The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are currently under negotiation at the United Nations. They will be agreed upon in the autumn, and are intended to replace the expiring Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
At the end of July 2014 Member States adopted the outcome document of the Open Working Group after a marathon session. Reproductive rights, which include abortion, were a key point of disagreement. However, after a marathon negotiating session, the controversial terms remained in. Crucially, reproductive rights were characterized not only as a matter of health care but as part of achieving equality for women. Both ideas are wrong.
This document has become more than a working document and is now the presumptive draft of the sustainable development agenda. Due to the difficulty in negotiations, many countries are unwilling to reopen the document, even though they are displeased with these problematic goals.
Sustainable development should be, as United Nations Member States agreed, people-centered.That means all policies should respect human dignity.
Reproductive rights treat women’s bodies, including their fertility, like a problem rather than a part of who women are, deserving of respect and accommodation. By doing so, they fail to address the root problems behind inequality.
This idea, that fertility must be controlled, also treats people as problems and incapable of addressing development problems in a sustainable way. It treats people as objects to be managed or controlled, rather than agents in their own lives. WYA believes that people are the solution, and can use their skills and talents to reduce poverty in a sustainable way.
The idea of overpopulation as an imminent threat to world order is not a new one. For hundreds of years, prophets of doom have suggested that there are just too many people for everyone to live. They have two things in common: they always seem to think the problem is too many poor people (which exempts themselves), and they have never been right. Although it may not be possible for everyone to consume like people in developed, wealthy countries, it is possible for everyone to have their needs met, especially if everyone consumes responsibly and sustainably.
The current discussion over the SDGs revolves around assessing the achievement of the proposed goals through targets and indicators. Recently, Member States were asked to give feedback on proposed indicators. Some States were unable to participate due to a rushed timeframe and lack of translation of the indicators. However, even among those that did participate, the indicators related to reproductive rights generally received poor ratings. WYA hopes that this will provide an opportunity for alternatives that truly serve people in developing countries, and especially poor women.
The last remaining part of the SDG negotiations will be the political declaration which will accompany the goals. We hope that they can promote respect human dignity within the sustainable development agenda. WYA will continue to monitor the SDG negotiations and work with friendly delegations and other organizations to advocate for human dignity within the SDGs.
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