The United Nations, to reach the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), is supporting and engaged to a 17 year old controversial Reproductive Health (RH) bill in the Philippines.
Supporting the RH bill and the sister party Akbayan Partylist in the Philippines, the Social Democratic Party of Sweden on an early stage voiced out its stand on the bill:
Under 2012, the Congress of the Philippines shall consider a bill on reproductive health. Hopefully the law will be adopted. This would mean increased opportunities for family planning which will save the lives of 15 women per day.Carina Hägg (S), member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said:– If the law is adopted, it would mean a great step forward for women and reproductive health in the Philippines.– It would therefore be a step forward in efforts to millennium goal 5 on reducing maternal mortality and we should support SRHR-work (Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights) and this bill, says Hägg.The Philippines has one of Asia’s highest population growth by 1.7% a year.
Based on ocular visit to the Philippines, last September 3, MP (Member of the Parliament) Carina Hägg, Social Democratic Party of Sweden, addressed a written question to Minister for International Development Cooperation Gunilla Carlsson regarding the Reproductive Health (RH) bill in the Philippines:
When half of the Philippine population lack access to health care, political actions are needed. Work in the Philippine Congress for improved access to reproductive health is ongoing. But the outcome of the process for The Reproductive Health Bill, known as the RH Bill, is at the current situation uncertain. UN representatives have expressed their support for the project due to its failure to reach the UN Millennium Development Goals. Maternal mortality in the Philippines is increasing in contrary to the milestones 5. The development of maternal and infant mortality rate is unacceptable.Women’s Convention (CEDAW) and the final document of the population conference in Cairo (ICPD) is a further agreement that the international community has a shared responsibility. Given that 15 women’s lives can be saved per day, the aggressive opposition of the Catholic Church hierarchy is surprising. But the silence from the EU gives rise to criticism. The Swedish government may well express their views on RH Bill as well as account for the EU’s position. The EU should immediately publicly express their support for the RH Bill both in Brussels and in Manila. Furthermore, there are worries about plans to withdraw support for the health sector. Swedish Embassy in Manila has been closed, and non support to organizations have already materialized. The Social Democrats have expressed their support for women’s rights in the Philippines.My question to Minister for International Development Cooperation, Gunilla Carlsson is the following:What steps have the Government and the Ministries done regarding the unacceptable development of maternal and infant mortality, and is the Government supporting the RH Bill in the Philippines?
A written response was delivered thru the Swedish Parliament’s website translated as follows:
Carina Hägg have asked me what steps I and the government has taken regarding the unacceptable development of maternal and infant mortality in the Philippines, and if the Government supports The Reproductive Health Bill in the Philippines.Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) are government priorities in development cooperation. The government has increased Sweden’s contribution in efforts to achieve MDGs 4 (reducing child mortality) and 5 (reducing maternal mortality). About 25 percent of Sweden’s health aid at 4 billion swedish kronor goes to work in sexual and reproductive health and rights. Sweden was in 2011 the largest donor to the United Nations Population Fund UNFPA, where SRHR including maternal health is the main cooperation area.Sweden supports through EU the bill on reproductive health in the Philippines in which President Aquino is behind and is currently handled in the Parliament. EU is conducting a dialogue on the bill with the Philippine government and finances several projects on reproductive health in the Philippines. Sweden supports where EU stands and the active approach to the issue of the EU.Within the framework of the general country assessments (UPR) of the UN Human Rights Council, the Philippines has been examined in 2012. Sweden expressed on one hand, that the Philippines should intensify their efforts in achieving MDG 5 on maternal mortality, including ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health and to the information, education and counseling, and on the other hand that the Philippines should change the law so that abortion is allowed in cases of rape, incest or when there is a risk of the pregnant woman’s health and life. These recommendations, as well as to adopt the bill on reproductive health, was accepted by the Philippines.In the Philippines, the view of family planning, including reproductive health, is generally restrictive and there is great lack of respect for reproductive rights. The view of the Philippines on sexual and reproductive health and rights is in stark contrast to Sweden’s policy in this area. Respect for human rights in the Philippines, in some aspects, have shown signs of positive developments since the new government under Aquino administration took office in summer 2010. According to WHO, the Philippines is on track to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals on child mortality, but estimates that the Philippines will not reach the Millennium Development Goal on maternal mortality, which is worrying.Carina Hägg also mentions the closure of the Embassy in Manila and make the connection that this would have affected the Swedish development cooperation with the Philippines. The government’s decision in 2007 to focus bilateral development cooperation to fewer countries meant that the bilateral cooperation with the Philippines was phased out in 2010. Sweden since then supports Philippines in continuation through for example, the UN, World Bank, EU and NGOs.I want to assure Carina Hägg that we feel a strong commitment and interest in the Philippines, particularly for the development of democracy. Annual bilateral consultations between Sweden and the Philippines, for the first time in Stockholm started this year.At the 2013 consultations, Sweden intends to raise the issue of sexual and reproductive health in the Philippines.
As FM Carl Bildt, Minister Gunilla Carlsson is applying a silent diplomacy on RH bill. Despite Sweden’s financial & moral support through and together with the European Union there is no Swedish official statement voiced out neither from Minister Gunilla Carlsson nor FM Carl Bildt’s governmental websites. Wondering if the reason/s is/are unprofessionalism or/and low emotional intelligence quotient?
(Note: Questions raised by Carina Hägg and reports done by Gunilla Carlsson are my own translations in english with help of google.)
For the record, tweets of the above blog post:
Victory to RHbill: