Calling upon governments to uphold their commitments

The Asia Regional Dialogue develops recommendations for governments to make Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights a reality in the region

Participants in the Asia Regional Dialogue hold up the list of recommendations

In November 2018, the Asia Regional Dialogue took place in Bangkok ahead of the Asia Pacific Population Conference Mid-Term Review. Key stakeholders discussed how to make sure that human rights and gender commitments are realised in the region.

The mid-term review of the Asia Pacific Population Conference (APPC) is one of five regional review conferences commemorating 25 years of the Cairo Programme of Action (PoA) of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). Adopted by UN member states in 1994, the PoA acknowledges the full realisation of human rights – including the right of each individual to sexual and reproductive health – as being essential for eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development. Since its adoption, five-year regional and global review conferences follow the PoA’s implementation status and discuss areas for improvement. The outcomes of the five regional mid-term reviews will feed into the global ‘25 years of ICPD’ review process scheduled in early 2019.

‘We have the same agenda at heart: to push the ICPD agenda forward’

The Asia Pacific Region’s mid-term review took place in Bangkok, Thailand on November 26-27, 2018. Two days before this key event, the first Asia Regional Dialogue brought together over 30 sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) experts from civil society, parliament, government, private sector, academia and media, including the chair of the APPC Mid-Term Review (MTR). The Asia Regional Dialogue was organised by the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) and supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH through the project ‘Global Alliances for the ICPD’ on behalf of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

The participants came together to review the commitments made at the APPC in 2013. Conference participants raised awareness on implementation gaps and explored possible ways forward to ensure that governments in the region translate their promises concerning gender equality, health, population and sustainable development into practice.

‘We need to work together to set standards’

As such, the two-day conference allowed for mutual exchange and joint strategizing between 180 stakeholders from 45 countries and multilateral institutions, such as the African Union and regional economic communities, and civil society, including faith based and youth led organizations
Participants from over 10 countries of the region were present at the Dialogue. For the diverse stakeholders, the two-day meeting provided a unique space for mutual cross-sectoral exchange and joint strategising. In thematic plenary discussions and in working groups, participants shared their knowledge on SRHR, inequalities and climate change in line with the APPC MTR’s agenda. The continuous exchange of ideas mobilised the building of new alliances and the strengthening of existing partnerships. Stakeholders were keenly aware that it is only by working together that they will be able to push key SRHR issues into regional and global negotiation spaces.

The Dialogue likewise made crucial steps towards strengthening participants’ monitoring of policy commitments – including through development of a robust monitoring framework. A networking exchange and dinner were organised to promote common understanding on key advocacy outcomes for the APPC MTR for over 70 stakeholders from national delegations and UN agencies.

Joint recommendations

Conference participants reflected on key trends in the areas of health, population and sustainable development, with special attention to the needs of the most vulnerable groups, such as young people, persons with disabilities, the elderly or LGBTIQ* people. Topics included access to contraceptives or safe abortion services, as well as to services less often highlighted such as prevention and treatment of cancers of the reproductive system. The links between SRHR, climate change and disaster risk reduction were also discussed. A strong call was put forward for a monitoring framework in the Asia Pacific region that will assess the implementation of the APPC and SRHR to its fullest extent.

The Dialogue results were summarised in a list of recommendations which was presented at the APPC mid-term review and well received. These recommendations provide participants an effective tool to advocate for change. The document is used by civil society organisations to enter into a dialogue with member states of the UN Economic and Social Commission of Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and shared with other stakeholders working on SRHR. Many participants in the Regional Dialogue attended the APPC MTR. The discussions and joint recommendations from the Dialogue strengthened their positioning at the conference and contributed to the inclusion of key SRHR issues not just in the national statements but also in the overall chairs’ text for the sixth APPC MTR.

Shanta Laxmi Shrestha, Chairperson of Nepal’s Beyond Beijing Committee, reflects on the Asia Regional Dialogue’s added value: ‘The dialogue was very relevant for our advocacy work at all levels – Grassroot to Global (G2G), SRHR 4All, and Gender Equality – in line with the spirit of the Agenda 2030 “Leaving no one behind by reaching the furthest first”.’ She expresses determination to ‘advocate continuously using the outcome of this dialogue as a tool for bringing transformative change’.

Further information

BMZ glossary

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