SRHR need to be at the core of EU politics

I am very delighted to start leading with Sophie in’t Veld this important, even vital group. As a former development minister of Finland I am shocked that in poor countries the number one death cause for girls between 15-19 years is pregnancies and complications in birth.

We can’t reach sustainable development before women and girls have equal rights to decide on their own body and to receive health services. To be able to decide on your own body is also a human rights issue.

Women have to be able to decide themselves of how many children they give birth. This gives more chances for children to be able to go to school and therefore it is vital for the success of the whole society and for the equality between men and women. Women must have equal opportunities to participate in, and to give their full contribution to all spheres of life.

We are in the Parliament in a key position to safeguard that the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women are ensured – to save women’s lives, and to enable them to realize their full potential. We have to fight for putting SRHR in the core of EU politics and especially of development politics.

I for example worked hard for this in the Finnish government as Minister for International Development. Despite of budget cuts we increased substantially our funding to UNFPA, UNWOMEN and UNICEF. For example we managed to be the number one donor for UNWOMEN.

This year the total allocation to UNFPA is 45 million euro, making Finland the third biggest donor. We had a good cooperation with Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. We also support directly health services to women and girls in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen.

The current challenges in the European engagement in development cooperation

A positive sign is that despite of the debt crisis, the EU collective ODA increased to 56.5 billion euros in 2013 from 55.3 billion in 2012. In 2012 there was a cut compared to 2011. Unfortunately the ODA remained to 0.43 percent of EU gross national income.

The EU has maintained its position as the biggest global ODA donor accounting to again for over half of the total ODA to developing countries.

But this remains still far from the agreed collective target 0.7 percent next year. Estimates show that the collective EU ODA would be only 0.45 percent in 2015. This is shameful! To reach 0.7 percent we would need to mobilise an additional amount of approximately 41.3 billion euros.

Even if mobilising other resources (as the domestic funds through taxes) is important, it is a huge problem that the development targets can’t be reached with the current ODA input.

Sadly the member states performance is very mixed. In 2013 16 member states increased their aid, but 12 Member States did decrease it. And this just before the important year 2015. Only four member states (Sweden, Luxemburg, Denmark and UK) met or exceeded the 0.7 percent target.

At the same time there is a process in OECD/DAC of defining ODA in a new way. We have to be careful not to dilute the definition.

EU role in securing resources for family planning/reproductive health/HIV/AIDS

SRHR are crucial for saving lives, promoting global health and eradicating poverty. They represent a cost effective investment essential to achieving sustainable human development.

For every euro spent on international family planning efforts, governments save up to 23 euros on health, water, education and housing.

Increasing health expenditure by less than 4 euros per person per year could prevent the deaths of 147 million children,  5 million women and 32 million still birth. And thus result in economic and social benefits worth up to 9 times that investment by 2035.

The EU and European governments must, despite the past years economic crisis, ensure maintained and increased commitments to the development cooperation budgets.

Fortunately the past years have seen a maintained or even slight increase in funding for SRHR from the European countries.  Most has gone UNFPA. We should address also the demand generating activities, such as the more basic social services.

However the need for more funding is huge. According to the most recent estimates meeting the unmet need for maternal health and family planning is estimated to require an increase in total global expenditure of 12.8 billion US dollars.

Currently the EC spends an estimated 121.5 million euros per year on maternal health and family planning, equivalent to approximately 1.3 percent of this funding gap. Nevertheless this money has prevented in 2013 19,500 new-born deaths.

We need to work together to meet this funding gap and save lives.

We in the in the EP must make sure the development budgets for the EU is increased and funding for family planning and maternal health is earmarked and cuts prevented. Additionally we must see that SRHR is promoted in all the EU’s cooperation with third parties.

This brings to me to the most important global process at the moment: Post 2015.

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in the post-2015 framework at EU and international level

I fear that promoting gender equality and a rights based approach to development is constantly under attack.

EU has to ensure that sexual and reproduction health and rights of girls and women are among the new post 2015 sustainable development goals decided next year.

The next important step is the UN General Secretary’s report in November. It is going to be based on the report of the Open Working Group. This is a good starting point, as it contains good language on sexual and reproductive health. But we need more, as the rights part is missing.

The sexual rights were missing also in the Secretary General’s report last year. This is truly sad, as the High Level Panel Report the same year had better wording on this.

Now EU has to continue in pushing the whole SRHR agenda in the new goals, including sexual rights. This means also reaching out to other regions and countries.

We in the EP have to push the Council to adopt progressive council conclusions in December.

We need to continue our work until rights of women and girls are globally respected. No more cases like the Chibok girls under the attack of Boko Haram.

As the “I Decide” campaign states: The leaders across the world must support sexual and reproductive health and rights so that everyone can decide what happens to their body, who they live with and the size of their families.