As world leaders gather in New York for the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit from September 20-22, the Center for Reproductive Rights is urging leaders to fully incorporate human rights into efforts to achieve the MDGs. The Center is emphasizing the need for leaders to redouble their commitment to achieving the MDGs on women’s health, equality and empowerment. The MDG Summit aims to accelerate progress toward the achievement of the MDGs with the target of fulfilling them by 2015.
The Center’s work on women’s health and equality demonstrates that a human rights-based approach is essential to achieving these goals. In many countries, the Center has documented that women are dying during pregnancy and childbirth—not just because quality healthcare is unavailable, but because they face widespread human rights violations, including discrimination, abuse or neglect in healthcare settings.
The Center has seen first-hand how these violations directly affect women. In Kenya, for example, women are often detained in healthcare facilities when they are unable to pay a service fee. This is an abusive practice that discourages poor women from seeking skilled care during pregnancy and childbirth and which puts them at greater risk of maternal death or injury. In Brazil, public and private healthcare services are concentrated in wealthier states with fewer ethnic minorities, creating a discriminatory system that contributes to high rates of maternal mortality among poor, indigenous and Afro-Brazilian women.
These cases are all violations of women’s human rights to life, health, equality and non-discrimination and must be addressed as such if the international community is to successfully reduce maternal mortality and achieve MDG 5. This goal commits governments to improve maternal health, in particular by reducing maternal mortality and ensuring universal access to reproductive healthcare.
The Center calls upon world leaders to recognize that the MDGs are firmly rooted in international human rights law and to fully integrate a human rights-based approach in plans for achieving the MDGs by 2015. It is also essential that states and donors be held more accountable regarding their political and human rights commitments.
Linking the MDGs with states’ international human rights obligations will help governments and advocates to maximize opportunities and make sustained progress toward the promise of a better world based on human dignity and equality.