Statement at Roundtable 2 – Health and Education, MDG Summit

Thank you for this opportunity to join you today. I am privileged to represent civil society which collectively provides some 50 per cent of health services in many developing countries, and in particular, to represent 151 non-government organizations that are members of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, delivering 69 million services a year to communities in 173 countries. These rights-based services provide a continuum of care across the life course. Based on this work, and on a wide range of evidence, we have six recommendations for member states for the next 5 year and beyond.

  • Firstly, we urge you to make gender a priority by investing in MDG3 – in women and girls; their health, education and human rights. Only then can they realize their full potential, lift their families out of poverty and drive development.
  • Secondly, we call on you to invest in the synergies of the health MDGs but also to focus on our target MDG 5b – universal access to reproductive health. This was only added to the MDGs in 2007 because of the specific request of Heads of State at the MDG Summit in 2005. Through those first seven years of the MDGs it was too often overlooked and underfunded, and as a result we lost too many opportunities and too many lives. Comprehensive reproductive health includes family planning, maternal health care, RTI, STI and HIV prevention, treatment and care and the prevention of 250,000 deaths a year to cervical cancer.
  • Thirdly, invest in the prioritization of family planning, a proven modern success story, and one of the most pivotal and cost effective health interventions in health and development, so reducing maternal mortality by at least 40 per cent with an equally dramatic impact on morbidity and child mortality and morbidity. But today 250 million women still lack access to contraception. Yet when women do have access to modern contraception they are more likely to choose more for their children, not more children. As has been mentioned earlier, this in turn impacts on the health and wellbeing of their family, on poverty reduction (OECD Investing in Women and Girls, the Breakthrough Strategy) and in communities’ ability to adapt to climate change
  • Fourth, invest in young people as a priority. Today we have the largest generation of young people ever, but they are largely invisible in the MDGs and this Summit Outcome Document. Not only their future as adults is determined in adolescence but we cannot achieve resilient and sustainable development without investing in their health, education and participation. This requires rights-based youth friendly health services and evidence based policies and programmes that recognize the realities of their lives. Not only does this benefit their health widely by preventing transmission of HIV to their children. Young people living with HIV and those orphaned by HIV have special needs and rights to be addressed.
  • Fifth, invest in quality education especially secondary education, particularly for girls, ensure schools are safe spaces and that all young people have the opportunity, in or out of school for comprehensive sexuality education which integrates HIV prevention, human rights, gender equity and an understanding of sexuality and well-being. This is the bridge between health and education. Only then can we reduce gender based violence and change gender stereotypes so enabling societies to change.
  • Sixth, invest in partnership with civil society who can reach those that governments often cannot reach.

These investments will require society to recognize the inherent value of girls and women as equal to boys and men. They will require urgent joined up action, concrete innovative activities in health and development plans and strengthening of health systems, including recognizing the need for the provision of safe, legal abortion as a key health intervention (‘Package of interventions for Family Planning, Safe Abortion Care, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health’ WHO 2010) in order to prevent the needless deaths of 70,000 women and girls each year, together with recognition of sexual rights to prevent sexual violence and coercion and harmful practices such as Female Genital Mutilation and stigma and discrimination so ensuring that all enjoy the universal right to the highest attainable standard of health. As we have heard, many governments are implementing these investments in meaningful partnership with civil society as demonstrated by Africa’s Maputo Plan of Action. This is reflected in their countries progress towards poverty reduction. We know these six investments work. They are the building blocks for development, social justice, equity and human rights.

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