Norway promises increased support for sexual and reproductive health services in crisis situations

By Kjersti Augland, Sex og Politikk (C2030E partner)

On August 13 The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched their new humanitarian strategy, An effective and integrated approach. The new strategy marks a shift in Norway’s humanitarian policy with a much stronger and clearer inclusion of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

Norway has long been an international champion when it comes to women’s rights and SRHR. In 2016 we saw a drop in funding, but after Norwegian NGOs put up a common front the situation improved in 2017 when Norway promised an increase in the support towards SRHR. This change also came after the reinstatement of USA’s Mexico City Policy. Despite this long-lasting commitment within long-term development, humanitarian policies have not had an equally clear priority. Protection from sexual and gender-based violence have been a focus, but not the broader SRHR agenda.

Leading up to the launch of the new humanitarian strategy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited civil society, research institutions and the private sector to a thorough and long consultation process. This presented a unique opportunity to engage directly with the Ministry. Sex og Politikk took the lead in championing SRHR and gender equality by facilitating both a joint (signed by 7 NGOs) and individual recommendation letter sent to the Ministry.

Not only did this process establish a good dialogue with the Ministry, but we realised that sexual and reproductive health and rights in crisis is an important agenda item for many Norwegian NGOs. At the same time, it became clear that the understanding of and knowledge about how SRHR in crisis can be strengthened, through, for instance, the Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP), was limited to a few people. We needed to promote this knowledge and make SRHR a self-evident part of any humanitarian effort!

Following the example of our sister-organisation in Sweden, RFSU, we decided to organise a conference to dispel the myth that SRHR is too difficult to address and concretise specific implementation opportunities. With the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and three of the largest Norwegian NGOs on board, we hosted a full-day conference on 4 June. With national and international experts present, sexual and reproductive health and rights was discussed, dismantled and rebuild into concrete actions both governments and humanitarian actors can take up in their humanitarian efforts. The report can be accessed here.

We know that our efforts have paid off with a clear priority included in the new humanitarian strategy. We know that the engagement around SRHR in crisis has increased both within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and among Norwegian NGOs. What we don’t know yet is how this will impact the actual funding priorities and implementation in crisis situations. Therefore, we need to continue our joint efforts in Norway and internationally to share best practices, develop the knowledge base of SRHR and make sure our governments prioritise SRHR in their policies and funding agreements.

«Norway will give high priority to measures that promote women’s and girls’ reproductive health in humanitarian crises. These measures include the provision of sexual and reproductive health services at health clinics and hospitals in conflict areas, and the use of mobile health clinics that can reach women in areas that are not easily accessible…. The Government will increase support for sexual and reproductive health services in crisis situations.

The Government will increase support sexual and reproductive health services in crisis situations»

Norway’s Humanitarian Strategy