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UNFPA Global Population Policy Update
Wellington Asian Women Ministers' and Parlaimentarians' Plan of Action and Arusha Reproductive Health Commodity Security Comminique
ISSUE 66 - 17 August 2006
This issue of the Global Population Policy Update highlights the outcome of two important parliamentary meetings that took place recently on issues related to population and development. One was held in Wellington, New Zealand and another in Arusha, Tanzania on the themes, "Gender responsive governance-the key to the population and development agenda" and "Advocacy capacity building on reproductive health commodity security" respectively.
On 10-12 June, around 70 women policy-makers from Asia and the Pacific attended the 4th Asian Women Ministers' and Parliamentarians' Conference, which took place in the Parliament of New Zealand in Wellington.
The three-day conference was organized by the New Zealand Parliamentarians' Group on Population and Development (NZPPD) and the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD) and supported by the Government of Japan, the New Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAID) and UNFPA.
During the meeting, the participants discussed strategies for encouraging women to participate in decision making at all levels of governance; capacity building for gender governance; globalization and the economic empowerment of women in Asia and the Pacific; and promoting an integrated approach to preventing violence against women. They also attended workshops on gender analysis; gender governance and gender-sensitive approach to sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS; trafficking; early marriage and adolescent sexual and reproductive health; and the role of male parliamentarians in achieving gender equity. At the conclusion of the meeting, the participants adopted a plan of action which adressed, among other items, issues of gender disparities in the region.
On 12-16 June, 57 members of Parliamentary Health Committees and Permanent Secretaries from the Ministries of Health and Finance from 12 countries in East and Central Africa and 9 members of the General Purposes Committee of the East African Legislative Assembly met in Arusha to discuss ways of addressing the issues of reproductive health commodity security (RHCS) in their countries.
The five-day workshop was organized by the East African Legislative Assembly and UNFPA. The programme included presentations and discussions relating to commodity security, field visits to health facilities and facilities for the storage and distribution of reproductive health (RH) commodities, and group exercises.
At the conclusion of the workshop, the participants committed themselves to a set of recommendations formulated and endorsed by all in presence. A communiqué was signed by the country representatives, which urged their respective governments to establish a budget line for RHCS and, where a budget already exists, to increase allocations sufficiently to ensure the availability of affordable RH commodities. It also called for capacity building of community leaders to raise awareness about the need to ensure the availability of, and easy access to, RH commodities and services, as well as the need to involve men at all stages.---
1) 4th Asian Women Ministers' and Parliamentarians' Conference, 10-12 June 2006, Wellington, New Zealand
Plan of Action
The 4th Asian Women Parliamentarians' and Ministers' Conference on "gender responsive governance - the key to the population and development agenda" held in Wellington, New Zealand, from 10-12 June 2006, reaffirms the principles and recommendations of the1994 International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action, the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action, the Millennium Development Goals and, more recently, the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document and to the 2006 review of the UNGASS Declaration on HIV/AIDS to which our countries have committed.
Recognizing the cultural, religious, social and economic diversity of our unique region, but also our shared commitment to the elimination of poverty and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and the need for political will and leadership, we, the parliamentarians and ministers from 30 countries in Asia and the Pacific, call on all parliamentarians in our region to:
Commit to our responsibility as representatives of the people to show leadership and build strong and strategic partnerships, including those with NGOs and civil society, and parliamentarians across the region.
Recognize the right to health, and that women and girls in the region bear a disproportionate burden of many of the region's health and development issues, including the increasing impact in the region of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, maternal mortality, child marriage and lack of equitable access to education, social and economic development initiatives.
Recognize that the inclusion of women at all levels of governance is key to addressing these issues and to equality, sustainable and equitable development, and peace and security for all.
Recognize that the role of women is essential in decision-making at all levels of society, as is their ability to make decisions about their individual lives, and in particular their sexual and reproductive health, in order to enable them to make real changes in their lives and the lives of future generations.
Recognize the importance of educating and encouraging men to be aware of issues of power imbalances between men and women at all levels of decision making, and also recognize that men's support for women's participation in governance and decision making is essential at all levels for individual and national development.
Recognize that epidemic levels of violence against women impact on every aspect of their lives and those of their children, and this must be urgently addressed at both the national and individual level, and in partnership with men.
Recognize that governance at national and local levels should address the many barriers to women's health, wellbeing and full participation in society, both within the family and more widely, and should consequently consider the gender impact of all policies and strategies on both women and men, and on the issues critically important to this region.
Recognize that culture, history and tradition and gender roles shape our lives and may support or inhibit women's empowerment, noting that social and economic empowerment of women does not mean disempowerment of men, but that both are strong - different but equal - and able to participate.
Being profoundly concerned by these issues, and building on the resolutions/discussions of the three previous AFPPD conferences for women parliamentarians, we commit individually, and collectively, to report back to our parliamentary colleagues on the issues of this meeting, and to raise awareness and show leadership of women's issues, including the need for increased gender responsiveness in our countries by advocating for the development and resourcing of evidence-based strategies and governance, through strategies such as:
- Improved access to current sex-disaggregated data and research related to women.
- Setting of benchmarks by which progress can be measured, including MDG indicators and targets.
- Use of gender analysis in planning of policies, legislation and budgets, and adequate resourcing of strategies to improve women's health, safety and wellbeing, education and development.
- Development of specific cross-government women's action plans in order to maximize women's social and economic participation.
- Increased opportunities for leadership and representation of women on decision-making bodies in government, business and the community.
- Paying significant attention to the needs and participation of rural women.
- Involving young people in education on sexual and reproductive health, social and economic participation and decision-making, and in supporting young women in political and public life.
- Developing a women's parliamentary caucus, or strengthening its role where they already exist.
- Developing a resourced cross party parliamentarians' group for population and development to initiate change and monitor progress wherever they do not exist
- Implementing comprehensive health, education and information strategies related to sexual and reproductive health, including HIV/AIDS, and other issues such as drug use, in order to promote health, wellbeing and self-esteem.
- Implementation of the UN convention and protocols and anti-trafficking laws, including strengthening regional cooperation, particularly in relation to repatriation and rehabilitation of victims.
- Proactive policies to prevent sex selection, child marriage, human trafficking, fake marriage and forced labour.
- Ensuring donor country decisions are informed by the commitments in this plan of action, and by the views of women in the parliaments of recipient countries, and are harmonised and coordinated to ensure fair and equitable delivery of aid.
- Analysis of the impact of globalization on women, in particular international trade rules and policy.
We also call upon AFPPD to support us in this work through:
- Collection and distribution of research, data and practical tools related to women's health, wellbeing and participation in governance.
- Development of a political mentoring scheme for women in governance.
- Continued support for women parliamentarians and continuation of parliamentarians' groups for population and development.
2) Advocacy Capacity Building Workshop on Reproductive Health Commodity Security (RHCS), 12-16 June 2006, Arusha, Tanzania
We the Health Parliamentarians and Senior Government Officials from twelve (12) countries from East and Central Africa namely; Burundi, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Congo Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania including nine (9) Members of the East African Legislative Assembly attending an Advocacy Capacity Building Workshop on Reproductive Health Commodity Security, held between 12-16 June 2006, at the International Conference Centre, Arusha, Tanzania,
Acknowledging the importance of prioritizing reproductive health commodity security as a strategy for meeting our countries' goals for reducing maternal mortality and morbidity and preventing HIVAIDS, as set out in the Plan of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other international, regional and sub-regional agreements;
Accepting that as policy and decision makers we have a responsibility to guide our governments in guaranteeing health for our women, men and children and ensuring commitment towards providing high quality, affordable and sustainable reproductive health care and services at all levels;
Recognizing that family planning, a major component of reproductive health, improves the health of women, children, the family and indeed the community and has helped to reduce the pressures that rapidly growing populations place on economic, social and natural resources;
Realizing that our countries' policies and programmes on reproductive health are still inadequate for providing a secure supply and choice of quality contraceptives and other reproductive health commodities to meet every person's needs at the right time and at the right place;
Aware of the challenges posed by socio cultural and economic factors and poor health care systems in addressing maternal mortality which in most of our countries still ranges between 500-1,500 deaths per 100,000 live births, and thus includes some of the highest maternal mortalities in the world;
Concerned with the deteriorating impact of low contraceptive prevalence rates, high unmet need for family planning services and high incidence of life threatening pregnancy and sexual health related conditions such as the obstetric fistula;
Noting that the adolescent and youth population between 15-24 years contributes to over 30% of our countries' population and is the largest ever cohort of this age group the world has ever known and the consequent high demand for sexual and reproductive health services;
Further concerned with the fact that the devastating impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in our countries has reversed some of the health gains and taken up most of the resources that would have otherwise gone to improving reproductive health services;
Expressing deep concern on the many challenges and constraints that many African countries face including some harmful cultural/traditional practices, poverty, illiteracy, competing priorities for resources, gender disparities, poor quality and accessibility of health care services, limited technical and management skills, etc. that undermine efficiency and delivery of reproductive health services;
Having witnessed the challenges in providing quality reproductive health services and to securing reproductive health commodities including contraceptives while visiting 2 public hospitals and a private health facility; engaging health providers and clients on the availability of commodities; observing the quality and usage of services; as well as observing stock management systems at regional medical supplies department; and discussing the procurement and distribution systems;
Recognizing the importance of the UNFPA Global Strategy on RHCS; UNFPA's leadership role in reproductive health; and it's financial and technical support in guiding sub-regional institutions and countries in establishing RHCS action plans;
Fully aware that the onus is upon us to come up with sustainable national strategies that will respond to the goals of the Global Strategy on Reproductive Health Commodity Security, that are based on contextual country situations and challenges of each country;
Having acquired the necessary advocacy skills through experiential learning, case studies, exercises and knowledge sharing and now being conversant with advocacy concepts, approaches, processes and techniques;
Thank UNFPA, especially it's Country Technical Services Team (CST) in Africa and the East Africa Community (EAC), and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania for organizing this advocacy capacity building workshop that has sharpened our advocacy skills, a critical asset for influencing governments' policies and programmes and ensuring sustained political commitment to reproductive health care services and reproductive health commodity security;
Resolve to become ardent advocates for reproductive health and continuously influence policies and legislation at our level to ensure reproductive health remains a critical factor for alleviating poverty particularly for achieving MDG targets which most of our countries are still far from achieving;
Commit ourselves to follow through and ensure the implementation of the recommendations below and the attached proposals for the way forward.
We therefore urge our governments to do the following:
1. Budget Allocation
- Establish budget line items for RHCS and where it already exists to increase the budget allocations as well as mobilize more resources to ensure the availability of affordable reproductive health commodities.
2. Resource Mobilization
- Encourage consultations and participation of politicians and policy makers in the budget processes to promote more efficient and effective resource allocation thus saving scare resources and increasing impact on poverty eradication.
- Establish National Task Forces to spearhead basket funding mechanisms in which donors put resources together with a view to ensuring that resources are channeled to enhance RHCS as observed in Tanzania. This could reduce/eliminate duplication and ensure that resources are channeled to RHCS.
- Promote accountability and efficient use of available resources through the establishment of transparent monitoring and evaluation systems at all levels.
3. Reproductive Health Policies and Programmes
- Review their reproductive health commodity policies and programs with a view to developing national strategies and plans of action to address RHCS.
- Commit to the implementation of international agreements on reproductive health particularly the ICPD Plan of Action, MDGs and UN Charter on human rights, to ensure that sexual and reproductive health rights are promoted to improve the health of women, children and communities.
- Adopt an integrated RH/HIV/AIDS approach to addressing the increasing demand for reproductive health commodities as well as in addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
- Focus on adolescent health and women's health for addressing threatening reproductive health conditions such as obstetric fistula.
4. Structure and Operational Mechanisms
- Establish mechanisms and systems that could provide relevant information and data on reproductive health for evidence based advocacy activities.
- Establish structures and mechanisms to facilitate implementation of advocacy plans being made for RHCS.
5. Capacity Building
- Build leadership capacity to bring about increased awareness of safe reproductive health choices at community level by ensuring easy access to family planning and other reproductive health services and the availability of commodities including contraceptives, and ensuring that men are adequately involved at all stages.
6. Joint Procurement of Reproductive Health Commodities
- Where feasible countries should adopt rational and joint procurement of reproductive health commodities to improve the affordability and accessibility of quality commodities for all women, men and young people.
In conclusion we wish to reiterate our commitment to improving the health of women, men and young people in our countries and increasing our national resources in support of reproductive health commodity security, as we believe that this will improve the quality of life of our people and ultimately reduce poverty in our respective countries.
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of Congo
East African Legislative Assembly (EAC)
Dated 17th June in the year 2006 at the International Conference Center, Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania.
AGREED-UPON ACTIONS AT COUNTRY LEVEL/WAY FORWARD
1. Meeting of the National Delegations and their respective UNFPA Country Offices to share experiences from the workshop and plan for in-country RHCS Advocacy Activities.
2. Development of in-country advocacy plans which would build on plans already begun at the workshop and will include:
a. Seminar/meeting/workshop for other parliamentarians and key policy makers.
b. Formation of a coalition group to support RHCS/RH activities and establishment or strengthening of the RHCS Coordination within countries.
c. Press releases and other use of the media.
d. Advocating for establishment of budget line for RHCS or the increase of allocation to budget line.
e. Mobilization of constituents to support RHCS initiatives.
f. Mobilization of constituents to increase use of RH services.
g. Mobilization of the private sector and donors to ensure increased funding and support for RHCS and RH.
h. Request for technical assistance when required.
All previous issues of the UNFPA Global Population Policy Update can now be found on UNFPA's website at: http://www.unfpa.org/parliamentarians/news/newsletters.htm .
This newsletter is issued by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in its capacity as secretariat for the biennial International Parliamentarians' Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (IPCI/ICPD). The first IPCI/ICPD was held in November 2002 in Ottawa, Canada and the second in October 2004 in Strasbourg, France. 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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