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Beyond the millennium development goals.

MAY 28, INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ACTION FOR WOMEN'S HEALTH For the Full Exercise of the Right to Health, Sexual Rights and Reproductive Rights

In the context of the fifth anniversary of the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were approved in September 2000 at the United Nation's Millennium Summit, the Latin American and Caribbean Women's Health Network launched the 2005 Call for Action for May 28, International Day of Action for Women's Health: "Women of the Third Millennium: For the Full Exercise of the Right to Health, Sexual Rights and Reproductive Rights--Beyond the Millennium Development Goals." With this call for action, LACWHN has set the following objectives as its own goals: to encourage a critical and analytical approach to the MDGs and their objectives; to advocate for the incorporation of gender and human rights in all governmental actions; to defend women's advances in human rights, citizenship and gender equality in the last decade, issues missing from or glossed over in the Millennium Declaration and the MDGs.

Approved at a summit without participation or input from civil society of any sort, the Millennium Development Goals establish quantifiable priorities for world action to be undertaken by each government with donor support. Their aim is to combat the rising levels of poverty that plague the planet and to ensure sustainable development for the entire world.

The eight basic Goals are:

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;

2. Achieve universal primary education;

3. Promote gender equality and women's empowerment;

4. Reduce child mortality;

5. Improve maternal health;

6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other sicknesses;

7. Ensure environmental sustainability;

8. Develop a global partnership for development.

This is clearly a positive--and technically impeccable--proposition, designed to resolve crucial contemporary problems such as the hunger and poverty that millions of human beings face, most of them women and children; the persistence of maternal and child mortality and morbidity in underdeveloped countries; and the expansion of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and increasing rates of transmission among women and adolescents. Nonetheless, the MDGs fail to incorporate explicitly the most significant conceptual advances for the promotion and recognition of the right to health, sexual rights and reproductive rights of women (and of the population as a whole), which were achieved in the international conferences of the 1990s. Specifically, the agreements from the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994) and the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995) addressed the issues that affect the living conditions and health of women and the general population from a comprehensive perspective.

Because the Millennium Development Goals fail to incorporate the aspect of gender in all the Goals and because gender equality is not recognized as an essential step in achieving the MDGs, they are a step backwards. Only Goal 3 explicitly calls for the promotion of gender equality and women's empowerment, and this Goal focuses only on access to education, an essential step but far from being the only change needed to ensure women's autonomy and power to make decisions about their lives.

The total absence of all aspects relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights is especially worrying. The MDGs have returned to a focus on mother and child health, an old system that was discarded as obsolete long ago. Indeed, the socioeconomic, cultural and political conditions in our societies are completely glossed over by the MDGs, but these factors are crucial determinants of women's and girls' health.

Nor is there any discussion in the MDGs of countries' failure to adopt and implement legal mechanisms to ensure that women enjoy the same legal rights as men in the areas of health, the workplace, in economic and educational opportunity and in politics. Women's status as second-class citizens has prevented them from obtaining the benefits of development. Additionally, the MDGs fail to address the current world context in which fundamentalist religious forces and neoliberal economic models impede women's full exercise of their rights as citizens. A commitment to the promotion and defense of human rights is also lacking in the MDGs. Nor do the Goals explicitly call for peace among all peoples.

Critical Analysis

The women's movement has examined the political process that has developed around the MDGs and the official discourse from governments, donor agencies and international organizations expressing a strong commitment to the Goals. We realize that many organizations of civil society view working on the MDGs as a necessary source of funding at a time in which international cooperation is increasingly restricted. We call for a reinterpretation of the MDGs from a perspective based on rights, equality and gender.

The women's movement also demands the incorporation of issues of crucial importance for women, as well as the concepts contained in the ICPD Programme of Action and the Beijing Platform for Action and their successive follow-up processes (ICPD+5, +10, Beijing+5, +10). The Millennium Development Goals will only be achieved by implementing the agreements from Cairo and Beijing, historical landmarks in the struggle for women's equality, equity and social justice.

The ethical and political commitment to women, the defense of health as a universal right of all citizens, and the reaffirmation of the paradigm of sexual and reproductive health, sexual rights and reproductive rights established at Cairo and re-enforced and broadened at Beijing, are non-negotiable issues on the agenda of the women's movement. The official evaluation of the MDGs' progress at the five-year mark will culminate with a meeting of high-ranking officials of the United Nations in September 2005. In this evaluation process, the governments involved must listen to women's demands. These concerns are shared by many other sectors, organizations, a few governments that are sensitive to these issues, and even the UN agencies responsible for the Millennium Project, whose report "Investing in Development" maintains that broadening access to sexual and reproductive health services and information can contribute significantly to the achievement of the MDGs. The inclusion of sexual and reproductive health in the MDGs will be a priority demand in the document to be discussed and approved in September 2005, particularly in light of the Cairo Consensus that promises to guarantee sexual and reproductive health for all by the year 2015.

The Latin American and Caribbean Women's Health Network encourages member groups and allies to undertake actions that invite reflection on the MDGs or to develop advocacy campaigns to encourage government officials and members of parliament to take actions for women's health beyond the MDGs. At the same time, United Nations officials must be urged to reconceptualize the MDGs in keeping with the paradigms set forth at the Cairo and Beijing conferences, including the sexual and reproductive health and rights as detailed in the five-year revisions of Cairo and Beijing.

To provide our readers with more information about these issues, we have included several useful documents in this focus section: an English-language translation of the CLADEM position paper, WEDO's Information and Action Guide, and an article by Ana Maria Pizarro, member of the LACWHN Board of Directors and Executive Director of SI Mujerin Nicaragua. Upcoming issues of the Women's Health Journal will feature more news on this important topic.
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Publication:Women's Health Journal
Date:Jan 1, 2005
Previous Article:Support for Latinas in the U.S.
Next Article:The Beijing platform for action: a crucial foundation for achieving the millennium development goals.

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