05.07.2013 | DAWN

Women's Rights Groups send Open Letter to UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon

Dear Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon,

As you finalize your report, Accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and advancing the United Nations development agenda beyond 2015, we wanted to share with you key priorities as articulated by women’s human rights, youth and gender justice advocates.

The MDGs have succeeded in accelerating progress in some key human development areas. However, the MDGs that are farthest from being met are the two goals that focus on women and girls: Goal 3 to achieve gender equality and women's empowerment, and Goal 5 to improve maternal health, including the target to achieve universal access to reproductive health.  The evidence is clear: sustainable development can only be achieved with empowered, educated and healthy women and girls, who can fully exercise their rights, including their sexual and reproductive rights, without discrimination, coercion or violence.   

Between now and 2015, governments can give the achievement of these goals and targets the highest priority with your urging.  We would be most appreciative of your issuing the following recommendations to Member States in your Report to the 68th General Assembly on the occasion of the Special Event on efforts made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals:

  • Accelerate efforts to provide universal access to comprehensive, integrated and quality sexual and reproductive health services, counseling and information for women and adolescents, with respect for their human rights, and with an emphasis on equity and respect for diversity. These services should include gynecological care, all forms of safe and effective contraception, safe abortion and post abortion care, maternity care, prevention, timely diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections including HIV, breast and reproductive cancers, and infertility, as well as services to screen for and address violence. These should be integrated, one-stop services tailored to women’s needs throughout their life course;
  • Increase access to comprehensive sexuality education to enable adolescent girls and boys to   understand and make informed decisions about their sexuality and plan their lives, and to promote values of respect for human rights, tolerance, gender equality and non-violence; and 
  • Promote women’s leadership at all levels and in all types of decision-making, and the meaningful participation of women’s organizations in the design of development programs.

As the High Level Panel report emphasizes, gender equality can transform societies and is essential for sustainable development. Over the course of the past year, a global consensus has emerged that the achievement of gender equality and the realization of women's human rights, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights, must be given priority attention in the post-2015 agenda. Recommended goals and targets on these issues were prominently featured in the reports of the High Level Panel, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network Report, and the Global Compact, as well as the outcomes of many of the thematic, national and regional consultations, and numerous civil society statements.  In addition, gender equality and women's rights have been raised both specifically and as a cross-cutting theme consistently in Open Working Group discussions.  At the 4th meeting of the Open Working Group, almost 50 countries called in their statements for specific attention to sexual and reproductive health and rights and the majority of governments also called for the fulfillment of women's and girls' economic rights, including their right to decent work and social protection, and their right quality education across the life course.
We urge you to reflect this emerging consensus in your report.  Specifically, we ask for a post-2015 development framework that prioritizes the achievement of gender equality and the full realization of women's and girls' human rights and addresses women's and girls' rights as a cross-cutting issue.  This requires examining how the full range of economic, social and sustainable development issues under consideration differently or disproportionately impact women and girls and proposing strategies to address them.  In particular, we call for particular attention to be paid to the human rights of women and girls, including:

  • Economic rights: rights to equitable access to and control over resources, inheritance, land and property, decent work, and to social protection including access to quality care services;
  • The right to be free from all forms of violence;
  • Sexual and reproductive rights, including access to comprehensive, integrated and quality sexual and reproductive health care and comprehensive sexuality education(as described above);
  • Ensuring universal completion of secondary education and increased access to tertiary education and other lifelong learning opportunities;
  • The right to non-discrimination on all grounds; and
  • The right to participation and leadership at all levels.

Doing this effectively requires not simply focusing on the surface symptoms of poverty, injustice, and environmental degradation, but also addressing the underlying macroeconomic policies that contribute to them.   We urge you to include recommendations to:

  • Implement equitable and ecologically sustainable trade, investment and financial rules in order to preserve national policy spaces for governments to fulfill their human rights obligations.
  • Clearly address means of implementation of the Post 2015 development agenda that prioritize public financing over public-private partnerships and voluntary commitments in order to realize states’ obligations to allocate the maximum availability of resources.

It has been repeated many times throughout this process that we must be ambitious and bold in defining the next development agenda, that we cannot repeat the mistakes of the past nor do business as usual. In order to be truly transformative and achieve the "world we want," gender, economic and ecological justice and human rights must be at the post-2015 development framework's core.  We look forward to seeing these recommendations reflected in your report and would welcome the opportunity to discuss them with you further. Please contact Shannon Kowalski, Director of Advocacy and Policy, at skowalski[ät]iwhc.org or (212) 979-8500 for any follow up.


Development Alternatives for Women in a New Era (DAWN) 
International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC)
Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Justice (Resurj)