ARROW Executive Director Sivananthi Thanenthiran was a panelist at a side event hosted by GIZ and partners at Women Deliver where she spoke about ARROW’s contributions to the post-2015 process and the challenges faced.
ARROW had anticipated that the time period from 2012 onwards to be a critical period as this was the time when the major conferences were reaching their targeted 20-year deadlines; Rio (on the environment and sustainable development), Cairo (on population and sustainable development) and Beijing (women and gender equality) world conferences. And of course, the MDGs as well. Our key strategies were as follows.
ARROW, with the help of GIZ, first reached out and re-built our constituency. In 2012 we had a regional meeting where we first did a survey of organisations and identification of critical issues. We identified the key issues in the region to be poverty and inequality, climate change, food security, religious fundamentalism and universal access to health especially sexual and reproductive health. This gave us the foundation of the issues that we would take on as a regional organisation.
Our constituency also felt very strongly that the principles, issues, and language of the major conferences, especially Cairo and Beijing, had to be retained and maintained. So we had a challenging task of keeping the achievements of the old, and ensuring they were updated and maintained within the new development framework. We knew we had to get in early because we remembered well how the SRHR agenda was left out of the MDGs.
The post-2015 was a mammoth process and had many facets – the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons (HLPEP) in 2013, the Open Working Group process in 2014, and the inter-governmental negotiations in 2015. There were also parallel processes on financing for development (FfD), climate agreement, and indicators – all of which would feed into the post-2015 agenda. The UNFPA had also embarked on the elaborate ICPD review process at national, regional and global levels, which produced very progressive language and ideas on young people, comprehensive sexuality education, access to safe abortion, non-discrimination and non-violence for LGBTIQ communities.
ARROW and partners – ARROW is actively working in 17 countries in the region – participated in all of the processes. This entailed collecting all the information on the processes, distilling that information, sending it back to the national partners and holding capacity building meetings which enabled partners to update national knowledge products and documents on SRHR with all of these new parameters such as FfD, indicators, means of implementation, climate issues, etc.
We built capacities of national partners, who were already strategically positioned for advocacy, in order to hit the ground running so to speak. For us to be effective at the global level – after all we are a small regional organisation based in Malaysia – we had to work together and be collaborative with as many networks that are working on global advocacy. These included the Women’s Major Group, the Post-2015 Women’s Coalition, the SRHR Platform, the Population & Sustainable Development Alliance, and at the regional level with the different regional networks and as part of the Asia-Pacific Regional Coordination Engagement Mechanism (AP-RCEM). This also meant we had to be able to make our messages relevant and strategically packaged at every point to ensure SRHR was not left out.
ARROW has a strong partnership base at the national level in 15 countries, and in the Global South regions. Advocacy was carried out by ARROW and partners, at national, regional and global levels. We convened meetings and online consultations with partners to understand the issues at the national level, and use it in our communications and advocacy messages at the global inter-governmental meetings. The advocacy was circular with voices from the Global South reaching the regional and global advocacy spaces, and developments at global policy levels informing the national partners to strategize at the national level. ARROW and resource persons shared the global processes. We developed working papers on key issues- means of implementation, financing, indicators and what these mean for people in the Global South, for the SRHR movement and for women and young people.
ARROW quickly transferred learnings from global level to national level. We supported capacity strengthening of partners on these global issues, and partners developed advocacy briefs that focused on means of implementation, financing, accountability and indicators at the national level.
Young people have been integral to the agenda and were involved in all the above strategies mentioned: making statements during Post-2015 negotiations, part of the national partner teams that attended events at the regional level, developing advocacy briefs and organising national dialogues. Key youth partners were involved in capacity strengthening of peers at the regional level in Africa and Latin America.
ARROW strategized to ensure we present statements at the Post-2015 Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) in order to share the voices, experiences and realities of the Global South. ARROW partners, organisations, networks and alliances from the Global South endorsed these statements. ARROW staff – feminists, researchers- were nominated and voted in as speakers. They spoke on behalf of the region 6 out of 8 times in the IGNs. Every intervention of ours showed the diversity of women supporting and speaking up for the SRHR agenda through multifarious messaging packages.
The Executive Director of ARROW addressed the UN General Assembly 4 times between 2014 and 2016, on behalf of the region and ARROW’s constituencies. She spoke at the UNGA Special Session on the ICPD beyond 2014 (Sept 2014), the PGA High Level Thematic Debate on Gender Equality (March 2015), the United Nations summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda (September 2015) and the PGA High Level Thematic Debate on Implementing the SDGs (April 2016). She focused on pertinent issues in the Global South, SRHR, women, young people and marginalised groups.
ARROW established contacts with Member States and UN Permanent Missions of countries from the Global South. The Member States attended ARROW side events, we shared progressive language for the post-2015 outcome document and also strategized with the Member States to talk with other Member States who were aligned to regressive positions.
ARROWs active presence at these post-2015 negotiations posited regional Global South perspective; Women, young people and marginalised groups issues; SRHR and gender equality; Indicators on SRHR; financing with a Global South perspective; accountability mechanisms firmly into the Post 2015 development agenda.
We actively brought the youth agenda every possible time we could – in addition to the national partners in the Asia-Pacific region, we worked specifically with youth networks in Latin America and Africa to move on integrating youth in the post-2015 agenda. This new development agenda needs to take cognizance of the realities of young people because the world that this agenda wishes to build is supposed to be for young people. And yet young people are quite left out of the agenda. But it’s fifteen years more so there’s time to keep reminding governments to include young people when we are marking progress towards implementing the SDGs.
In the Latin America region, our partner integrated a strong capacity strengthening component. They facilitated educational spaces with approximately 211 young people from Ecuador, Nicaragua and Peru. In the three educational spaces, the “Call for Action” was used to familiarize young people with the 2030 agenda. To ensure youth issues are prioratised, young people were speakers in three IGNs. Young people also created a manual for political advocacy “Integrating Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights within the Post 2015 Development Agenda”, which was published both in Spanish and English.
In Africa, our partner was able to develop the regional advocacy brief after the ARROW regional meeting. The regional advocacy brief provided key messages, and information on maternal mortality, child mortality, child marriages and HIV prevalence, and accountability mechanisms for the implementation of the post-2015. The partners were also able to speak on two panels during the IGNs on the post-2015 in July, 2015. The partner also strengthened the capacity of people and organisations in the region and started the conversations on national accountability.
Ensuring government commitment to the critical SDGs we are interested in – gender equality, health – needs continued work. Monitoring, bringing out the stories of the gaps in achievements, demonstrating how SRHR are the lynchpin of achieving all of the SDGs.
Ensuring accountability of all stakeholders to achieving an inclusive agenda, across all the goals, is going to be a challenge as we have seen that member states are not committing to full accountability as of yet.
Ensuring that reducing inequalities in all its forms and that no one is left behind is going to require a lot of rethinking on the part of all stakeholders. It cannot be business as usual. It requires multi-stakholder partnerships in the truest sense of the word – equal partnership. It will also require governments to operate differently – integration of different line ministries, polticial commitment and work on social issues as compared to just economic and trade issues.
In our region, we are also facing the challenges of the coming of large regional free trade agreements (the TPPA) and these large trade agreements may supersede international agreements and conventions. Political unrest caused by religious fundamentalism and terrorism which sees greater control over autonomy and decision-making of individuals especially women’s rights and sexual and reproductive rights.
The impact and effects of climate change will be very great in the region with Asia-Pacific being the most disaster-prone region in the world. Climate change disasters have left people more vulnerable than ever before. The region is host to some 10.6 million refugees, and in 2011, has seen the highest number of departures for resettlement in the world. From 2009-2011 alone, there were 55.7 million people displaced by climate-related and extreme weather events in the region. Climate change will further cause an upward surge in migration in the region.
We need to continue building capacities of CSOs at regional and national levels to be able to withstand the challenges and to continue to keep the agenda as a high political priority of governments.
We have to keep utilizing the regional processes to ensure that critical SRHR indicators are monitored and work with UN agencies and UN country missions.
Ensure the integration of the SRHR agenda across the region, by continually building the inter-linkages with other development issues and working with CSOs across movements who are working on those issues as well.
Photo from GIZ