It is not often you find yourself in a closed room listening to President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Prince Albert of Monaco and the President of Honduras. Oh yes, and let’s not forget his ‘Majesty’ from Saudi Arabia or the President of Tanzania.
It is rarer still that you will find yourself listening to all these men discussing the best ways to improve maternal health.
So I suppose today was just one of those days.
Men (yes men) who are in positions of power and influence and who certainly have one hand on their country’s national budget were all talking about how difficult it was to fulfil women’s health and rights.
Many highlighted that progress had been made, but that they were still way off course for achieving their MDG targets, especially those related to health or women.
All of these people, which included several Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Prime Ministers, their Deputies, Presidents, Heads of UN Agencies (WHO, UNFPA, UNESCO etc) and a very small number of NGOs came together at Roundtable 2 of the MDG Summit to focus on the what would seemingly appear to be a highly contentious issue – ‘Health and Education’.
The majority of the speeches made, were shall I say, not particularly enlightening and I shall not name names here – “the importance of physical education for lifting the self-esteem of people should not be under estimated”! I am sure this is true, but really, oh dear.
Others, though disappointingly few, made excellent statements – and I am happy to name UNFPA and Norway here. Norway pressed home the point that there really needs to be more focus on providing comprehensive sex education, youth friendly services, safe abortion services and the importance of achieving MDG 3.
Many and I include the President of Tanzania in this, highlighted that progress on reaching MDG 5 has been mixed. Gains made in reducing the Maternal Mortality Rate had been clawed back by the high incidence of HIV among women. Lesotho too highlighted the challenge presented by HIV and AIDS which disproportionately affects the young and vulnerable.
However, perhaps the most progressive statement of the day was made by an NGO that managed to speak right at the very end. The speech is attached here and provides a good example of what we should all be striving for. Oh yes, and the name of that NGO, erm, its IPPF Of course.
If you would like a very brief outline of the speeches made at the Round Table 2 then do please let me know and I’ll do my level best to forward them to you.