Women’s and Children’s Health at the 132nd IPU Assembly
Turning words into action
Amina Mohammed, UN Assistant Secretary-General and special advisor on post-2015 development planning, spoke on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during the inaugural ceremony. She highlighting the pivotal role that parliaments must play in both shaping the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in ensuring their translation into meaningful action at country level. “Parliaments serve as a bridge between citizens and their governments,” she said, “they can – and must – lead the way, galvanizing action and fostering accountability and implementation.” Ms Mohammed also stressed that people must be at the centre of the SDGs, and urged parliamentarians to continue their efforts to improve the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents.
This year’s IPU assembly is paying particular attention to the important role that parliaments must continue to play to improve women’s and children’s health, building on a resolution passed on this topic by the 2012 IPU Assembly in Kampala titled Access to health as a basic right: The role of parliaments in addressing key challenges to securing the health of women and children. This year, parliamentarians are reviewing progress since the resolution and since the 2010 launch of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health in view of the development of an updated Global Strategy later this year and the definition of the post-2015 agenda.
Speaking on behalf of WHO in the General Debate on the SDGs, Dr. Marleen Temmerman, Director of the Department of Reproductive Health and Research, stressed the importance of reviewing progress made under the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, launched in 2010 by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to accelerate progress on the achievement on Millennium Development Goals 4 (reduce child deaths) and 5 (improve maternal health). Building on the earlier address of Ms Mohammed, Temmerman rallied support for the renewed Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2015-2030), which is currently being developed and will be launched in September 2015 alongside the SDGs. The updated strategy will build on the successes and lessons of the first strategy, as well as on new evidence including the need to focus on critical populations such as adolescents and people living in fragile and conflict settings. Dr Temmerman urged parliamentarians to actively take up the cause, saying “women’s and children’s health needs to be high on the agenda of countries, and you are the ones that can raise it up.”
Side event consultation on the updated Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health
Further building on these discussions and the review of the IPU’s resolution, WHO, PMNCH and IPU organized a side event on March 31 to update parliamentarians in more detail on the renewed Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health.
Although parliamentarians were not substantially involved in the development of either the first Global Strategy or the Millennium Development Goals, in recent years, and through the IPU, national parliaments have played a critical role in driving efforts to improve women’s and children’s health at all levels and in the formulation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Increased attention to these issues by parliaments has prompted many countries to implement stronger accountability mechanisms for reviewing progress and for protecting rights, including in cooperation with civil society and development partners. Robust budget and expenditure oversight, combined with legislative reviews and effective advocacy, are essential to protecting and promoting the health of women and children.
Libby Davies, Member of Parliament from Canada and chair of the IPU Advisory Group on HIV/MNCH, stated that “we as Parliamentarians are catalysts, we are those who can be close to the ground, and be sure that what our governments commit for, will be met.” She urged participants to not only ensure that the 2012 IPU resolution is implemented, but to also ensure the implementation of the updated Global Strategy.
Nana Kuo, from the Office of the UN Secretary-General, presented an overview of the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals. She said that the Millennium Development Goals have done much to advance progress on the health of women and girls, and have been “the most successful anti-poverty push in history.” However, women’s and children’s health remains one of the core unfinished agendas of the MDGs and needs to be prioritized in the post-2015 development agenda. Ms Kuo quoted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who has said “In 2030 when we will look back on our progress on meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, a key measure of our success will be the health and wellbeing of women, children and adolescents everywhere.”
Dr. Temmerman provided a more in depth presentation on the technical content of the global strategy, highlighting the importance of cross-cutting issues that will be tackled within the updated Global Strategy, including a focus on humanitarian settings, human rights, financing, and innovations. Dr Temmerman emphasized that to reach “every woman, every child, every adolescent, in every setting,” we must continue to focus high impact successful interventions. “We know what works,” she said, “investing in family planning is for example one of the best investments a country can make, and we have evidence that the returns of this investment are high in terms of reduction of maternal mortality, unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions.”
The final panellist, Ms. Kathleen Ferrier, member of the independent Expert Review Group (iERG), highlighted the importance of accountability, and how different stakeholders are called to be accountable for women’s and children’s health globally and at the national level. She stressed that “Parliamentarians were not involved enough in the process of developing the MDGs and this was a missed opportunity. Learning from the past, we need you, we need your voice as voice of the people. You are the ones that make laws and your commitment is needed to have a real change for women’s and children’s health.”
IPU 2012 Resolution on Women’s and Children’s Health can be found here.
Ms Amina Mohammed’s speech to the IPU Inaugural Session on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon can be found here.