Sexual and Reproductive Health Plays a Central Role in Development

On 27-29 May, 2015, Sofia hosted the Regional conference “Promoting Health and Rights, Reducing Inequalities: Towards Better Sexual and Reproductive Health Outcomes in Eastern Europe and Central Asia”.

The conference was focused on topics related to reducing health inequalities and improving the quality of reproductive health. Organizers of the event were the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Health and the Regional Office of UNFPA (United Nations Fund for Population) for Central and Eastern Europe. The conference was co-funded from the state budget for development policy of the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry.

The main goal was to present the development of policies on reproductive health, to mobilize support and investments in this area, and to exchange experiences for future cross-border cooperation in the region.

At the official opening, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Valentin Poriazov highlighted  that a priority for Bulgaria and the EU member states is to include the topics of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the post-2015 UN Program for Development, successor of the MDGs adopted in 2000. The concept that no one should be excluded from economic opportunities for development (known as „LeaveNoOneBehind”), will be fundamental for the post – 2015 Program for Development.  The healthcare issues will be important both as an indicator for success and as a part of the sustainable development paradigm.

Special guests of the conference were Ms. Kate Gilmore, Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA and Mr. Heimo Laakkonen, Director of UNFPA’s Regional Office for Eastern and Central Europe in Istanbul. They drew attention to the need for more effort in the struggle for equal access to healthcare and for improving the quality of services offered. Participants also emphasized that today we are witnessing one of the biggest migration flows in history. In their opinion that increases the need to work with the different generations and to ensure access to information in the field of the sexual and reproductive health and rights.

During the conference, the Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov had a special meeting with Ms. Kate Gilmore, UNFPA Deputy Executive Director, the main topic of which was the demographic situation and the need to strengthen regional cooperation.  They also agreed that the dialogue between different generations, as well as active involvement of young people in the elaboration and implementation of programs in the field of health and reproductive rights is a key factor for future success.

Amongst representatives of the Bulgarian NGO sector, the Bulgarian Family Planning Association (BFPA) took an active part in the discussions and the elaboration of the recommendations for future development of the policies for equal access to quality health services for all. The specific experience of BFPA in the implementation of initiatives in the field of reproductive health in countries, priority for Bulgarian ODA, was emphasized as a good basis for future initiatives.

The 140 participants from 19 countries, representing governmental bodies, parliamentarians, civil and scientific organizations, signed a declaration (Sofia Declaration of Commitment), which puts sexual and reproductive health as a fundamental priority in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Special attention was given to the commitments of the countries to the international development cooperation issues in the field of reproductive health.

The full text of the declaration could be found here.