Youth and Women’s Groups Respond to Secretary General’s MDG Report

Today, women’s groups and youth advocates sent two separate letters to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon outlining their vision for global development in 2015 and beyond. The letters were sent in response to the secretary general’s recently released report, “A life of dignity for all: accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and advancing the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015.”

The youth letter, endorsed by 64 organizations representing young people including IWHC, which co-drafted the letter, welcomed the report’s call for “full access to basic health services and sexual and reproductive education, the realization of reproductive health and rights, and intensified efforts to reach the most vulnerable women and children.” The report fell short, however, by not acknowledging the “unique needs and rights of young people and adolescents in relation to sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality and meaningful participation.”

The letter specifically calls for:

  • Universal access to comprehensive, youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health information, education, and services for young people and adolescents with respect for their human rights, and with an emphasis on equity and respect for diversity;
  • Universal access to comprehensive sexuality education to enable adolescent girls and boys to understand and make informed decisions about their sexuality and plan their lives, and to promote values of respect for human rights, tolerance, gender equality and non-violence; and
  • The establishment of a mechanism for youth leadership at all levels and in all types of decision-making, and the meaningful participation of youth organizations in the design of development programs and policies.

IWHC also codrafted the Women’s Major Group letter, which represents 500 women’s organizations from around the world. The letter found the report lacking “specifically with respect to gender equality, sexual and reproductive rights and health, peace and security and economic transformation.” Their findings:

  • The Women’s Major Group suggests replacing the report’s call for “empowering women and girls,” with a “stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s human rights in the post 2015 development agenda, including elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.” It also recommends goals and targets that specifically address women’s rights, such as the elimination of violence against women.
  • Sexual rights? The Women’s Major Group noted the report called for “sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights” instead of “sexual and reproductive health and rights,” which encompasses “holistic and comprehensive and good quality sexual and reproductive health services, including safe abortion, contraception, maternity care, and prevention and treatment of STIs and HIV and comprehensive sexuality education.” The group calls for the inclusion of sexual rights in the report.
  • While the report notes links between peace, development and women’s empowerment, the report lacked connections between these issues. The letter notes: “Gender equality and women’s right to full and equal participation in decision-making, including in peace processes, is intrinsic to peace, security and sustainable development. We urge all relevant UN bodies and Member States to recognize the connections between the Women, Peace and Security agenda and the Post-2015 processes, and to ensure that discussions of the Open Working Group and other relevant processes reflect this in their work.”
  • Finally, the letter notes the report does not acknowledge the impact struggling economies have on women. Without suggesting a “transformative” approach to overhauling these economies, they will continue to exploit poor and marginalized women. The Women’s Major Group wrote: “A post 2015 framework can only deliver a new vision if it revisits how economies are sustained and who does and does not have access to and is able to benefit from economic resources. We would particularly want to call for a shift in economic power, opportunities and entitlements in favour of the poor and marginalized, especially women and girls.”

On September 25, a Special Event “to follow up efforts made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals” will be held during the UN General Assembly. Advocates will be watching and participating in the hopes that these issues will be addressed.

UPDATE: This post has been amended to reflect an additional number of signatories to the youth letter.

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