Abortion Funding Robust in Global Development Goals

By | July 25, 2019

NEW YORK, July 26 (C-Fam) The UN sustainable development goals were billed as the last best hope of the UN system when they were adopted in 2015. But according to the latest review of progress on the goals the world is far from reaching them by the target date of 2030. Moreover, government funding for the goals is dwindling.

“We must dramatically scale up public and private investments for the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Secretary General Antonio Guterres in his speech to the High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development which concluded last week at UN Headquarters. He complained of a “downward trend” in global aid and urged countries to reverse it.

The lack of willingness of countries to spend money on the UN development agenda suggests that the agenda does not enjoy the coherence and legitimacy that the UN Millennium Development Goals enjoyed between the years 2000 and 2015. The predecessor scheme of the current UN goals was relatively simpler and focused on basic development priorities. Global aid increased fourfold in that period.

It was hoped that the ambitious set of seventeen sustainable development goals, which include broad economic, environmental, and social policy goals, would continue to galvanize and unite global development efforts around a common agenda. But that does not seem to be the case.

Underscoring the lack of funding is the attempt of the UN system to have cities adopt the sustainable development goals as municipal policies and to have private corporations contribute to the achievement of the goals, regardless of the approach of sovereign national authorities.

More concerning, governments selectively emphasize one or another aspect of the goals and interpret them in very different ways. One example of this selectivity and diversity is in the area of reproductive health.

Reproductive health is the single largest item on the global health agenda, with over $12 billion devoted to it annually. It is the only global aid issue whose funding has consistently increased over the last twenty years without ever dropping.

The fruit of these investments were shown over the last two weeks. At the High-Level Political Form, most countries reported on their national reproductive health strategies, and many countries repeated the UN population agency’s talking points and indicators on increasing contraception usage and sex education for adolescents.

Even so, some countries only paid lip service to the UN population agency’s talking points and metrics about women’s empowerment. They couched reproductive health as necessary to “reduce fertility or to “manage population growth.”

When it comes to abortion, there is wide divergence among countries.

The United Kingdom, a leading funder of reproductive health globally, presented a report to the UN High-Level Forum expressly and repeatedly tying the availability of abortion-on-demand to the achievement of the UN sustainable development goals. But the United Kingdom was an outlier. Very few countries addressed abortion at all in their reports and the other country which addressed the legal status of abortion in their report was Tunisia.

Several countries were asked about their abortion laws by pro-abortion organizations during question and answer sessions at the High-Level Forum. Sometimes abortion was mentioned explicitly, but more often the euphemism “sexual and reproductive health and rights” was used instead. States did not respond to these questions at all.