(PRESS RELEASE) Despite a 14-year-old international commitment to dramatically reduce maternal deaths, almost 300,000 women worldwide died in 2013 from pregnancy and childbirth related causes, according to a new United Nations report.
The Millennium Development Goals Report 2014 provides an overview on progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—the U.N. blueprint for eradicating poverty, hunger and disease worldwide established in 2000 and set to expire next year. In the report, the U.N. notes there has been limited progress in ensuring access to reproductive health services—including contraceptives and maternal health services—for a wide range of women in developing nations, including rural women and adolescents.
Member states at the U.N. are currently working on a new set of international development commitments – the Post-2015 Development Agenda – that will go into effect when the MDGs expire in 2015. This U.N. report identifies the persistent gaps in development that the new agenda will need to address, including the need for countries to increase their investment in reproductive rights.
Said Rebecca Brown, global advocacy director at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“The United Nations’ recognition of the importance of ensuring that women are on equal footing with men in all aspects of life is crucial, and must be reflected in its new development agenda.
“Too many women worldwide still do not have adequate access to modern contraceptives, and too many risk their health and lives during pregnancy and childbirth.
“Ensuring sexual and reproductive rights is crucial to promoting gender equality. It gives women the ability to control their fertility which affects many other aspects of their lives – employment, education, family life, and civic participation.
“If the U.N.’s admirable goals of combating inequality and poverty are to be realized, the new development agenda must be grounded in human rights and acknowledge that robust protections for sexual and reproductive rights are essential to gender parity and women’s health.”
Two of the eight Millennium Development Goals—improving maternal health and promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment—attempted to address the deep deficiencies in women’s equality and their well-being worldwide. Although there has been substantial progress on achieving many of the MDGs over the past fourteen years, the U.N. report identifies that many states are far from achieving the goals related to women. Disparities are particularly large for women from marginalized groups such as adolescents and women from rural areas. The MDGs themselves also failed to link development commitments to states’ human rights obligations and provide an effective means of holding states accountable to those commitments, limiting the prospects for achieving many of the goals.
International human rights norms have recognized that reproductive rights are human rights, clarifying that violations of reproductive rights are primarily manifestations of discrimination, poverty, and violence. The Center for Reproductive Rights recently published Substantive Equality and Reproductive Rights: A Briefing Paper on Aligning Development Goals with Human Rights Obligations that provides concrete recommendations to states about how to ensure reproductive rights in the Post-2015 Agenda, including:
- Ensuring that a comprehensive range of quality sexual and reproductive health information, services, and education are accessible, affordable, and acceptable for all individuals.
- Providing protections for women’s sexual and reproductive autonomy, including their right to decide on the number and spacing of their children, and
- Ensuring effective local and national access to justice for individuals whose rights have been violated and international accountability for states to live up to their human rights and development commitments.