Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen
I am very pleased to be here tonight and to participate in this important side event on sexual and reproductive health and rights and Universal Health Coverage in the Post-2015 Framework. I would like to thank The Danish Family Planning Association and their partners in the Women’s Health and Rights Partnership in South Asia and their East African IPPF sister organisations for organising this event and inviting me to participate.
Health is central to development, and sexual and reproductive health and rights are human rights and play a vital role in human development and poverty eradication. We are dealing with key issues that impact on the lives and well-being of hundreds of millions of people around the world. These issues can be very personal and intimate for each of us, yet they are central to addressing the most pressing global development challenges facing the world today.
The questions that will be discussed during this session are fundamental to all of us. But they are even more important to millions of young people, men and women, who are not here today and who must be remembered when we design the Post-2015 framework.
Their rights to health and their sexual and reproductive rights must be a priority in the new development goals the world sets for itself.
Nearly 20 years ago, these issues were also at the centre of population and sustainable development discussions. The culmination was the visionary and ground-breaking Program of Action, adopted in Cairo at the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994.
Millions of lives have been saved and improved because of ICPD-inspired policies and programs. However, the Cairo Agenda is an unfinished agenda, where much still remains to be implemented in many countries.
As a member of the High Level Task Force for ICPD, my mission is to make sexual and reproductive health and rights a reality for all, and hopefully, to make the case for a more forward-looking and ambitious SRHR-agenda.
SRHR are at the core of human life, whether rich or poor. Whether, when and how many children to have are central choices in life, but this is particularly true for women given their biological and social roles within communities.
We all know that women and adolescent girls, who have control over and can make informed decisions regarding their sexuality and the number, timing and spacing of their children, are:
• Healthier and better educated, as are their children
• Able to participate in the workforce
• Empowered to take on more responsibilities and participate in community activities that contribute to economic and social development
• More likely than men to use family resources in a way that benefits their children and their communities.
The issue of sexual and reproductive health and rights is intrinsically linked to the challenge of empowering women and girls, reducing poverty and maternal and child mortality.
Access, information and services are other critical issues. Currently, there are 222 million women in developing countries that want to prevent pregnancy but are not using modern methods of contraception – resulting in:
• 80 million unplanned pregnancies
• 20 million unsafe abortions
And every day, 2400 young people become infected with HIV and an estimated 448 million new cases of curable sexually transmitted infections occur annually.
Alarming numbers and just a few of the many indisputable arguments that sexual and reproductive health and rights must be part and parcel of the global development efforts (your efforts) also beyond 2015.
Family planning is one of the most cost effective interventions in health and development. Various country studies show that for every dollar spent on family planning, at least US$4 and as much as US$31 can be saved for public budgets. Prevention is the key. Condoms are low-cost and safe abortion is cost-saving. Meanwhile, HIV/AIDS drains health sector systems and budgets, and results in productivity losses and slower economic growth. Up to 50% of hospital budgets for obstetrics are spent on treating complications of unsafe abortions in low and middle income countries.
As SRHR advocates we also need to bring these economically sound arguments to the table, and not just the SRHR friendly tables. We need to build and capitalize on what has already been achieved.
We need to influence the UN-process for the post-2015 Development Agenda, to ensure that sexual and reproductive health and rights are a reality for all and placed where it rightfully belongs, at the heart of sustainable development.
As part of our efforts to ensure that sexual and reproductive health and rights are squarely addressed in the post 2015 framework, there is a need to discuss HOW? Universal Health Coverage has been suggested. You are here to debate pro’s and con’s and to share your insight. Unfortunately, I am unable to stay for the duration of this session but I am looking forward to hear your recommendations as to whether Universal Health Coverage is the best way to bring forward the Cairo Agenda.