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Speech Dutch MDG ambassador 6 October

The Dutch MDG ambassador Mrs. Ronner-Grubacic held a speech at the International Platform meeting 6-7 October 2009, Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam

Good morning to you all: chairperson of UAFC, UAFC Coordinator, Steering Committee and Team, representatives of national governments, representatives of national and international organisations both public and private, Right Reverend Bishop Jolly Oyekpen, ladies and gentlemen.

I am honored to open this International Advocacy Platform of the initiative for Universal Access to the Female Condom. I am addressing you on behalf of the Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation, Mr. Bert Koenders, who unfortunately was unable to attend today because of other engagements.

To the Dutch Government reaching the Millennium Development Goals is an absolute priority. In this light Minister Koenders created the position of Special Ambassador for MDGs, in which capacity I am happy to address you today.

The Dutch Government’s support to UAFC is rooted in our policy vision for HIV/AIDS and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). Key principles in our vision are a rights based approach; focus on those most vulnerable including women and girls and young people; access to information, prevention and care; and where necessary the breaking of taboos in order to save lives.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are facing an emergency. The figures do not lie. Today more than 200 million women lack access to modern contraceptives. Meanwhile we expect demand for contraception to increase by some 40% by 2050. Every year over half a million women die in pregnancy or childbirth. This includes some 67.000 women who die from unsafe abortion. A staggering 6 million more suffer injury, illness or disability. The world is hardly making any progress on MDG 3 (equal rights for men and women) and MDG 5 (reducing maternal mortality and achieving universal access to reproductive health).

Urgent action is needed. In this light, Minister Koenders made Gender and SRHR into one of his four policy focal points. Dutch support to SRHR received an additional 10 million Euros in 2008, and 15 million Euros in 2009. This is one illustration that the Netherlands remains committed to the agreements under the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). We urge others that they, too, honor their commitments. Because lives are on the line.

The Dutch development strategy is unique and innovative. The Minister’s agenda for modernization of how we provide ODA, means that we actively build bridges between public and private sectors. Yes, such partnerships do involve challenges. And yes, we are committed to overcome them together.

The Netherlands supports partners whose work is complementary. Good examples are UNFPA and UAFC, whose work on the female condom is exactly that: complementary. Both organisations we support. Furthermore we support partners who align with local government policies. For example we support WPF sexual education programmes in Pakistan and Indonesia, where there is collaboration with local authorities. Also we encourage partners to form alliances, including with ‘unusual suspects’, like the private sector. The Millennium Accords initiated by Minister Koenders illustrate this. UAFC is a key one.

The Dutch development strategy is also unique because it is outspoken. The reality calls for pragmatism and for breaking taboos. We have no problem with breaking taboos, including at the highest political level. Let’s talk about sex. Let’s recognize that young people are sexually active, and let’s work with that reality. Let’s prevent human rights abuses, especially of women, children, young people and sexual minorities. Our support to female condom programmes like UAFC is consistent with this vision.

Ladies and gentlemen, the world is at a crossroads. Later this month, at a High Level meeting in Addis Abeba hosted by our Minister, we will assess 15 years since the ICPD. We have some 5 years to go before 2015 and the MDG targets. The world has more young people than ever before (some 1.5 billion persons aged between 10 and 25 years). Women and girls remain extremely vulnerable to violence, STIs including HIV, unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion. This is unacceptable. In the international political arena, we see hopeful signs. But at the same time the opposition against ICPD seems to be hardening.

Let us remember that the MDGs, nor ICPD nor any international agreement is a goal in itself. We agreed to all this to save lives, to improve lives, and to make them safer. The MDGs are instruments. Without MDGs 3 and 5, these goals will simply not be achieved. ‘Prevention, prevention, prevention’, was Minister Koenders’ message in his speech during the International Aids Conference in Mexico in 2008. Support to the promotion of female condom programmes, through UAFC and others, is a logical choice. We believe it is the right choice.

Ladies and gentlemen, I wish you a fruitful meeting. Let’s focus on the urgency to achieve results.

I thank you.

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