The Irish government launched a new international development policy in 2019, entitled ‘A Better World’, which strongly signals that Ireland will take a proactive, rights-based approach to sexual and reproductive health and work towards the fulfilment of sexual and reproductive rights. In a significant departure from previous policies, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is mainstreamed throughout the document, which includes a commitment to a new initiative on SRHR, the incorporation of SRHR into humanitarian programming and a commitment to Universal Health Coverage (UHC). The policy states: “Access to health services, including access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, is fundamental for realising SRHR and transforming women’s health outcomes.” Ireland’s third National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) was also published in 2019 and provides further evidence of the mainstreaming of SRHR across government policy. The document references the SRHR commitments in ‘A Better World’ and commits Ireland to intensifying and advancing work on SRHR in humanitarian settings and to continue supporting women from conflict-affected countries living in Ireland through access to FGM treatment and sexual and reproductive health outreach. In October 2019, the government launched the 2018 Annual Report on Official Development Assistance containing – for the first time – multiple references to SRHR and the work Ireland is supporting in this area.
Policies & funding
In October 2018, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade used the occasion of the launch of the 2018 State of World Population (SWOP) report to announce an additional €700,000 in core funding to UNFPA, bringing the annual contribution up to €3.5 million already that year. At the 2019 SWOP launch, which was attended by the UNFPA Executive Director, the Irish government committed to working with UNFPA as a key partner in delivering SRHR policy and to maintaining the 2018 increase in core funding.
Ireland’s funding for SRH/FP, including overall funding to UNFPA, has increased year on year since 2016. In 2018 there was a substantial increase in both core and earmarked multilateral funding for SRH/FP. Overall funding to SRH/FP increased by 50%, amounting to €7.5 million. Additionally, Ireland has committed €350,000 to the funding of the Nairobi Summit in November 2019.
No roll-back on policy commitments to SRHR are anticipated under the current government and the environment is very positive. The Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Overseas Development have consistently expressed their commitment to the achievement of the ICPD Programme of Action and the Sustainable Development Goal targets 3.7 and 5.6. Ireland sent high-level political representation to the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 where the government again reiterated its commitment to the realisation of SRHR.
Ireland has committed €837 million to Official Development Assistance (ODA) for 2020. This is the fifth consecutive year that ODA funding has been increased, however the increase is down substantially on 2019 due to the economic uncertainty surrounding Brexit. There is no specific commitment to SRH/FP in the budget: the spend for SRH/FP is included within the overall budget for health.
Successive ministers for development and foreign affairs have made political commitments to ICPD in parliamentary speeches and debates. This commitment has been reaffirmed at the Commission on the Status of Women and the Commission on Population and Development. Ireland also played a strong role within the Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals to push for SRHR with its troika partners, Denmark and Norway. In September 2018, Ireland endorsed a resolution on maternal mortality in humanitarian settings at the UN Human Rights Council which recognised that SRHR are integral to the realisation of the right to health and that comprehensive SRH services must be available, accessible, acceptable and of quality. In September 2019, the Minister for Health told the High-Level Meeting on UHC: “Reproductive healthcare is a basic human right and should never be a matter of political discretion”. Additionally, Ireland joined 57 other countries in supporting a joint statement on SRHR in UHC delivered by the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands.
- A Better World: Ireland’s Policy for International Development
- Ireland’s third National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security
- Government of Ireland Official Development Assistance: Annual Report 2018
Updated January 2020
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