Last week, the U.N. Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals met for the last time, after a total of 13 meetings over 18 months. It was a grueling marathon negotiation that went through the wee hours on Friday and culminated in a final agreed-upon document on Saturday afternoon.
All parties agreed to the compromise document, which was stewarded by the capable, patient and clear-headed OWG co-chairs from Kenya and Hungary. We at PAI are grateful to the strong presence of ally countries as well as key advocates as part of the Women’s Major Group that pulled an all-nighter to achieve an adopted document with 17 goals and 170 targets. While compromise did prevail over consensus, the final product has a lot that we can be proud of and is a solid step in defining the post-2015 agenda.
What does the OWG final report have on sexual and reproductive health and rights?
The adopted document includes sexual and reproductive health under the goals for both Health AND Gender:
3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages and goal
Target 3.7 “by 2030 ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes”
5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Target 5.6 “ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the ICPD and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences”
As you may remember, the draft entering the negotiation had omitted sexual and reproductive health from the health goal. We’re glad to see the reference restored and even expanded by drawing upon language in paragraph 145 of the outcome document of the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio + 20), The Future We Want.
We’re also pleased to see that a stand-alone climate goal made it into the final document, with reference to “focusing on women, youth, local and marginalized communities.” With more than 20 mentions of women, there has been a concerted effort to mainstream gender across the goals. PAI and other civil society groups are in strong support of that initiative and keen to see it continued in the next stage of the process.
However, there is still more work to be done. Despite strong advocacy on the part of the Women’s Major Group and an impressive statement of support from 58 member states, full inclusion of sexual and reproductive health and rights, comprehensive sexuality education, and population dynamics were all left out of the OWG’s adopted draft. In the coming stages of the post-2015 process, we will all need to strive to see these key issues given consideration.
What happens next?
The answer is somewhere between “it depends” and “wait and see.” The Co-chairs will formally present this document to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in the coming month. The level at which the Secretary General’s office chooses to adopt this report as the baseline for full negotiations starting sometime after Septembers U.N. General Assembly meeting is unclear. There are basically three possible scenarios:
1. This is considered the baseline for negotiations, without any revisions or synthesis.
2. This is adopted as a baseline for discussion but with an incorporation of further edits and perspectives.
3. Negotiations take place from a broad starting point, with this report and others serving as suggested guidelines and references.
The OWG’s proposal represents a positive step in the right direction. Looking toward the next steps in the post-2015 development process, it’s time to call on the U.N. Secretary General and the General Assembly to be bolder and go further. To be the aspirational and transformative agenda we all seek, the post-2015 framework must prioritize universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights as fundamental to gender equality, human rights, health, and well-being.
Timeline of the Post-2015 process: