Posted by: davidjolson | 09/03/2009

North-South Split Brewing on MDG Language

BERLIN, Germany – Spirited discussion around the “Berlin Call to Action” now being drafted at this NGO Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Development is heating up. It seems that the debate on the extent to which Millennium Development Goal (MDG) advocacy language should be incorporated into the ICPD sexual and reproductive health framework that has been seen at the Council’s Maternal Health Roundtable has also come to Berlin.

To wit, some sexual and reproductive rights groups feel that MDG 5 has consumed the ICPD agenda through MDG5b, which they believe does not clearly articulate the goals of the reproductive and sexual health community.

But others say that we must face the fact that international donors and the U.S. government have started to use the MDG language in their own communication and costing of global health priorities, and that this language provides a template to help policymakers in making and advocating for global health policy change.

To change the advocacy hymn book at this point could undue years of hard work in terms of getting international and U.S. policy makers to understand the importance of funding global health issues, they say, and that it would be a mistake to remove this language from the Berlin Call to Action.

The Latin America delegation is one of the prime drivers of the anti-MDG sentiment and is in no mood to compromise. Its members believe that the MDG language has prevented the advancement of the ICPD agenda and they feel the U.S. and European constituencies do not understand the realities on the ground. They say the MDG language does not represent the concrete results that they need to offer greater access to reproductive health (contraception, safe and legal abortion, etc.) and prioritization of sexual and reproductive health as a critical component of economic and social justice and development.

This debate has already been going on in the Maternal Health Roundtable at GHC. However, the discussion the last two days here in Berlin is heated with no compromise in sight. The deadline for written comments to the first draft took place at 9:00 this morning and a second draft is scheduled to come out on Friday. Stay tuned.

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