The World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Special Research Programme HRP and the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights (EPF) today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to strengthen the bridge between science and policy to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.
“Sexual and reproductive health and rights are a cornerstone for better health and must be an integral part of policies, laws and budgets governing universal health coverage,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “I welcome this historic moment with the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights as an opportunity to support MPs as they act on the best evidence of WHO to advance the situation of not only of women and girls, but of entire societies.”
The MoU has three key areas:
- technical support to promote evidence-based laws and policies aligned to WHO normative guidance
- advocacy to mobilize parliamentarians on awareness raising for sexual and reproductive health, with particular support to low- and middle-income countries
- capacity building to strengthen the way WHO and parliamentarians work together.
WHO is strengthening its engagement with parliaments
WHO recognizes the importance of parliamentarians as active contributors to health and rights through their core functions of legislation, advocacy, accountability and budget allocation.
“EPF is proud to have worked in close partnership with WHO and HRP for many years to ensure that parliamentarians can live up to their responsibility as legislators to improve health policies in their respective settings,” said Neil Datta, Executive Director, EPF. “Today we are delighted to formalize our collaboration and continue this important work in supporting Members of Parliaments to hold their governments accountable for delivering health outcomes aligned with WHO policies and in accordance with international norms, such as the ICPD Programme of Action.”
EPF, WHO and HRP have partnered since 2014 on a wide range of sexual and reproductive health and rights issues including: contraception access and information; maternal health; safe abortion care; child marriage; comprehensive sexuality education; violence against women; fertility care; self-care.
Moving evidence into policy to promote and protect SRHR
Almost everyone of reproductive age – about 4.3 billion people – will not be able to access at least one essential sexual and reproductive health intervention over the course of their lives. This MoU is a high-level commitment to stand with science in positioning these issues at the core of national, regional and international political agendas.
“Parliamentarians’ political and social capital are powerful levers for defending and advancing progress on health and rights issues which we know can be sensitive and politicized,” said Dr Pascale Allotey, Director of the WHO Department of SRH, which includes HRP. “Our partnership with EPF is a strong commitment to sexual and reproductive health and rights as an evidence-based, accountable, political choice.”
The MoU is aligned to WHO’s Triple Billion targets, with special emphasis on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets on health and gender equality (3.7 and 5.6).
The signing comes at a historic moment, as WHO celebrates its 75th anniversary, HRP its 50th anniversary and the world looks to the 30th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development – a global milestone and a frontier for sexual and reproductive health and rights in 2024.