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UNFPA Global Population Policy Update
Activities by Key Global and Regional Parliamentary Groups in the Second Half of 2003 and Early 2004
ISSUE 33 - 02 July 2004
This issue of UNFPA's Global Population Policy Update highlights population-related activities undertaken by the European Parliament Working Group on Population, Sustainable Development and Reproductive Health (EPWG) and Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) in the latter half of 2003 and early 2004. It is a follow-up to Issue 29, which highlighted activities undertaken by other key parliamentary groups on population and development during the same period.
1. European Parliament Working Group on Population, Sustainable Development, and Reproductive Health (EPWG)
http://www.wgpop.org (site under construction)
In June 2003, the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) -EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) Committee on Social Affairs and the Environment produced a report on health, which, as a result of successful advocacy by EPWG, had a strong focus on RH and HIV/AIDS. The report entitled "Poverty diseases and reproductive health in ACP countries in the context of the 9th European Development Fund" was written by rapporteurs Karin Scheele, MEP, and Aime Francois Betkou, MP, from Madagascar. EPWG worked closely with Ms. Scheele and provided her with a draft report, which she used extensively. The report targets a different EU 'pot of money', the European Development Fund (EDF), which has been hardly used in the past for health issues, let alone reproductive health. This report was adopted by an almost unanimous vote of 153-1 in an ACP-EU JPA meeting held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 16-19 February 2004. Statements were made before the vote by UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Obaid and IPPF Director General Steven Sinding, and a video entitled "Access Denied: U.S. restrictions on international family planning" was shown in the plenary session.
At the ACP-EU JPA meeting in Rome in October 2003, the EPWG Secretariat drafted and distributed a letter to all JPA members on the ICPD at 10 regional meetings, including the upcoming meetings for Africa and the Caribbean. During the same meeting, EPWG also distributed a briefing note that had been drafted in collaboration with Brussels-based reproductive health NGOs (MSI, IPPF-EN, ECPD, and the Supply Initiative), which called for support to the above-mentioned report.
Like every year, EPWG launched UNFPA's 2003 State of the World Report at the European Parliament on 8 October 2003. The launch was attended by over 120 people, including Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), European Commission officials, NGOs, the ACP Secretariat and embassy officials. Speakers included EPWG President Ulla Sandbaek, MEP (Denmark), Mary Banotti, MEP (Ireland) and UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador, Hedi Jemai, Director of the UNFPA Office in Brussels, Laura Miranda, Director of Marie Stopes Mexico and Angeline Eichhorst from the European Commission.
On 11 November 2003, EPWG held a meeting at the European Parliament (EP) on "Reproductive health in an enlarged Union". The meeting focused on the challenges and opportunities brought on by the EU enlargement for reproductive health and rights. The meeting opened with a short introductory speech by Ulla Sandbaek, followed by presentations by Ruth Genner, MP (Switzerland) and President of the Inter-European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development, and Mary Henry, MP (Ireland) and Chair of the Irish All Party Group on Sexual and Reproductive health. These presentations were followed by a lively debate on reproductive health and rights in the current and future EU member countries, as well as on the opposition's tactics.
EPWG was also involved in organizing a hearing on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) as a human right in the EP Foreign Affairs Committee in December 2003. This hearing was held with a view to producing the EP Annual Report on Human Rights in the World. This year's report, drafted by Veronique De Keyser, MEP (Belgium), was a ground-breaking one, because, for the first time, it included a chapter on reproductive health and rights. Due to its controversial nature, the report caused some conservative members of the Committee to mobilize opposition against its adoption. EPWG alerted other participants and organizers of the hearing that certain conservative parliamentarians were trying to invite a representative of a U.S. anti-family planning fringe group to speak at the hearing. However, once this group's agenda and track record were revealed, the invitation was withdrawn. Frances Kissling of Catholic For a Free Choice (CFFC) and Stirling Scruggs of UNFPA spoke at the hearing and answered numerous questions. Their statements informed much of the report eventually adopted by the Foreign Affairs Committee. Throughout the drafting of and discussions on the report, EPWG was in regular contact with the office of Ms. De Keyser. EPWG also attended all the relevant meetings of the EP Foreign Affairs Committee, which were marked by conservative members' opposition against the report. After many postponements and revised submissions, the report was finally adopted on 22 April 2004. This was a great victory for SRHR advocates, since, for the first time, the EP recognized reproductive health as a human right.
The EPWG Secretariat drafted various amendments to the EP report on the 2004 budget, focusing on reproductive health supplies, gender issues, and Afghanistan, among others. In the end, the SRHR budget line was increased from â‚¬13.95 million in 2003 to â‚¬17.8million in 2004, while the HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis budget line was increased from â‚¬80.35 million in 2003 to â‚¬82.5 million in 2004.
In January 2004, EPWG conducted a training session on SRHR advocacy towards the EU institutions in Geneva. The objective of the training was to give the participants from the European Youth Network â€“ YouAct an insight into the workings of the EU institutions and the necessary tools to help them achieve their advocacy goals.
On 14 January 2004, the EP, in its resolution on the update of the EC programmes for accelerated action on HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, called for the creation of a new post of EU AIDS Ambassador to guarantee a more coherent, effective and comprehensive approach to the fight against HIV/AIDS. As a follow-up to this resolution, EPWG has tabled a parliamentary question on the issue. Moreover, EPWG has sent letters to the President of the EP and the upcoming EU Dutch Presidency to encourage the creation of this post.
In February 2004, EPWG organized a Valentine's Day card mail-out, in order to highlight the shortage of reproductive health supplies in developing countries. It sent out approximately 800 Valentine's Day cards to MEPs, Commission and Council officials, embassies and the ACP Secretariat. EPWG obtained 2,000 free condoms from Durex to put in the cards and to use in future campaigns and projects. The card was well-received and was covered in the Brussels-based media.
On 15-16 March 2004, EPWG facilitated a trip to Brussels for the members of YouAct's temporary Steering Committee, by arranging meetings with several Commission and Council officials and MEPs, and organizing a dinner with other reproductive health NGOs. The EPWG Secretariat was also present at the launch of YouAct in Lisbon, and gave a presentation on the opposition.
EPWG also assisted in initiating a report on ICPD at 10 and in having it approved by all the political parties. The report, entitled "Population and Development: 10 years after the UN Conference in Cairo", was submitted to the EP by Karin Junker, MEP (Germany) In order to make an active input in the report, EPWG sent a briefing note, co-drafted with reproductive health NGOs (DSW, ECPD, IPPF-EN, MSI and the Supply Initiative), to Ms. Junker and to the European Commission. EPWG made further policy input through amendments on the impact of the Mexico City Policy. In expectation of a lobby campaign by anti-choice groups to block the adoption of the report (the opposition had tabled many amendments), the EPWG Secretariat attended the plenary debate in Strasbourg to assist MEPs with their speech notes and to ensure adoption of the report. The final report, which was adopted in March 2004, includes references to obstetric fistula (as a result of the EPWG-assisted parliamentary visit to the famous fistula hospital in Addis Ababa in February), calls on States to refrain from prosecuting women who have had an illegal abortion and urges the U.S. President George Bush to rescind the Mexico City Policy, among others.
2. Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA)
On 13 June 2003, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament and PGA, which confirmed that both parties "will work collaboratively on issues of political integration and sustainable development in West Africa." The two collaborating parties also agreed to organize seminars on human trafficking, migration, population, health and sustainable development in the region.
On 14 November 2003, PGA attended the monthly donor meeting with all representatives of the European Union in Mali at the Dutch Embassy. At the meeting, Ms. Ulrika Broback, PGA's Junior Program Officer, introduced PGA's work in Mali to the ambassadors of the European Commission, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, U.K. and Germany. She also gave a short outline of the three missions of the National Assembly, followed by an analysis of the present parliamentary capacity, in terms of human and administrative resources.
On 5-6 December 2003, the PGA network in Mali arranged a budget seminar at the National Assembly. The objective of the seminar was to assist the deputies in analyzing budgets and to learn from the budget procedures in Europe. The seminar provided an overview of the basic elements of a budget procedure with particular emphasis on sustainable development and population issues within the budget framework. Upon the completion of the seminar, the participants requested PGA to arrange a follow-up meeting that focuses on parliamentary budgeting procedures.
On 16 December 2003, PGA launched a much needed and immensely popular English language course for the deputies of the National Assembly of Mali. The course currently includes 81 participants with four hours of training a week.
On 24-25 February 2004, PGA organized a Parliamentary Workshop on Human Trafficking in West Africa, in collaboration with the Parliament and the Secretariat of ECOWAS in Abuja, Nigeria. The event gathered over 140 participants from West Africa, including 52 parliamentarians, who presented case studies from their home countries and discussed how they have dealt with the problem of human trafficking. Leading experts on various related subjects provided participants with insights to understanding the roots of the problem. The seminar provided participating parliamentarians information on how to adopt laws to criminalize human trafficking and to build the necessary administrative structures to address and prevent the problem. They also discussed the necessity of developing public awareness campaigns aimed at potential victims of trafficking, which use both the traditional channels of communication and the mass media.
The seminar produced a parliamentary resolution in which the participating parliamentarians pledged to work for the ratification of international conventions on human trafficking and adopting them into national laws; creation of assistance programmes for women and children who have been victimized; creation of prevention programs; provision of financial and human resources to combat human trafficking through budgetary measures; promotion of public support as well as international cooperation against trafficking.
All previous issues of the UNFPA Global Population Policy Update can now be found on UNFPA's website at: http://www.unfpa.org/parlamentarians/news/newsletters.htm
This newsletter is issued by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in its capacity as secretariat for the International Parliamentarians' Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (November 2002, Ottawa, Canada). These dispatches are intended to highlight important developments taking place around the world so that parliamentarians can be kept informed of and learn from the successes, setbacks and challenges encountered by their fellow parliamentarians in other countries and regions in their efforts to promote the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (September 1994, Cairo, Egypt). It should be noted that UNFPA does not necessarily endorse all of the policies described in this newsletter.
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