humanitarian contexts, reducing preventable maternal and child deaths as well as preventing and responding to GBV, while addressing fundamental needs for nutrition and “WASH”, are critical for the resilience and more rapid recovery of affected communities overall.
The Abu Dhabi meeting identified several key principles for strengthening the Global Strategy’s relevance in fragile settings including:
- Put people at the center of humanitarian and development efforts, and ensure the ultimate accountability of these efforts to people and their communities
- Value people’s potential, participation and power as agents of change – especially women’s
- Realize health and wellbeing as human rights by working for dignity and human security across the life course
- Fully integrate humanitarian relief into country development plans, breaking down the artificial divides between the two approaches, recognizing resilience as the key objective of sustainable development planning, inclusive of the ability and capacity to respond to humanitarian shocks
- Foster and support national and community leadership and partnerships that are aligned with integrated country plans, supported by global partners where and when needed, and relevant across the resilience, preparedness, response and recovery spectrum
Participants sketched out a critical path of opportunities to advocate for these measures and principles including in upcoming events such as the Disaster Risk Reduction Conference, the Commission on the Status of Women, the Commission on Population and Development, the World Health Assembly, the Financing for Development Conference, the UN General Assembly and at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit.
Summarizing the importance of this vision for next generation strategy for Every Woman Every Child, HRH Princess Sarah Zeid said, “Our aim was to identify how we can improve and redouble our efforts so that our support and interventions are better adapted to the new realities of protracted humanitarian situations and the upsurge in conflicts in several regions. We owe it help those who suffer the most, namely mothers, newborns, children and adolescents. But we know they are also vital agents of change. Even if we are unable to change the politics, stem the violence, powerless to prevent the hurricane, we can and we must end preventable deaths and the untold suffering they bring.”
View the Abu Dhabi Declaration.