Improving sexual and reproductive health policies in 17 countries of the European Region

UNFPA/Nugzar Manjgaladze

On 14–15 March 2016, representatives of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), WHO staff and policy-makers from 17 countries in eastern Europe, the Caucasus and central Asia met in Tbilisi, Georgia to discuss further improvement of their national sexual and reproductive health (SRH) policies, as well as the draft of the European Action Plan for Human-rights Based SRH.

The UNFPA Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia and WHO/Europe organized the meeting. Nino Berdzuli, Deputy Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, opened the meeting and emphasized that despite achievements in improvement of maternal and perinatal health, prevention of cancers of reproductive organs and an increase of modern contraceptive prevalence, "There are still inequities that require intersectoral work between the health, education and social sectors to tackle these inequities and achieve better health and social outcomes."

During 2 days of meetings, participants discussed the latest drafts of the European strategy on women's health in the WHO European Region 2017–2021 and the European Action Plan for Human-rights Based SRH 2017–2021, as well as their links with already approved global and regional policy documents such as:

  • the Sustainable Development Goals
  • the Global Strategy for Women's, Children's and Adolescent's Health 2016–2030
  • the European strategic framework Health 2020
  • the Minsk Declaration on the Life-course Approach in the Context of Health 2020.

Rajat Khosla, Human Rights Adviser from the Department of Reproductive Health and Research at WHO headquarters, presented the linkage between SRH and human rights. Experts presented and participants discussed existing challenges including:

  • family planning;
  • abortion;
  • sexuality education;
  • sexual violence; and
  • SRH of adolescents, migrants, Roma, people living in remote areas and in poverty, as well as other disadvantaged populations.

Participants developed concrete suggestions for further revision or development of their national SRH strategies and programmes to ensure that they are in line with UNFPA and WHO regional policy documents.

In 2016–2017, WHO/Europe will provide technical assistance to Azerbaijan, the Republic of Moldova, Tajikistan and Ukraine in revising or developing national reproductive health strategies and action plans. The meeting was a good opportunity to exchange experience and strengthen the network of policy-makers in SRH.