CSO Joint Statement on the occasion of the Midterm Review of the 2013 Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Population and Development
 
 INTRODUCTION

More than 52 civil society organizations (CSOs) from 24 Asia and the Pacific countries convened for the CSO forum “Charting the way forward: Progress Gaps, and Actions” in advance of the mid-term review (MTR) of the 2013 Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Population and Development (APMDPD) from the  6th Asian and the Pacific Population conference (6APPC) and International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action (PoA) in Asia-Pacific in Bangkok on 24-25 November 2018.

The Forum discussed the progress towards the implementation of the 6APPC and ICPD PoA, gaps as well as challenges as it relates to globally and in the context of Asia and the Pacific.  The Forum culminated in this joint statement that has strong recommendations to the member states and delegates at the MTR of the 6APPC.

Various constituencies represented at the forum included women and girls, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) people, migrants, young people and adolescents, aging, people living with and affected by HIV, people with disabilities, rural people, indigenous and tribal peoples.

 

REVIEW OF PROGRESS

There has been significant progress in terms of policies that promote sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) across the Asia and Pacific region. Implementation of SRHR policies still continues to be a challenge, especially in regards to marginalized and vulnerable groups such as women, adolescents and young people living in urban slums, rural areas, hard to reach places, persons with disabilities, migrants, stateless and ethnic minorities, indigenous and tribal peoples, people who use drugs, sex workers,  people living with and affected by HIV and people of diverse gender identities/expressions, sexual orientations and sex characteristics (SOGIESC).

Structural problems in the government, inadequate human, financial and material resources, centralization of the services, limited capacity of the government agencies to operationalize human rights-based policies, and curative framework of the health care system, lack of disaggregated data often lead to implementation gap. Some of the persistent impediments pertain to patriarchal ideology, violence, stigma and discrimination, regressive policy and legislation, lack of accountability and monitoring mechanisms.

 

We call on our governments and duty bearers to take the following actions:

1.    Review, repeal and amend laws and policies that restrict the fulfilment of Universal access to SRHR including services, information and education.

2.    Ensure an enabling environment through enactment and enforcement of laws and policies to address SRHR issues of marginalized and vulnerable groups. Promote and facilitate the participation of these groups in leadership and decision-making positions.

3.    Ensure universal access to SRHR information and services using a continuum of quality care through the life cycle approach. This includes access to the full range of contraceptives services, maternal health services including emergency obstetric care, safe abortion and post-abortion care, HIV, STIs and reproductive cancers for all. This should address the needs of especially young, unmarried, adolescents and LGBTIQ.

4.    Institutionalize a mechanism for regular capacity building of key stakeholders including statistical, finance, justice and other relevant departments on gender sensitive approach and SRHR.

5.    Ensure respect for women, informed decision making, autonomy, confidentiality and privacy in the provision of safe abortion services. Expand laws and policies to reduce unsafe abortions and increase access to safe abortion as well as provide post abortion care.

6.    Increase national investment and enhance capacities of providers for Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) to ensure availability and accessibility of rights-based information.

7.    SRHR policy-making and programming must be evidence based and supported by ethical, gender-sensitive and country-specific research with strong inter-linkages to ICPD, and Agenda 2030.

8.    Eliminate all forms of multiple intersecting sexual and gender-based discrimination and violence including intimate partner and non-partner violence, violence perpetuated against LGBTIQ

 

EMERGING ISSUES AND GAPS

The Asia-Pacific region is at the forefront of experiencing extreme climate change events and disasters. This has increased in frequency and intensity in recent years, and disproportionately impacts women, girls and marginalized groups. SRHR is often neglected in the context of climate change and humanitarian responses.

 

We call on our governments and duty bearers to take the following actions:

1.    Ensure the collection, availability and use of high-quality data, disaggregated by sex, age, gender, disabilities, geographical settings, ethnicity, religion, marital, economic status, migrant and social status, on the impact of humanitarian situations in order to promote effective policy-making for enhanced disaster preparedness and management as well as effective implementation.

2.    Strengthen regulations and policies to halt global carbon dioxide, greenhouse gas emissions without resorting to geo-engineering and other techno-fixes to protect livelihoods. Where countries can no longer support the lives of people due to adverse changes in their circumstances and environment resulting from climate change, the policies should ensure survival and adaptation of migrants with dignity and according to human rights based standards.

3.    Address inequalities through the formulation of policies for enhancing mobility, resilient human settlements to address the impact of climate change and disasters.

4.    Regulations should ensure corporate and government entities are accountable to actions that increase degradation of the environment. They should promote environmentally friendly practices and ensure the publishing of regular environmental impact assessments, especially in high risk areas and industries.

5.    Ensure that human rights and SRHR of marginalized and vulnerable populations, receive increased attention during the humanitarian response to crisis and post-crisis situations through access to timely, safe, high-quality, gender sensitive, affordable and comprehensive information and services.

6.    Integrate SRHR, including minimum initial service package (MISP) and prevention and response to GBV into disaster risk management mechanisms at country level.

7.    Recognize and promote local and traditional knowledge on mitigation and adaptation.

8.    Disseminate information on climate change and disasters in local languages.

9.    Ensure public participation in environment and climate change related decisions.

 

The reliance on private sector and external funding that allow States to shift the burden and responsibility of Universal Health Care (UHC) to the private sector is alarming. Combined with lack of regulatory mechanism this perpetuates corruption and capitalization of health resources and commodities. The lack of transparent and accountable health financing structures exacerbate the non-alignment of national policies with resource allocation. 

 

We call on our governments and duty bearers to take the following actions:

10.  Health financing policy frameworks need to be redesigned/created and aligned with health priorities, keeping in mind a rights-based perspective to encourage an enablingenvironment to ensure health financing for marginalized and vulnerable groups.

11.  Conduct assessment of the specific health needs, including SRHR, of marginalized and vulnerable populations to ensure appropriate resource allocation in national budgets

12.  Engage CSOs in the review and development of budgets. Independent Monitoring Bodies with CS representation must be appointed/created to evaluate health allocation and budget expenditure.

13.  Provide technical support for countries, particularly low and middle-income countries to scale-up access to essential medicines by maximizing utilization of the flexibilities under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the Doha Declaration.

In many countries in Asia and the Pacific, spaces for CSOs, Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and whistle blowers are shrinking; those who dare to make a stand against injustice and defend human rights are under attack. 

 

We call on our governments and duty bearers to take the following actions:

14.  Promote, protect, respect human rights of CSOs and all human rights defenders to ensure safe and enabling environment for all.

15.  Institute, protect, and strengthen the implementation of whistle-blower policies.  Ensure effective grievance redressal mechanisms are in place.

16.  CSO registration and renewal should be transparent, simple, and according to human rights standards.

17.  Ensure meaningful spaces for CSOs and human rights defenders in decision making processes at all levels including local, national, regional and global.

 

ACCOUNTABILITY AND MONITORING

Critical dimensions of sustainable development are poorly or not measured at all in most countries.  This includes critical issues such as the extent of stigma or discrimination, the quality of education, access to health care among adolescents and youth, the quality of health care, and spatial inequalities. In the absence of a uniform data collection mechanisms to capture such qualitative and disaggregated data, planning and addressing the needs of marginalized and vulnerable populations becomes impossible.

True accountability requires robust, transparent, participatory and well monitored mechanisms. Reminding Member States of their commitments towards regular monitoring and evaluation by relevant national authorities of progress towards the continuing implementation of PoA of ICPD and its related follow up outcomes, we recommend:

 

We call on our governments and duty bearers to take the following actions:

1.    Ensure all national policies are inclusive and non-discriminatory and sensitive to the rights of all, to uphold the highest standard of human rights, including SRHR.

2.    Create and strengthen mechanisms to empower communities to demand the accountability of governments in the implementation of the APMDPD and ICPD PoA.

3.    Develop and implement a rigorous rights-based and qualitative regional indicator framework for tracking the commitments of 6APPC, beyond Agenda 2030 indicators.

4.    Evaluate national frameworks and indicators to ensure alignment with the ICPD PoA and APMDPD commitments. Frameworks should include qualitative indicators and be amended as appropriate.

5.    Strengthen national data collection and statistical bodies to collect data disaggregated by sex, age, gender, disabilities, geographical settings, ethnicity, religion, economic, marital, social and migrant status.

6.    Provide adequate financial and human resources and regular capacity building to enhance collection, analysis and dissemination of data and statistics.

7.    Establish an effective partnership between governments and CSOs to develop regular country progress reports on regional and national commitments pertaining to ICPD and APMDPD. These progress reports should be translated into local languages and shared through public domain for dissemination.

8.    Regulate the private sector through development of robust and transparent regulatory frameworks to strengthen accountability.

9.    The right to information should be instituted, promoted and protected in all countries.

Joint Statement on the Occasion of the 50th Commission on Population and Development

On behalf of Family Planning New Zealand (ECOSOC) and the Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

Delivered by Ann Brassil, Family Planning New South Wales, Australia 

 

Excellencies, honourable delegates, fellow advocates and activists.

Thank you for the opportunity to read this joint statement, on behalf of Family Planning New Zealand and with the Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, a regional network with 28 members that mobilizes civil society advocacy to ensure accountability for obligations and commitments that aim to realize sexual and reproductive health and rights for all persons.

The theme of this year’s CPD is particularly pertinent to our region, Asia Pacific, as the region with the greatest cohort of young people in the world[1].

It is only with enactment of laws, policies and programmes that embody a universal respect for human rights and gender equality, enabling people to reach their full potential, that our region can harness the potential of the demographic dividend and achieve equitable and just sustainable development. 

Young people, in particular, must have access to comprehensive sexuality education and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health information and services, which address barriers including discrimination, stigma and lack of confidentiality.

It also entails addressing inequalities in access, and enabling and recognizing the needs of marginalized populations, including women and girls, people living with HIV, LGBTIQ, sex workers, indigenous peoples and migrants, amongst others.

We wish to emphasize the importance of respecting the outcomes of the ICPD regional reviews, and building on these commitments in the upcoming mid-term reviews in 2018.  We call on Member States to enable the meaningful participation of CSOs, and acknowledge the importance of the inclusion of civil society perspectives and data as crucial to the success of the review process.

Finally, we close by commending the leadership recently shown by a number of countries around the globe that have prioritized and made financial commitments to address the denial of access to safe and legal abortion, and to ensuring that women and girls have control over all aspects of their sexuality free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. We call for governments from all regions to join them, and we encourage support for UNFPA.

Thank You.



[1] Asia Pacific is home to 60% of the world’s young people. See:  http://www.unescap.org/our-work/social-development/youth

Spotlight on a Member: ARI

Interview with Prameswari Puspa Dewi, National Coordinator of Aliansi Independen Remaja (ARI), a youth-run organization based in Indonesia, and APA member.  ARI collaborated with APA in the production of the Indonesia country policy brief “Advancing Sexual Rights Through the Sustainable Development Goals."   

ARI has also just collaborated with partners in the production of a shadow report for Indonesia’s review through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.  The Shadow Report’s message is education can shapes culture, hence legislation, therefore building strong state protection for young people and diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. 

The report looks like a clear success for championing Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), how do you feel?

 Since the beginning of 2016, young people in Indonesia  have felt worried about our future. Conservative groups are growing stronger and stronger now. So ARI, as a representative of young people, got involved in writing this UPR shadow report together with our partners.

I feel really satisfied with the results of what we wrote.  We worked in collaboration and strengthened youth-adult partnership within our alliance.  As this was the first time to engage with the UPR, it was a challenge, especially to find the right language when writing the report.

How was ARI selected to shadow report?

At first we were not familiar with the UPR or who usually wrote shadow reports, but ARI got involved in an alliance called One Vision Alliance and was invited to contribute to the UPR report from a youth rights perspective.

Why did ARI choose to engage with this process of working on UPR Shadow Report?

  • The UPR process can help us with national advocacy, such as advocacy with the Ministry of Education to ensure they include CSE in the national curriculum.  We can assure them that education really helps young people and protects us.
  • It is a unique opportunity and a learning process for young people to develop writing skills for “serious” reporting, which we can utilize in the future.
  • We strengthened our network within the alliance, as a youth-led organization that possesses the skills as youth advocates. Sometimes, young people are still looked on as a complement, rather than the main actors for advocacy.

What are the advantages of the UPR Shadow reporting process?

As young people, and a volunteer-based organization, we learnt a lot from the many experts that shared their knowledge. For instance, we learnt that we should have a security system in place when we are advocating on sensitive issues in Indonesia such as sexuality.

Are there any lessons learned from the process that they could share with others?

We learnt that it’s really important to document any events that harm/support our issues and always follow up on the event. Previously, when events have happened we have protested, but lost the “moment” for documentation and follow up.

CSE was mentioned a lot in the report, but the position of the teachers seems to be stagnant (i.e. the teachers are generally not interested in teaching the CSE). This is not new for young activist globally. Culturally there are adverse feelings about sexuality education, how does ARI envision meaningful changes to the educational environment and the attitude of the teaching staff?

We would like teaching staff to be more youth friendly and sensitive to diversity, not only as a teacher but the entire education system needs to be improved. Teachers need to be our allies, to be involved and ensure that young people in schools can get comprehensive and accurate education about sexuality. Similarly, we need to engage with the Ministry of Education so that they take the decision to have CSE integrated in our curriculum.

Meaningful change for us is about how the education environment can ensure behaviour changes on young people’s SRHR.  

Currently our partners, Rutgers WPF Indonesia and IPPA, are trying to test CSE in schools from kindergarten onwards.

What’s the public’s opinion of CSE for young people?

There is still some stigma regarding CSE, that the word ‘sexuality’ isn’t appropriate for teaching. On the other hand, after many cases of sexual abuse, rape, and other forms of violence, communities are beginning to agree that young people and children need reproductive health subjects.

Based your shadow report, and the news reports such as this one from the TIMES. Is there a particular piece of legislation that you would like to see the state work on immediately?

We want legislators to focus on making gender equality legislation, and protection for access to sexual and reproductive health services and CSE for young people. But I think we need to work harder now with the current political situation.

How open is the President and the parliamentarians to the changes of the SRHR community? Do you think you have more official allies that those who are against the provision of these rights?

After the backlash against LGBT since the beginning of 2016, many negative statements have come from parliamentarians and ministries. Psychiatrists also made statements which make life more difficult for LGBT people.  And this is the updated news from our country.

Let’s grade the Government! A B C D and F- Fail for the different categories below:

  • Education (CSE)  C
  • Legislation (to protect youth SRHR and sexual diversity)  D
  • Political Will (to make changes happen)  C
  • Cultural and Religious willingness (to dialogue and compromise)  D
  • Government Investment (Is the budget looking favorable for SRHR)?  C

What are the next steps for ARI and what do you expect the response to be from the state?

Our next step is to collaborate with our partners and alliances to increase awareness within society about SRHR. We want the voices from society and young people to be heard by government through our advocacy. We expect the government to be supportive and more progressive after hearing about the needs of young people.

 

The World is Watching You 

This blog was originally published as part of a series organized by the Action for Sustainable Development platform, for the occasion of the global High Level Political Forum in July 2016, at the UN in New York.

Governments from around the world are discussing how to ensure the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be truly transformative. One of the key tenets to this comprehensive, far-reaching and people-centred global agenda is ‘accountability’ for the commitments – a word long avoided by many Member States. True accountability embodies the human rights principles of participation, equality and non-discrimination.

Civil Society is crucial to building accountability

The role of civil society is crucial to building accountability and in the achievement of Agenda 2030. Civil society has transformative power and proven positive effects on development towards building peaceful and prosperous societies. Civil society plays a vital role in reaching out to, and defending the human rights of marginalised groups such as sex workers, people of diverse sexualities and gender orientations, migrants and others, and must be seen as enablers in helping governments achieve their promise of “reaching the furthest behind first”.

But, at a time when civil society engagement and participation is most needed, civil society is experiencing increasing pressure, reduced funding, and shrinking space. The recently passed UN Human Rights Council resolution on the protection of civil society space recognises the deepening challenges facing civil society globally, emphasizing the need for an enabling environment. A new essay published by Civicus identifies the specific threats faced by women human rights defenders, in particular, due to the nature of their work which includes challenging norms relating to reproductive rights, sexuality, freedom of expression, or the right to dress a certain way.

Regional Spaces for mobilization and cooperation

Civil society needs safe space to mobilize and generate new ideas. Regional platforms can provide space for activists to support the work that is being done at national level, and to jointly strategise based on sharing of successes, gaps and challenges. For example, at a recent South East Asia and the Pacific regional caucus “SDGS and the Fulfillment of Sexual Rights for Women and Girls” civil society activists shared priorities for accountability to SDGS and ensuring that vulnerable groups are not excluded, pinpointing key recommendations for the HLPF. This shows how working together on through different platforms can have key results.

Another regional space where civil society engagement must be promoted and supported are the regional inter-governmental review processes. In Asia Pacific, a Regional Civil Society Engagement Mechanism is gaining momentum as the primary interface for engagement with the ESCAP and governments in the fulfillment of Agenda 2030. Yet, at the Forum on Sustainable Development in April 2016, civil society were marginalized and their presence and contributions challenged.

Addressing the Gaps in Agenda 2030

While Agenda 2030 is unprecedented in its ambition, there are still gaps in Agenda 2030; civil society will need to be strategic about ensuring the fulfillment of certain rights. For example, for the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) community, sexual rights are notably absent. However aspects of sexual rights can be clearly linked to specific targets, for instance:

  • target 4.7 (gender sensitive and human rights based education) could encompass comprehensive sexuality education;
  • target 10.3 (reduce inequalities, including through law and policy reform and implementation) could be used to advance the rights of sex workers, LGBTI persons and others; and
  • target 16.1 (reduce violence and related deaths) could embrace include the reduction of sexual and gender-based violence, including violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

Collaboration is key

Although Agenda 2030 offers a renewed opportunity to ensure the fulfilment of human rights and achieve sustainable development, it’s success is contingent on the commitment of governments to support the building of vibrant and tolerant societies, and the will and support for civil society to collectively sustain the momentum to be heard and recognised.


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