HLPF Report: 3Benedict Kinnison | July 29, 2019
The High-Level Political Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals has come to an end. Dozens of nations presented their challenge’s triumphs though their voluntary national reviews and based on these findings, billions of dollars will be maneuvered across the globe for development purposes. Going into the event, it was expected that “sexual and reproductive health” and other abortion language would be heavily promoted. The documents that these nations provided in preparation for these meetings suggested that it would be. These reports were littered with abortion language. Some countries made it the center of the report while few avoided the subject. Thus, the Forum was expected to be awash with abortion advocates.
Surprisingly, the meetings were comparatively quiet on the issue. The language was seldom used, and most delegates avoided the topic. While abortion was discussed in nearly every documented report, it was acknowledged in less than one sixth of the presentations of these reports. Moreover, apart from Algeria, no country used abortion language at all. The only representatives who seemed to have any interest in it were the Women’s Major Groups and the NGO Major Groups. These two stakeholders repetitively asked delegates about sexual and reproductive health following presentations; however, their concerns were rarely acknowledged. At several points, they hounded countries to do more to promote abortion and were publicly ignored. For example, Pakistan was accused by NGOs of not promoting sexual and reproductive health enough and was asked to explain themselves. The delegate from Pakistan told NGO Major Groups to “read our report” and refused to address the issue any further. Later, the same group told South Africa that abortion was a human right and they were failing to provide enough access in their country. This time, the South African delegate ignored their question all together and proceeded to answer every other stakeholder’s questions. Finally, Women’s Major Groups asked Rwanda to promote sexual and reproductive health more in their school systems. The delegate then attempted to follow South Africa’s example and answer all the other questions to run out the time. However, after she finished addressing every other question, there was still around thirty seconds left in her time. To cover, the delegate thanked the representative for their question, assured them that the government was not discriminatory, and then stumbled over umms and ahhs until cutting herself off for being out off time. Abortion groups were present at the High-Level Political Forum; however, countries took little interest in them.
Instead of discussing abortion, many nations used their voluntary national reviews to promote policy in support of the family. The most striking example of this came from Iceland. Iceland had more references to sexual and reproductive health in their documents than any other country. It was the centerpiece of their whole report. Shockingly, in their presentation, they did not make a single mention to it. In fact, the delegate went so far as to advocate against abortion culture. Iceland received applause at the United Nations for their strong support of paid family leave. They declared that fathers need to be involved in the raising of children and so no woman should have to choose between having a family and having a career. Thus, abortion took a backseat at the HLPF and policy supporting families may be beginning to take root.