Response to the Report of the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda

The High Level Panel report on the Post 2015 Development Agenda presents the international community with a basis for discussion on how to transform the current development paradigm in ways that will benefit the poorest and most marginalized. RESURJ welcomes the Panel’s attempt to go beyond a discourse of poverty reduction to poverty eradication; the integration of sustainable development concerns into their recommendations; and the specific attention paid to including women’s and young people’s human rights, their sexual and reproductive health and rights, education and political participation as key components of countries’ economic growth and environmental sustainability.

RESURJ is especially pleased with the report’s recommendations to:

 Prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against girls and women (target 2a);

·   End child marriage (2b);

·   Ensure the equal right of women to own and inherit property, sign a contract, register a business and open a bank account (2c);

·   Eliminate discrimination against women in political, economic, and public life (2d); and

·   Ensure universal sexual and reproductive health and rights (4d).

The report highlights these critical measures necessary to better the lives women and young people. However,  it falls short of proposing a truly transformative framework and goals that address the root causes of the inequalities and injustices that they face. The report’s proposals of “transformative shifts” to ensure that ‘no-one is left behind’, is overshadowed by the attention paid to the role businesses and the private sector in generating “inclusive growth”.

We are pleased that the report positions Young People and Adolescents as a cross cutting theme, highlighting job creation, access to health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, and education. We welcome the important step the panel has taken in recognizing the gaps within the MDG framework, including the need for all adolescent girls and young women to control their sexuality and reproduction free of violence, coercion and discrimination. Despite this rhetoric, however, the targets do not address the necessary interventions required for the full realization of these rights, such as the provision of a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health services that includes all forms of contraception, safe abortion and post abortion care, STI and HIV prevention and treatment, maternity care and comprehensive sexuality education programs both in and out of school that provide girls and boys with the necessary skills and knowledge to claim their rights and take care of their health.  The report focuses its attention on young people on employment and utilizes a rather instrumentalist approach throughout. This fails to consider the varying factors and diverse experiences of young people and adolescents across the world and the impact that these differing environments have on their ability and opportunity to have access to development, opportunity, and the full realization of their human rights.

The next development framework must go further than simply highlighting the sexual and reproductive health needs of young people, and must recognize their rights to bodily autonomy, sexuality and reproductive choice, while addressing the ways in which external factors: social, economic, environmental, political, all impact the extent to which young people and adolescents are fully able to realize their sexual and reproductive rights, including the social determinants of their health. The report therefore fails to recognize the role of young people, in political change, in creating a just society, in participation and decision-making. It is a shame that the report seems to view young people as key groups within an economic framework necessary to be healthy, educated and employed, in order to achieve greater economic development. This lack of a human rights perspective obfuscates the current opportunities to do not only what is necessary for economic development, but also for social, economic, and gender justice.

The report completely ignores four very important aspects of adolescents and young people’s health and rights: sexuality (including comprehensive sexuality education in and out of schools), abortion (since most unsafe abortions take place among adolescent girls and young women), HIV (as most young people are living with HIV are in Global South countries that lack the resources to meet their needs) and ending violence, coercion and discrimination among girls, boys and adolescents. The lack of mention to people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities leaves many who are often marginalized and discriminated against because of their sexuality behind. It was clear from the findings of the Inequalities: Sexual Orientation consultation that took place with many civil society organizations, that the rights and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to live free from discrimination and inequality, was a key priority, yet this is entirely missing from the report. Although unsafe abortion could be tackled as part of a global effort to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity, there is a glaring omission of the right of women to control their fertility and reproduction in the document. More then 41% of all new HIV infections occur in young people, and we appreciate the HLP’s recognition that HIV prevention is a key factor to ensuring adolescent health. However, this is not enough, as we need to ensure the sexual and reproductive health and rights of more then 5 million young people living with HIV. Finally, although ending violence against women is one of the report’s targets, the report could’ve gone further in linking violence against girls and women with health, poverty, inequality and injustice and what interventions can help bring about zero tolerance within societies.

Lastly, RESURJ is disappointed that this report takes many of the recommendations made by women’s, young people’s and social movements in the past year throughout the HLP’s consultations, but ignores our calls aimed at changing current economic and environmental paradigms that the Report seems to reinforce. Equating women’s rights to land with businesses’ rights to property is unacceptable and showcases the importance that this Report gives to the role of the private sector and the business community (mentioned over 130 times in the report) in the development paradigm. This approach of profit over people will, in the end, do very little to address the structural causes of poverty and inequality and move towards eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development once in for all.