New European Consensus for Development Prioritises Women and Girls’ Sexual and Reproductive Health

The new version of European Consensus for Development promises increased commitment to gender equality, and touches upon many of the key issues faced by millions of women and girls around the world. But, how does it fare when it comes to family planning and sexual and reproductive health?

Well, for one thing, thanks to the tireless efforts made by Countdown 2030 Europe partners, family planning and sexual and reproductive health are firmly embedded in the consensus.

The European Consensus for Development presents a key framework for EU development cooperation policy and aims to ensure that EU development cooperation reflects the commitments made to the sustainable development goals (SDGs). To this end, Countdown 2030 Europe partners engaged with the EU institutions throughout the year-long process by sharing our expert recommendations, alongside key partners such as CONCORD and Eurongos. Partners met with the co-rapporteurs in charge of representing the European Parliament in inter-institutional negotiations, Member States’ representatives both in Brussels and at national level, as well as European Commission officials, to ensure that strong commitments to family planning and sexual and reproductive health were clearly laid out in the document.

Gender equality and a greater focus on youth empowerment, both critical to poverty reduction, have been strengthened throughout the document compared to the previous version from 2005. In fact, – the previous version did not mention “youth” once throughout. For the first time ever, the document also holds both the EU and its Member States accountable, which is paramount to ensuring a proper implementation of their commitments.

Although this is a step forward, unsurprisingly, a large emphasis has been placed on issues relating to the EU’s own interests, migration and security, which unfortunately could narrow the focus and potentially lead to women and girls, particularly the most marginalized, being left behind. Tackling the causes of inaccessibility to family planning, deeply rooted in gender inequality and poverty, are critical to achieving the SDGs and ensuring that millions more women have access to the essential services they need. However, Countdown 2030 Europe core issues pertaining to sexual and reproductive health, family planning, gender equality and youth have vastly improved since 2005, and this is indeed a move in the right direction to guarantee that women and girls’ lives are a top priority.