As the dust settles on an exciting United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly, I finally have an opportunity to reflect on all that went down last week, and what it means for the post-2015 development process moving forward.
In short: some successes, some missed opportunities, and a whole lot more left to decide. Earlier this week, I took part in a panel sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Center Environment Change and Security program on “Three Great Ideas That Weren’t on the UNGA Agenda.” If you missed that discussion, here’s my take on the top five most important conversations taking place around sexual and reproductive rights, climate change, and what comes next:
- Can’t we all just get along (and in the same room?) Andrew Revkin hit the nail on the head with his article titled “On the Path Past 9 Billion, Little Crosstalk Between U.N. Sessions on Population and Global Warming.” While an estimated 400,000 people from around the world gathered along Central Park on Sunday morning in the largest climate march in history, (including hundreds of nurses calling for action to prevent the health impacts of climate they are already seeing every day), there was little cross-sectoral discussion happening within the U.N. building itself. A special session on the anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development took place on Monday and the Climate Summit took place on Tuesday—in the same room, but with different staff, speeches, and agendas that reflected little to no integrated thinking on women’s health and climate change. This is a shame, because we know—and even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change acknowledges—that access to family planning is a key climate resilience strategy.
- People are speaking up, but will world leaders listen? Ideas around how to address goals around sexual and reproductive health and climate change in an integrated way are percolating from a strong and growing contingent of voices outside of the U.N. Bob Engleman of the Worldwatch Institute and leading demographer Wolfgang Lutz are highlighting “the obvious relationship between climate and family planning – and why we don’t talk about it” and the need for a “population policy for sustainable development.”
- How do we make sure women are included in developing responses to climate change? It was immensely exciting to see climate change taken up by countless heads of state at the Climate Summit last week. At an event hosted by the Mary Robinson Foundation and U.N. Women, Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet highlighted that women are 14 times more vulnerable than men to climate-related disasters, and asserted that more women need seats at the table for climate policy. But, at PAI we know that in order to ensure that ALL women are able to move up the ranks, stay in school, and be vocal advocates for their needs in the face of climate change, we need to be fulfilling their right to comprehensive sexuality education, and give them real contraceptive choices.
- How do we measure progress? U.N. agencies are quietly taking on the task of applying measurable indicators to the Open Working Group’s framework for the post-2015 development goals. There is creative thinking about what data is available, and how we might best apply indicators to measure and achieve the outlined targets. The good news? They are talking across sectors. Last week, PAI convened a conversation with the Population & Sustainable Development Alliance around how to take evidence-based stories from the population-health-environment (PHE) community the national stage, and to apply what they’ve learned to a strategy for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.The answer seems to lie in the indicators. We must have proper incentives to think in an integrated fashion, and value measuring the impact of integrated change. Alongside UNEP and UNFPA, we must be empowering decision-makers with the evidence to inform bold choices. This is a challenge, but one that our global collective is up for.
- How do we ensure integrated solutions in what’s next? We need governance and we need policies. We need to bring integrated local projects to scale. That requires global and national support. With the General Assembly over, we await the Secretary General’s synthesis report, which is expected in November. Until then, a good start would be grabbing coffee with the colleague in the next cubicle over. You just might find out he is trying the tackle some of the same tough questions, and two heads are often better than one.