This week global human rights experts released a report calling for governments to provide greater resources and accountability to ensure reproductive rights.
The report 2016: OLD CHALLENGES, NEW HOPES calls for stronger U.N. leadership and more robust national institutions, including legal mechanisms and citizen participation, to ensure effective implementation of the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health and the realization of women’s human and reproductive rights.
This inaugural report of the UN Secretary General’s Independent Accountability Panel (IAP) tracks accountability for the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health 2016–2030—a roadmap to ending all preventable deaths of women, children and adolescents within a generation and ensuring their well-being.
Said Rebecca Brown, director of Global Advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Although the Sustainable Development Goals have put gender equality and the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all women and girls across the globe at the forefront of development, monitoring and reporting are not enough, we need meaningful action and accountability to ensure these fundamental human rights.
“We commend the Independent Accountability Panel for its leadership and shining a light on the legal obligations of governments to ensure women’s rights.
“It’s time that states work alongside the global health community and human rights advocates to take meaningful action to realize reproductive rights. We cannot afford to leave women and girls behind.”
The IAP report also provides examples of how meaningful citizen engagement can lead to policy reforms and remedies, including citing Nuestro Texas—a campaign designed to shine a spotlight on the real impact Texas women and families in the Rio Grande Valley have faced due to a severe lack of access to reproductive health care. The Nuestro Texas campaign, co-led by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, highlights the importance of centering the voices of those most marginalized in designing and implementing reproductive health policy. The IAP notes that the campaign “illustrates how effective social accountability can be, and how it can work with other remedies to spur political action and ensure care for women.”
“Latinas in South Texas continue to face incredible and, at times, insurmountable barriers to critical reproductive health services,” said Katrina Anderson, interim director of U.S. Human Rights and Foreign Policy at the Center for Reproductive Rights.“The Nuestro Texas campaign shows that when women who are most impacted by harmful policies mobilize to demand change, they can hold lawmakers accountable to human rights standards, shape better reproductive health policy, and improve health outcomes for themselves and their communities.
In September 2015, the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon launched the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health to help further the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals Agenda, and appointed the Every Woman Every Child’s Independent Accountability Panel (IAP).
The IAP report highlights the persisting discrimination and inequalities in access to health services that women, adolescents and children encounter. The report notes the importance of coupling legal accountability mechanisms with systematic monitoring and independent review to identify problems in access to health services and ensure concrete action is taken and change is made—specifically noting that “to transform the conditions that drive ill-health and mortality, accountability cannot be an afterthought.”
The Center has led some of the most important advances in achieving accountability for reproductive rights worldwide. In 2005, the U.N. Human Rights Committee found in the Center’s case of KL v. Peru that the denial of legal abortion services to an adolescent carrying a non-viable fetus constituted a violation of her rights to privacy and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, among other rights. At the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Center secured a historic victory stemming from the preventable maternal death of a young Afro-Brazilian woman who was denied quality maternal health services—the first time an international human rights body named a maternal death a human rights violation. And at the European Court of Human Rights, the Center called upon Poland to ensure adolescents’ reproductive rights after access to a legal abortion for a rape survivor was repeatedly obstructed.