By: Jill Sheffield, President of Women Deliver
With 2014 and 2015 approaching, advocates are beginning to talk about what will happen to maternal health and sexual and reproductive health and rights when major international agreements, like ICPD and the MDGs, reach their deadlines. What will happen to the global architecture for maternal health if and when these targets are or are not met? There is some talk of collapsing all the health MDGs (MDG 4, 5, and 6) into a solitary goal to make room for other critical issues, like non-communicable diseases, pandemics, or terrorism. Some thought leaders are talking of creating a whole new framework, while others think the MDGs and ICPD should be extended or have no timeline.
No matter what the decisions, we are certain of one thing - our work is far from done. Girls and women are still dying from complications of pregnancy and childbirth and an estimated 215 million of them lack access to modern contraception. At the same time, the case for investing in girls and women is stronger today than ever. We now know that women deliver enormous social and economic benefits for their families, communities, countries, and the world, and investing to improve maternal health and save women’s lives is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do.
So, we are in a curious position right now. 2010 was a banner year for issues related to girls and women—the year began with a $1.5 billion, 5-year pledge by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to maternal and children’s health and culminated in the launch of the UN Secretary General's initiative “The Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health.” But many of us are concerned, as there’s a growing global voice calling for new restrictions and new violations on women’s reproductive health, particularly in my own country.
We advocates need to be part of a global conversation as the international community and UN member nations begin to take positions and make decisions about post-ICPD and post-MDGs. And this conversation needs be regional, as well as global. If we are to truly understand the future of these agreements and to build the capacity of advocates to carry these agreements forward, we must also include young people in this dialogue, many of who were not even born when the landmark ICPD convened.
To this end, Women Deliver will devote part of three regional consultations that will be held in 2012 and the Women Deliver 2013 conference in Kuala Lumpur to gathering thoughts and ideas from advocates on what they think should happen post-ICPD and post-MDGs.
Beginning now and into 2012, we will post every few weeks the opinions of key thought-leaders around the globe about ICPD and MDG5 and what should happen after the deadline dates of 2014 and 2015. We will ask them to speak to specific questions and encourage you to comment. In the fall, we will have an online discussion forum to gather further comments, ideas, questions, and suggestions. It’s time to begin the conversation—and we have designated space on Women Deliver’s website to do just that.
Join in. Our voices must be strong and thoughtful as the global architecture is designed. And tell us your thoughts below!