On Thursday 14th June 2012, members of parliament, Olivia Mitchell TD and Anne Ferris TD, who are Chair and member of the All-Party Interest Group on Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health and Development, respectively, raised the issue of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in a topical issues debate at Dáil Éireann (the Irish parliament).
The debate was held ahead of the Rio+20 summit taking place in June 2012. The theme of the debate was: “the need to use our EU presidency to ensure the EU prioritise sexual and reproductive health and rights, including family planning, in its input to the post 2015 (Millennium Development Goals) UN development agenda”.
The importance of Ireland remaining committed to the issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights was highlighted, especially with regard to Ireland’s presidency of the EU in 2013. Deputy Mitchell said, “The All-Party Interest Group is concerned to ensure Ireland prioritises gender issues and, specifically, sexual and reproductive health and rights in its input into these decisions, particularly while it exerts its influence while holding the EU presidency”. She highlighted the need for strategies to reduce maternal mortality, including meeting the unmet need for contraception, in order to achieve gender equality and development goals.
Deputy Ferris said, “Next year we will hold the Presidency of the EU, which gives the Government a great opportunity to put sexual and reproductive health and rights at the forefront of the UN development agenda. The framework for the millennium development goals expires in 2015 and it is vital these rights are prioritised for the next framework. I do not think the link between sexual and reproductive rights and poverty alleviation is being made sufficiently clear and the neglect of this issue is to the detriment of the millennium development goals. This is not a controversial issue, although some may attempt to undermine it by claiming otherwise.”
The Minister for Development and Trade, Mr Joe Costello TD, agreed that the provision of reproductive health services to women is essential in tackling the continuing high rates of maternal mortality in the developing world. He stated that “the position Ireland takes in international policy discussions on sexual and reproductive health is based on a firm commitment to the programme of action agreed at the International Conference on Population and Development, ICPD, in Cairo 1994.”
Minister Costello outlined the massive unmet need for family planning globally, especially in the poorest countries and communities, stressing the need for a “broad international consensus on sexual and reproductive health issues if serious progress is to be made on meeting the MDGs’ targets”.
“Maternal, child care and gender issues have always been central to the Irish Aid programme and will continue to be so while I am Minister of State. We have a key role in preparing for the post-2015 millennium development goals. The review will start during our Presidency and the first summit meeting will take place in New York in September 2015. We are charged with developing a common European Union negotiating position. It will be done during our Presidency and agreed at the Council meetings during the Presidency. This will be the basis for the negotiations to begin in September 2013, which will continue until September 2015. The post-millennium development goals will be the second stage. We are in a position to play a key role in that respect and we note that the fifth millennium development goal, concerning reproductive health and maternal child care, is the one that has been least developed to a successful degree. It is an area to which we will pay particular attention.”