Category Archives: Capacity building

Africa: Can the New African Court Truly Deliver Justice for Serious Crimes?

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As atrocities continue to be committed across Africa, the continent's leaders seem more concerned with their own fate before international courts than a rigorous pursuit of justice for these crimes.

It is hard to fathom that in 2014, commitments to end impunity are under threat by African leaders even though the continent has been ravaged by serious crimes for decades and the Constitutive Act of the African Union (AU) rejects impunity.

In adopting the draft protocol of the proposed African Court of Justice and Human Rights (African Court) at the recent AU Summit in Equatorial Guinea, African leaders have signed off on the establishment of a new court that will provide immunity from prosecution to serving heads of state and senior government officials for a range of serious crimes, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide ('international crimes').

The adopted amendment to Article 46A of the protocol now reads, 'No charges shall be commenced or continued before the Court against any serving African Union Head of State or Government, or anybody acting or entitled to act in such a capacity, or other senior states officials based on their function, during their tenure of office.'

The decision to entrench immunity for heads of state and senior officials was agreed to despite African and international civil society cautioning against it. African leaders had previously taken the immunity debate to the international level during the 12th Assembly of States Parties (ASP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in November 2013.

African states parties to the ICC tabled a proposal on behalf of the AU for the Rome Statute to be amended to exclude sitting heads of state from prosecution for international crimes.

The ASP rejected this proposal, although indications are that the same proposal is likely to be tabled again at the December 2014 ASP. This determination to exempt serving heads of state from prosecution for the gravest crimes known to mankind is highly concerning for supporters of international justice.

Discussions in Africa relating to immunity for heads of state who are wanted for international crimes began in 2006, when France and Spain issued arrest warrants against high-ranking Rwandan government officials, which provoked strong protests from Rwanda and the AU.

The cases at the ICC of President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, have reignited the debate. These concerns no doubt informed the AU's decision to mandate its Commission in 2009 to consider the possibility of expanding the jurisdiction of the yet-to-be-established African Court to also try international crimes.

It is against this backdrop that the new African Court protocol must be viewed.

Another problem with the immunity provision in the protocol is that it extends beyond heads of state to include 'senior government officials.' Who exactly qualifies as a senior government official would be decided based on their functions during their tenure, on a case-by-case basis and in accordance with international law.

This definition is imprecise and potentially offers immunity from prosecution to a wide range of officials.

The potential threat that this spells for the protection of human rights in Africa cannot be overstated. Granting immunity offers free rein to senior officials and heads of state to perpetrate such crimes, and is likely to motivate them to cling to their official positions to avoid prosecution.

Even more worrisome is that this has taken place at a time when atrocities continue in countries such as South Sudan and the Central African Republic. The immunity provision flouts international law and is contrary to the national laws of African states like Kenya and South Africa. It goes against the very essence of promoting human rights, peace and stability, and presents a major setback to advancing democracy and the rule of law.

Africa has extensive accountability mechanisms at the national and regional levels, and many countries have acceded to international legal treaties that promote accountability. An African Court that can try serious crimes is another positive step for the continent. However, the protocol that was adopted at the AU summit in Malabo provides a protective veil that denies justice for victims, and is detrimental to accountability.

Can the African Court truly protect Africans against grave crimes and human rights abuses while it provides such immunity? Considering the progress made in bringing those responsible for gross crimes to justice, African states are urged to reconsider the proposed amendments before ratifying the protocol.

For the African Court to begin its work, the protocol must be ratified by 15 AU states, which means there is still an opportunity for governments to reconsider. To echo the words of the president of Botswana, heads of state need to ask themselves whether they want to be on the wrong side of history by opposing the arrest of prominent persons accused of serious crimes.

African leaders have the moral authority and responsibility to ensure that neither they nor any other person who perpetuates such crimes goes unpunished. In this way, they will demonstrate their commitment towards ensuring accountability through African solutions, including a reformed regional tribunal that serves justice for all Africans.

By Jemima Njeri Kariri

8 July 2014

Source: http://allafrica.com/stories/201407101017.html?viewall=1

Post-2015 Agenda: Organized Chaos or Hot Mess?

Sexual and Reproductive Health in Trouble as Goals Move Forward 

UN flag on Crumpled paper texture

The latest version of the zero draft report from the Open Working Group developing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) hit the internet late Monday evening. This is the final draft that member states will have a chance to respond to before the final report is produced and shared with the Secretary General prior to the United Nations General Assembly in September. It is fairly similar to the last draft in that it still has the same 17 goals, with small semantic differences. Overall, there are fewer targets, but both the targets and the process are becoming increasingly convoluted.

 

This draft misses the integration, aspiration, transformation and sustainability that were meant to drive the post-2015 agenda.  We see important targets missing in this lengthy draft, but we have yet to really see the difficult trade-offs that a final set of implementable goals would require.

 

How have sexual and reproductive health and rights fared?

 

Sexual and reproductive health has disappeared from the Health Goal. While a target on sexual and reproductive health was previously included under both the Health and Gender goals, it now only appears under the Gender goal as “ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights in accordance with the Programme of Action of the ICPD and the Beijing Platform for Action.” This is problematic for two reasons:

 

1.    Without SRH under the health goal, family planning is in jeopardy of not being recognized in this new development framework. SRHR is a major component of overall health not only for women and girls, but also for men and boys. It is therefore critical to be included within a discussion of health.

 

2.    The qualifier of ICPD and Beijing is unnecessary and weakens the human rights frame of the target. Nowhere else in the Open Working Group’s draft document is such a caveat introduced. As such, it undermines the principle of arriving at a forward-looking set of SDGs. There is no need to qualify universal access to sexual and reproductive health or reproductive rights. With a reference to ICPD and Beijing already in the introduction, we hope to see this qualifier removed.

 

What are other notable points?

 

  • It is good to see that in proposed Goal 6  (Ensure availability and sustainable use of water and sanitation for all), the following target remained: “By 2030, achieve adequate sanitation and hygiene for all, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls.” This is critical to mainstreamed access to reproductive health.
  •  
  • Comprehensive sexuality education also remains absent from the latest document and should be inserted, ideally under the education goal.
  •  
  • Equity has been and will continue to be a prevailing narrative in the post-2015 agenda.

 

What’s next?

 

In New York for the Open Working Group session last week, you could see will, desire, and investment on the faces of delegates, civil society, co-chairs. But you could also see the fatigue. This has been a long and intensive exercise that has lasted nearly two years already. Now is the time point to put words down on paper and respond to drafts in order to rescue the jumbled mess that the draft goals have become.

 

The final round of informal discussions by the Open Working Group takes place July 14 to 18. The co-chairs (from Kenya and Hungary) will incorporate this final feedback from member states into a final report submitted to the Secretary General in August. A report will simultaneously be submitted by the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing. The Secretary General will then take these inputs, among others, and produce his own report, and full negotiations are expected to start in January 2015. The co-chairs of the post-2015 summit (September 21 to 23) are Denmark and Papua New Guinea.

 

By A. Tianna Scozzaro, Population and Climate Associate - 

3 July 2014

Source: http://www.populationaction.org/blog/2014/07/03/post-2015-agenda-organized-chaos-or-hot-mess/#sthash.VKfcdhBU.dpuf

World leaders review progress on Maternal health

PMNCH-Forum_2014_PMNCH

Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway, Co-chair of the MDG Advocates Group, and Graça Machel, Chair of The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), joined world leaders and the reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH) community to review progress toward achieving the  Millennium Development Goals focused on women and children’s health, and to identify targets for healthy women and children for the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

 

The high-level panel of the MDG Advocates—a group of eminent personalities working to focus attention on the need to deliver on the vision for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and to end poverty by 2030—met in Johannesburg at the 2014 PMNCH Partners’ Forum, cohosted by the Government of South Africa, PMNCH, Countdown to 2015, A Promise Renewed, and the independent Expert Review Group.  The Panel discussed several new reports released at the Forum, including the Countdown to 2015 report for 2014, which tracks progress in the  75 countries that account for the vast majority of maternal and child deaths, and the Success Factors for Women’s and Children’s Health report, which analyzes 10 countries that have made rapid progress toward the MDGs.

 

“Globally, we have made good progress on the MDGs,” said Prime Minister Solberg. “But more can and must be done. With fewer than 550 days until the Millennium Development Goals deadline, time is of the essence to scale up our efforts on behalf of women, children and adolescents.”

 

The leaders called for the new sustainable development agenda to be rights-based, equity focused and to place healthy women, children and adolescents at its core.  Leaders called for the new framework, which will be debated by the UN General Assembly in September, to focus on ending preventable maternal, newborn and child mortality, and to  ensure sexual and reproductive rights, including universal access to quality sexual and reproductive services.

 

Since 1990, both maternal and child mortality have halved and 50 million more children go to school each year. But many challenges remain and further rapid progress on health outcomes will require addressing the multiple determinants of health. For instance, every year 14 million girls are forced into marriage, and in many countries, women and girls still do not have access to adequate education.

 

“Across the world, the rights of women and girls continue to be grossly violated. The burden of poverty on women is ever present.” said Graça Machel.  “Every woman should have access to resources and gain space to assert her aspirations. Nobody should die in child birth. All girls should go to school with their brothers and master the tools for a productive life. ”

 

The Panel also previewed the PMNCH Partners’ Forum Communiqué, which will focus on working across sectors—including education, infrastructure, and economic development—to ensure a comprehensive, broad-based approach to improving women’s and children’s health. The Communique, which was endorsed by the MDG Advocates, called for this comprehensive response to be enshrined in specific new global development goals.

 

“We proved that Innovative Financing can help us to reach the MDGs” said Philippe Douste-Blazy, United Nations Special Advisor on Innovative Financing for Development. “New partners are uniting in South Africa to commit energy and resources towards innovation and saving lives.”

 

Dr. Carole Presern, Executive Director of PMNCH,  said, “Today, we leave with renewed energy to make sure that women, newborns, children and adolescents do not die from easily preventable causes; that sexual and reproductive health and rights are respected and that everyone, everywhere should be able to look forward to a healthy, happy and productive life..”

 

Source: http://www.spyghana.com/world-leaders-review-progress-maternal-health/

Global Forum Calls for Urgent Action to Curb Health Inequities, Cut Maternal and Child Mortality

PMNCH-Forum_2014_PMNCH

International leaders and public health experts call for women and children to be at the centre of the post-2015 development agenda

More than 800 leaders and public health experts from around the world opened a landmark two-day meeting in Johannesburg to review new data and call for accelerated action to improve maternal, newborn and child health. The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH) 2014 Partners' Forum was opened by Graça Machel, Chair of PMNCH and African Ambassador for Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed, who is making her first public appearance since the end of her mourning period after the death of her husband, Nelson Mandela.

"The world has made remarkable progress to improve health and expand opportunities over the past 14 years. Despite all efforts, there is still much more to be done," said Graça Machel. "Women and children have not been covered adequately. We must ensure that all women, adolescent girls, children and newborns, no matter where they live, are able to fulfill their rights to health and education, and realize their full potential."

In support of the UN Secretary-General's Every Woman Every Child movement, the Partners' Forum builds on two months of high-level meetings in Toronto, Prague, and Washington, DC, where global leaders and health experts met to discuss strategies to promote the health of women and children. At this Forum, leaders discussed steps to assist countries that have lagged behind in efforts to improve reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, and made specific recommendations for how to maintain the focus on women and children within the post-2015 development agenda. Notably, participants also pledged their financial and policy support and a range of new resources to support the implementation of the new Every Newborn action plan (ENAP), a roadmap to improve newborn health and prevent stillbirths by 2035.

"We are privileged as a country to host this important meeting about the urgent need to improve women's and children's health. This global gathering gives us the opportunity to learn from each other's successes and challenges, and to identify new approaches," said Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, South African Health Minister. The Government of South Africa is a Forum co-host, together with PMNCH, Countdown to 2015, A Promise Renewed and the independent Expert Review Group.

Despite improvements, 289,000 women still die every year from complications at birth and 6.6 million children do not live to see their fifth birthday, including nearly 3 million newborns. At least 200 million women and girls are unable to access family planning services that would allow them to control when they have children.

The world has been especially slow in improving health outcomes for newborns. Globally, each year, 2.9 million newborns (first 28 days of life) die and 2.6 million are stillborn (die in the last three months of pregnancy or during childbirth). Recent data published in The Lancet Every Newborn Series indicate that 15,000 babies are born and die every day without ever receiving a birth or death certificate. The accompanying analysis found that 3 million maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths in 75 high burden countries could be prevented each year with proven interventions that can be implemented for an annual cost of only US$1.15 per person.

Responding to this crisis, partners at the Forum launched the ENAP, endorsed by the World Health Assembly in May 2014. The action plan is based on concrete evidence to further reduce preventable newborn deaths and stillbirths. Signalling their support for the full and prompt implementation of the plan, Forum attendees announced 40 new commitments. These commitments are in support of the UN Secretary-General's Every Woman Every Child movement and come from a diverse group of stakeholders, including governments, civil society organizations and the private sector.

"There is absolutely no reason for so many newborns to die every year when their lives can be saved with simple, cost-effective solutions," said Dr. Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director-General for Family, Women's and Community Health at the World Health Organization. "The WHO remains committed to support countries and work with partners as the plan gets implemented, and to the accountability agenda, which includes reporting on progress achieved every year until 2030."

New data is critical to inform discussions about changing this reality. Today, partners at the Forum released the Countdown to 2015 Report for 2014, which presents the latest assessment of progress in the 75 countries that account for 95 percent of all maternal and child deaths each year. The report finds that in several countries, more than half of the mothers and children in the poorest 20 percent of the population still receive two or fewer of the eight interventions deemed essential for preventing or treating common causes of maternal and child death, including vaccinations, skilled birth attendance, pneumonia and diarrhea treatment, and access to family planning. The analysis shows that, in these 75 countries, a median of 39 percent of deaths of children under age five occur during the first month of life, underscoring a need for improved access to quality skilled delivery care for mother and baby around the time of birth, when most stillbirths and maternal and newborn deaths occur.

"We have affordable interventions that we know work. There's no excuse for not bringing them to the women and children who need them," said Dr. Mickey Chopra, Chief of Health at UNICEF and co-Chair of Countdown to 2015. "The health and well-being of our next generation, and the right of millions of children to live happy, productive lives, is at stake."

One other report was also launched at the 2014 PMNCH Partners' Forum: Success Factors for Women's and Children's Health Report spotlights 10 "fast track" countries making considerable progress in reducing maternal and child deaths, showing that rapid progress is possible despite significant social and economic challenges. The report showed the benefits of investing in high-impact interventions such as skilled care at birth, immunization, and family planning.

Delegates at the Forum emphasized the importance of ensuring that future efforts focus on countries that are making slow progress, and on poor and marginalized populations, including newborns and adolescents. Delegates also urged political leaders to work across different sectors—including education, skills and employment, water supply and sanitation, nutrition, energy, roads, and women's empowerment—to ensure an integrated approach to improving the health of women and children.

###

PMNCH

The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH) is a partnership of 625 organizations from across seven constituencies: governments, multilateral organizations, donors and foundations, nongovernmental organizations, healthcare professional associations, academic, research and training institutions, and the private sector. Hosted by the World Health Organization and launched in 2005, the vision of the Partnership is the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, with women and children enabled to realize their right to the highest attainable standard of health in the years to 2015 and beyond.

Government of South Africa

The Government of South Africa recognizes that success in achieving better health outcomes as a country depends on partners' collective ability to build relationships and work across sectors. We are highly committed to improving the lives of women and children, and the reduction of maternal and child mortality remains a critical area of focus in South Africa. In 2012, South Africa launched the Campaign on the Accelerated Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) strategy, setting goals of reducing maternal and neonatal mortality by more than half between 2013/2014 and 2018/19.

Countdown to 2015

Countdown to 2015 is a global movement to track, stimulate and support country progress towards the health-related Millennium Development Goals, particularly goals 4 (reduce child mortality) and 5 (improve maternal health). Established in 2003, Countdown is supra-institutional and includes academics, governments, international agencies, professional associations, donors, nongovernmental organizations and other members of civil society, with The Lancet as a key partner. The Countdown Secretariat is hosted by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health. Countdown focuses specifically on tracking coverage of a set of evidence-based interventions proven to reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality in the 75 countries where more than 95% of maternal and child deaths occur. Countdown produces periodic publications, reports and other materials on key aspects of reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, using data to hold stakeholders to account for global and national action. At the core of Countdown reporting are country profiles that present current evidence to assess country progress in improving reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health.

A Promise Renewed

Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed is a global movement to end preventable child deaths. Under the leadership of participating governments and in support of the United Nations Secretary-General's Every Woman Every Child strategy, A Promise Renewed brings together public, private and civil society actors committed to advocacy and action for maternal, newborn and child survival. A Promise Renewed emerged from the Child Survival Call to Action, convened in June 2012 by the Governments of Ethiopia, India and the United States, in collaboration with UNICEF. The more than 700 government, civil society and private sector participants who gathered for the Call to Action reaffirmed their shared commitment to scale up progress on child survival, building on the success of the many partnerships, initiatives and interventions that currently exist within and beyond the field of health. A Promise Renewed is represented on the Forum steering committee by USAID and UNICEF.

Independent Expert Review Group (iERG)

The UN Commission on Information and Accountability for Women's and Children's Health was established by WHO at the request of the United Nations Secretary-General to accelerate progress on the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health. Starting in 2012 and ending in 2015, the iERG is reporting regularly to the United Nations Secretary-General on the results and resources related to the Global Strategy and on progress in implementing this Commission's recommendations.

30 June 2014

By All Africa

Source: http://allafrica.com/stories/201406300590.html?viewall=1

International leaders and public health experts call for women and children to be at the centre of the post-2015 development agenda

More than 800 leaders and public health experts from around the world opened a landmark two-day meeting in Johannesburg to review new data and call for accelerated action to improve maternal, newborn and child health. The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH) 2014 Partners' Forum was opened by Graça Machel, Chair of PMNCH and African Ambassador for Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed, who is making her first public appearance since the end of her mourning period after the death of her husband, Nelson Mandela.

"The world has made remarkable progress to improve health and expand opportunities over the past 14 years. Despite all efforts, there is still much more to be done," said Graça Machel. "Women and children have not been covered adequately. We must ensure that all women, adolescent girls, children and newborns, no matter where they live, are able to fulfill their rights to health and education, and realize their full potential."

In support of the UN Secretary-General's Every Woman Every Child movement, the Partners' Forum builds on two months of high-level meetings in Toronto, Prague, and Washington, DC, where global leaders and health experts met to discuss strategies to promote the health of women and children. At this Forum, leaders discussed steps to assist countries that have lagged behind in efforts to improve reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, and made specific recommendations for how to maintain the focus on women and children within the post-2015 development agenda. Notably, participants also pledged their financial and policy support and a range of new resources to support the implementation of the new Every Newborn action plan (ENAP), a roadmap to improve newborn health and prevent stillbirths by 2035.

"We are privileged as a country to host this important meeting about the urgent need to improve women's and children's health. This global gathering gives us the opportunity to learn from each other's successes and challenges, and to identify new approaches," said Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, South African Health Minister. The Government of South Africa is a Forum co-host, together with PMNCH, Countdown to 2015, A Promise Renewed and the independent Expert Review Group.

Despite improvements, 289,000 women still die every year from complications at birth and 6.6 million children do not live to see their fifth birthday, including nearly 3 million newborns. At least 200 million women and girls are unable to access family planning services that would allow them to control when they have children.

The world has been especially slow in improving health outcomes for newborns. Globally, each year, 2.9 million newborns (first 28 days of life) die and 2.6 million are stillborn (die in the last three months of pregnancy or during childbirth). Recent data published in The Lancet Every Newborn Series indicate that 15,000 babies are born and die every day without ever receiving a birth or death certificate. The accompanying analysis found that 3 million maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths in 75 high burden countries could be prevented each year with proven interventions that can be implemented for an annual cost of only US$1.15 per person.

Responding to this crisis, partners at the Forum launched the ENAP, endorsed by the World Health Assembly in May 2014. The action plan is based on concrete evidence to further reduce preventable newborn deaths and stillbirths. Signalling their support for the full and prompt implementation of the plan, Forum attendees announced 40 new commitments. These commitments are in support of the UN Secretary-General's Every Woman Every Child movement and come from a diverse group of stakeholders, including governments, civil society organizations and the private sector.

"There is absolutely no reason for so many newborns to die every year when their lives can be saved with simple, cost-effective solutions," said Dr. Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director-General for Family, Women's and Community Health at the World Health Organization. "The WHO remains committed to support countries and work with partners as the plan gets implemented, and to the accountability agenda, which includes reporting on progress achieved every year until 2030."

New data is critical to inform discussions about changing this reality. Today, partners at the Forum released the Countdown to 2015 Report for 2014, which presents the latest assessment of progress in the 75 countries that account for 95 percent of all maternal and child deaths each year. The report finds that in several countries, more than half of the mothers and children in the poorest 20 percent of the population still receive two or fewer of the eight interventions deemed essential for preventing or treating common causes of maternal and child death, including vaccinations, skilled birth attendance, pneumonia and diarrhea treatment, and access to family planning. The analysis shows that, in these 75 countries, a median of 39 percent of deaths of children under age five occur during the first month of life, underscoring a need for improved access to quality skilled delivery care for mother and baby around the time of birth, when most stillbirths and maternal and newborn deaths occur.

"We have affordable interventions that we know work. There's no excuse for not bringing them to the women and children who need them," said Dr. Mickey Chopra, Chief of Health at UNICEF and co-Chair of Countdown to 2015. "The health and well-being of our next generation, and the right of millions of children to live happy, productive lives, is at stake."

One other report was also launched at the 2014 PMNCH Partners' Forum: Success Factors for Women's and Children's Health Report spotlights 10 "fast track" countries making considerable progress in reducing maternal and child deaths, showing that rapid progress is possible despite significant social and economic challenges. The report showed the benefits of investing in high-impact interventions such as skilled care at birth, immunization, and family planning.

Delegates at the Forum emphasized the importance of ensuring that future efforts focus on countries that are making slow progress, and on poor and marginalized populations, including newborns and adolescents. Delegates also urged political leaders to work across different sectors—including education, skills and employment, water supply and sanitation, nutrition, energy, roads, and women's empowerment—to ensure an integrated approach to improving the health of women and children.

###

PMNCH

The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH) is a partnership of 625 organizations from across seven constituencies: governments, multilateral organizations, donors and foundations, nongovernmental organizations, healthcare professional associations, academic, research and training institutions, and the private sector. Hosted by the World Health Organization and launched in 2005, the vision of the Partnership is the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, with women and children enabled to realize their right to the highest attainable standard of health in the years to 2015 and beyond.

Government of South Africa

The Government of South Africa recognizes that success in achieving better health outcomes as a country depends on partners' collective ability to build relationships and work across sectors. We are highly committed to improving the lives of women and children, and the reduction of maternal and child mortality remains a critical area of focus in South Africa. In 2012, South Africa launched the Campaign on the Accelerated Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) strategy, setting goals of reducing maternal and neonatal mortality by more than half between 2013/2014 and 2018/19.

Countdown to 2015

Countdown to 2015 is a global movement to track, stimulate and support country progress towards the health-related Millennium Development Goals, particularly goals 4 (reduce child mortality) and 5 (improve maternal health). Established in 2003, Countdown is supra-institutional and includes academics, governments, international agencies, professional associations, donors, nongovernmental organizations and other members of civil society, with The Lancet as a key partner. The Countdown Secretariat is hosted by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health. Countdown focuses specifically on tracking coverage of a set of evidence-based interventions proven to reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality in the 75 countries where more than 95% of maternal and child deaths occur. Countdown produces periodic publications, reports and other materials on key aspects of reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, using data to hold stakeholders to account for global and national action. At the core of Countdown reporting are country profiles that present current evidence to assess country progress in improving reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health.

A Promise Renewed

Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed is a global movement to end preventable child deaths. Under the leadership of participating governments and in support of the United Nations Secretary-General's Every Woman Every Child strategy, A Promise Renewed brings together public, private and civil society actors committed to advocacy and action for maternal, newborn and child survival. A Promise Renewed emerged from the Child Survival Call to Action, convened in June 2012 by the Governments of Ethiopia, India and the United States, in collaboration with UNICEF. The more than 700 government, civil society and private sector participants who gathered for the Call to Action reaffirmed their shared commitment to scale up progress on child survival, building on the success of the many partnerships, initiatives and interventions that currently exist within and beyond the field of health. A Promise Renewed is represented on the Forum steering committee by USAID and UNICEF.

Independent Expert Review Group (iERG)

The UN Commission on Information and Accountability for Women's and Children's Health was established by WHO at the request of the United Nations Secretary-General to accelerate progress on the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health. Starting in 2012 and ending in 2015, the iERG is reporting regularly to the United Nations Secretary-General on the results and resources related to the Global Strategy and on progress in implementing this Commission's recommendations.

30 June 2014

By All Africa

Source: http://allafrica.com/stories/201406300590.html?viewall=1

Standing together: Reproductive Rights and LGBTQ Rights

Portland-Pride-2-500x375

By Jimmy Radosta, Special to PQ Monthly

In the 45 years since the Stonewall riots — where the modern LGBTQ movement was born —we’ve seen extraordinary progress on LGBTQ rights in this country, including last year’s historic ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act and 2011’s repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Here in Oregon we finally achieved marriage equality in May, and we’re one of only five states that have affirmed that transition care for transgender individuals should be considered an essential part of medical coverage.

This progress is rooted in the same principles that underlie reproductive rights: that politicians should not get to decide what you do with your body or what your family looks like, and that rights in this country should not depend on the state you live in.

We at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon believe that reproductive rights are deeply connected to civil rights for all Americans. We have long stood with LGBTQ people in the struggle for full equality — many of whom turn to Planned Parenthood for health care, information and education.

Members of the LGBTQ community face greater obstacles to obtaining and benefiting from sexual and reproductive health services than non-LGBTQ people. In addition to high rates of stress due to systematic harassment and discrimination — which has been shown to affect physical and mental health — LGBTQ people face low rates of health insurance coverage, high rates of HIV/AIDS and cancer, and high rates of discrimination from medical providers. LGBTQ people of color are at an even higher risk for these disparities.

This is why Planned Parenthood health centers throughout Oregon welcome LGBTQ patients for STD testing and treatment, lifesaving cancer screenings, and other preventive services. Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette’s “Equal Access Fund” helps provide gynecological exams for women and trans men who aren’t covered by state pregnancy-prevention funding but meet the same economic requirements.

Planned Parenthood also delivers sex education that covers the full range of topics affecting sexual health, and we provide sensitive and accurate information on sexual orientation and gender identity to Oregonians of all ages every day. Oregon is one of only 12 states to require its sexual health curriculum to be medically accurate. This means that, in the rest of the country, young people are receiving false information about birth control’s effectiveness and the right way to prevent STDs.

While this country has seen significant strides in the LGBTQ movement in recent years, there is still work to be done. This year Oregonians faced the possibility of a ballot measure that could have allowed corporations to deny services to same-sex couples. Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on a lawsuit that could allow corporations like Hobby Lobby to deny their employees insurance coverage for birth control because of their personal beliefs. This could create a slippery slope and let bosses deny a whole host of other medical procedures based on their own personal beliefs – such as vaccines, surgeries, blood transfusions and mental health care. The bottom line is this: When secular, for-profit corporations hire and serve the general public, they shouldn’t get to pick and choose which laws to follow. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon vows continued support for any future legislative efforts that will allow for greater access to health care and information for the LGBTQ community in our state.

At Planned Parenthood, we realize that our incredible patients and supporters don’t comprise any one identity, and we’re grateful for the many volunteers, staff and supporters of all genders and identities who work every day to ensure that Oregonians get the health care and information they need.

This year, 45 years after the birth of the modern LGBTQ movement at Stonewall, we are committed now more than ever to fighting for LGBTQ rights. We know the only way we can move forward — all of us together — is by standing side by side.

Jimmy Radosta is the Communications Director for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon. For more information visit PPAOregon.org.

 

Source: http://www.pqmonthly.com/standing-together-reproductive-rights-lgbtq-rights/19898

African Union launches its first-ever campaign to end child marriage

  • Africa is home to 15 out of 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage
  • Two-year campaign will aim to accelerate efforts to end child marriage across the continent
  • "Together we can make Africa free of child marriage" says UNICEF ambassador Angelique Kidjo

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Every year, 14 million girls are married off before they turn 18, with devastating consequences for their health, education and wellbeing. 15 out of the 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage are in Africa.

 

In an effort to provide a bright future for millions of women and girls, the African Union has launched the first-ever Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa. The two-year campaign, organised in partnership with UNICEF and UNFPA, will focus on accelerating change across the continent by encouraging African governments to develop strategies to raise awareness of and address the harmful impact of child marriage.

 

The campaign also aims to support policies and action that protect girls’ human rights, and to remove barriers to law enforcement.

 

The campaign brings together a large range of partners including the Ford Foundation, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Save the Children, Plan International, Africa Child Policy Forum (ACPF) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

 

Ms Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, the General Secretary of the World Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), a member of Girls Not Brides, was named Goodwill Ambassador for the Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa.

 

The impact of child marriage on Africa’s girls

Child marriage is a reality for millions of children – predominantly girls – across Africa. 39% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa are married before their 18th birthday; 13% are married by their 15th birthday.

factograph4 (.JPG)‚ÄčThe repercussions of marrying as a child affect girls throughout their lives. Marriage often marks the end of girl’s education, limits her economic opportunities outside the home, and exposes her to physical, sexual and emotional violence.

 

Child marriage also threatens efforts to improve maternal health across Africa. Child brides face higher risk of death and injury in pregnancy and childbirth, with girls under 15 being five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s. Their children are at risk too: when a mother is under 18, her baby is 50% more likely to die in its first year of life than a baby born to older mothers.

 

#EndChildMarriageNOW: Join the campaign on social media

Africans are raising their voices on social media in support of the campaign.

 

Source: http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/african-union-launches-first-ever-campaign-end-child-marriage/?utm_source=CM+in+the+News+-+Update+to+members&utm_campaign=8afeeeba09Child_marriage_in_the_news_5_June_20146_5_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c21d02558c-8afeeeba09-382381337

Southern Africa – Alliance calls for strong rights approach post-2015

GenderLinks

Following the celebratory SADC Gender Protocol@Work awards last week, the SADC Gender Protocol Alliance is calling for a strong rights-based approach to the post-2015 SADC Gender Protocol agenda and global development framework.

 

Last week's regional Summit, which brought together over 400 gender activists, media, government and faith-based organisations from 14 Southern African countries, provided a platform for sharing good practice and acknowledged the work of gender drivers of change. The summit but also held numerous parallel meetings to strategise for continued efforts to achieve gender equality.

 

Held under the banner "5050 by 2015 and a strong post 2015 agenda" the gathering provided a watershed moment to plan for the year ahead, with ten elections in various Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries. The civil society Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance will present the outcomes of the sessions at the SADC Heads of State Summit in August in Zimbabwe.

 

The 5050 plenary session highlighted the need women's quotas at all levels, particularly political and economic decision-making. With women's representation in politics declining following recent elections in some SADC countries such as South Africa, delegates concluded that deliberate measures need to be legislated and implemented.

 

The 28 targets of the SADC Gender Protocol that provides a sub-regional roadmap for Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 3 (gender equality) are due to be achieved by 2015, also the deadline for the MDG's. The SADC Gender Protocol Barometer shows that the region is only about two thirds of the way towards achieving these objectives.

 

Globally, there is a strong movement to strengthen the gender provisions of the post 2015 agenda. The Alliance is leading a campaign for a strong and revitalised SADC Gender Protocol within the context of the global campaign.

 

At the post-2015 meeting held last week, Alliance members discussed the strengthening of all thematic areas of the post-2015 SADC Gender Protocol, but placed specific emphasis on burning issues across Southern Africa, highlighting the need to recognise that women are not a homogenous group. The Alliance members thus called for a human rights approach to ensure the new framework is aligned to the global developmental agenda for the achievement of voice, choice and control for all women in all sectors of society.

 

Members of the Alliance stressed specific areas of concern such as women's empowerment and the crucial link between economic independence in helping curb gender based violence (GBV); greater access to sexual and reproductive health rights; disability and gender and the need to acknowledge that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights are fundamental in achieving gender justice and equality. Alliance chair Emma Kaliya from Malawi called for solidarity amongst country representatives by saying, "If an issue is a priority for one country, it is a priority for the whole region."

 

Climate change and gender justice also remained high on the post-2015 strategy for Southern Africa, especially with the recent discovery of oil and gas in Mozambique. Members called for equitable access to and distribution of wealth, but also environmentally sustainable exploration and development.

 

Alliance members emphasised the importance of grass roots mobilisation in advancing gender equality, as well as the vital role that youth, men's groups and faith-based organisations play in fighting for human rights and achieving gender justice.

 

SADC Gender Protocol Alliance members also discussed measures to strengthen and diversify the Alliance in terms of its mandate and also elected a new chairperson– Emma Kaliya, also Chair of the NGO Co-ordination Network in Malawi.

 

As part of the post-2015 agenda discussion, the Gender, Media and Diversity Centre (GMDC) held a parallel session on gender and media, strategising on how SADC media houses and media training institutions can contribute to the Beijing plus 20 review as well as various initiatives with the newly formed Global Forum on Media and Gender (GAMAG).

 

This year's SADC Gender Protocol@Work Summit was especially unique because for the first time it followed 15 district level summits and 13 national summits across Southern Africa. It also introduced emerging entrepreneurs as a new category, which saw survivors of GBV presenting their business plans following training rolled out by Gender Links.

 

After a bilateral meeting, the Namibian delegation said they wanted to introduce a gender summit modelled on the SADC Gender Protocol Summit, to create incentive to mainstream gender in local government ministries within the country.

 

For the first time five government ministries presented their work on gender mainstreaming and one government ministry went further in scooping the women's rights award. Fifty of the participants that attended the regional summit last week were first-time travellers outside their country and 26 applied for passports for the first time.

 

The regional Summit together with the district and national summits involved 2363 participants, providing a platform for 190 gender-mainstreaming presentations and awarded a total of 24 winners and 18 runners-up, out of the 185 winners (53 men and 132 women) from the district and national summits.

 

These gender drivers of change received certificates of recognition and shook hands with the Mauritian Minister for Gender, Mireille Martin and Lesotho's Minister for Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation, Chief Thesele Maseribane. Representatives from the Department for International Development (DFID) and Norwegian Church Aid congratulated Gender Links, the Alliance and all participants for contributing to the advancement of gender justice and equality in Southern Africa.

 

Dr. Andrew Nikiindo, Vice Rector at the Polytechnic of Namibia who also spoke at the awards ceremony, urged all participants to continue their fight for gender equality and to carry the baton forward beyond 2015. "Today is an important day for you, these awards show the important role that you have played and are still expected to play in future," stressed Nikiindo

 

By Katherine Robinson

5 June 2014

Source: http://www.genderlinks.org.za/article/southern-africa-alliance-calls-for-strong-rights-approach-post-2015-2014-06-05

Historic Africa-wide Campaign to end child marriage in Africa launched

Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, 29May 2014 –“We cannot down play or neglect the harmful practice of child marriage as it has long term and devastating effects on these girls whose health is at risk and at worst leading to death due to child birth and other complications,” says Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

 

“Child marriage concerns human rights, gender, health and culture and is a development issue which is complex, caused and maintained by a number of factors, such as poverty, gender based violence and gender discrimination, among others,” she said in her statement read on her behalf by Dr Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, the AUC Commissioner for Social Affairs at the continental launch of the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa, held on 29 May 2014, at the African Union Commission Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

 

The AUC Chairperson reaffirmed her unwavering commitment to ensure sustained political will and continuous coordination and harmonization of all efforts to achieve the desired goals.

 

Child marriage continues to affect millions of girls every year in Africa with the resultant outcome of high rates in maternal and child mortality; obstetric fistula, premature births, sexually transmitted diseases (including cervical cancer), and HIV and domestic violence. Girls continue to be married as children in Africa, with more than five and a half million women who are today in their early 20s married before they reached their 15th birthday.

 

Participants at the launch, who included African Ministers in-charge of Social Development, UN agencies, civil society organisations, experts, and survivors of child marriage, were informed that if nothing was done in the next decade, 14.2 million girls under 18 years will be married every year, which translates into 39,000 girls married each day. If this trend continues, the number of girls under 15 giving birth is expected to rise from 2 million to 3 million by 2030, in Africa. The costs of inaction, in terms of rights unrealized, foreshortened personal potential and lost development opportunities, far outweigh the costs of interventions.

 

Ms. Bineta Diop, the AUC Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security emphasized that educating girls, will help improve Africa’s socio-economic development and that no child’s education should be interrupted at any time because of marriage. She noted that the real cases of child marriage happen at the grassroots and all stakeholders must work to ensure that this campaign gets to the local communities.

 

Despite these challenges, child marriage rates are declining as a result of local action in African countries. “As we watch the rates of child marriage decline, we can expect to seemore girls in school for a longer time, more girls accessing health and protection services, less violence against women and girls, more qualified women participating in the labour force and more empowered women who are able to overcome poverty for themselves, their children and their family,”said Martin Mogwanja, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, while reaffirming UNICEF’s commitment to supporting the campaign.

 

“Child marriage remains a fundamental human rights violation and is a symptom of the prevailing gender inequalities all of us are fighting so hard to prevent,” he added, while also highlighting the existing pan-African momentum and partnership on ending child marriage.

 

On her part, Dr. Julitta Onabanjo, UNFPA Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, confirmed support to the campaign, noting: “Ending child marriage will require unambiguous political commitment, visionary leadership, and support for grassroots advocacy to address many of the cultural practices and behaviors that place young women and girls at increased multiple health risks, including HIV.”

 

She noted that laws needed to be enforced against child marriage, including the enactment and enforcement of laws that raise the minimum age at marriage to 18.“It is therefore imperative to ensure holistic policy environment that supports and promotes human rights, builds capacity and empowers individuals, community stakeholders and organizations to change attitudes and the cultural and religious norms that perpetuate child marriage is critical,” she urged.

 

An important highlight of the launch was the naming of Ms. Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda as a Goodwill Ambassador for the campaign. MsGumbonzvanda is currently the General Secretary of the World YWCA. She is a trained human rights lawyer from Zimbabwe with extensive experience in conflict resolution and mediation, including 20 years’ experience on issues of women and children’s human rights, with a special focus on crisis countries.

 

The campaign was launched during the Conference of Ministers of Social Development, held under the theme, “Strengthening the African Family for Inclusive Development in Africa”and will aim at ending child marriage by: (i) supporting legal and policy actions in the protection and promotion of human rights, (ii) mobilizing continental awareness of the negative socio-economic impact of child marriage, (iii) building social movement and social mobilization at the grassroots and national levels; and (iv) increasing the capacity of non-state actors to undertake evidence based policy advocacy including the role of youth leadership through new media technology, monitoring and evaluation among others.

 

Click here to read the press release.

 

For further information, please contact

 

Directorate of Information and Communication | African Union Commission | E-mail: MUSABAYANAW@africa-union.org; Kennetho@africa-union.org|Web Site: www.au.int| Addis Ababa | Ethiopia

 

 

Zuma appoints first lesbian to cabinet

Brown

President Jacob Zuma, has appointed the country’s first openly gay cabinet minister, a move thought also to be a first in Africa and a symbolic step on a continent enduring a homophobic backlash.

Lynne Brown becomes the public enterprises minister in a cabinet that includes South Africa‘s first black minister of finance.

Brown, 52, who is coloured (of mixed race ancestry), was born in Cape Town and was premier of Western Cape until the African National Congress (ANC) lost control of the province to the opposition Democratic Alliance in 2009.

According to a 2008 profile of her by the South African Press Association, she began her career as a teacher and gained a certificate in gender planning methodology at University College London. “I can’t bear working in an environment where things don’t get done,” she was quoted as saying. “I’m not a flamboyant type of person; I get things done.”

Her personal interests were said to be playing golf, reading and “an admiration of arts and culture”.

She is not seen as a gay rights activist but her ascent to a cabinet post was described on Monday as a significant moment.

Eusebius McKaiser, a broadcaster and political author, who is gay, said: “It is, sadly, probably newsworthy, I guess, insofar as the social impact of openly gay people in high-profile public leadership positions cannot be discounted in a country like South Africa where levels of homophobia, including violence against black lesbian women, remain rife.

“The symbolism matters from an African perspective, too, given other countries around us are enacting and enforcing laws criminalising same-sex sex and lifestyles.”

Steven Friedman, director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, said: “I think it’s worth drawing attention to. She’s not a gay rights campaigner – it’s not recognition in that sense – but the fact that under the most socially conservative president since 1994 there is the first openly gay minister in such a position is significant.”

South Africa was the first African country to legalise gay marriage but Zuma, a traditional Zulu polygamist, has been criticised for culturally fundamentalist remarks and failing to condemn anti-gay crackdowns in Nigeria and Uganda.

Asked by the Guardian in 2012 about his views on same-sex marriage, the president replied: “That does not necessarily require my view, it requires the views of South Africans. We have a constitution that is very clear that we all respect, which I respect. It has a view on that one, that gay marriage is a constitutionally accepted thing in South Africa. So, no matter what my views would be.”

Zuma, 72, who was inaugurated on Saturday for a second term, named Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister, the first black person to hold the position. Nene, 55, had served as deputy to the widely respected Pravin Gordhan, who is of Indian ancestry.

Nene, whose first name means “luck” in Zulu, is a former parliamentarian and chair of the finance portfolio committee. He spent 15 years at the insurance firm MetLife, where he was a regional administrative manager and where, during racial apartheid, he organised the country’s first strike in the financial sector. Razia Khan, Africa’s regional head of research for Standard Chartered Bank, said: “Nene is an old hand at the treasury. He will be seen to represent policy continuity.”

Cyril Ramaphosa, a former miners’ union leader turned billionaire businessman, becomes deputy president. But Friedman suggested he was far from certain to succeed Zuma. “That’s far more complicated. He doesn’t like taking political risks. The succession may revolve around some regional issues. KwaZulu-Natal is the biggest province and they’re pushing to choose the next president. I don’t think the other provinces will be keen on that.”

After a punishing five-month strike in the platinum mines, the mineral resources minister, Susan Shabangu, was removed.

The police minister, Nathi Mthethwa, who was in office during the killing of 34 striking miners at Marikana in 2012, was also shifted from his post.

By David Smith © Guardian News and Media 2014

Image – Lynne Brown (Gallo)

Source: http://women.mg.co.za/zuma-appoints-first-openly-gay-cabinet-minister/