Health is a human right and as such, it is an integral part of the international human rights framework, playing a key role in development and poverty eradication. Every year, millions of people suffer and die from preventable causes because they have no access to necessary medical care.
For the World Health Organization, Universal Health Coverage (UHC) means that everyone should have some sort of guaranteed basic health service at an affordable price without putting people at risk of falling into poverty by having to deal with health expenditures. The path to universal health coverage is different for each country and there is no single recipe. Countries face a number of political and financial difficulties and must move towards a global health governance framework that recognizes international responsibilities from a human rights perspective. An appropriate political environment will be key to position UHC on the top of the agenda and build support among legislators and decision-makers to shape the 2030 sustainable development framework that includes universal health coverage.
Within the framework of a project sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, GPI convened on November 25th and 26th 2013, the Latin America and Caribbean parliamentary seminar on “Right to Health and the Role of Parliaments to achieve the Universal Health Coverage” took place in Panamá City, Panama. Later on Parliamentary Forum took place at the Bellagio Center in Italy titled: “Strengthening Parliamentary Leadership Towards Universal Health Coverage in Low and Middle Income Countries”. The aim of the forum was to create a space for sharing ideas and best practices, building alliances, and mobilizing the political will necessary among parliamentarians to promote universal health coverage at a global level. The Global Parliamentary Network on UHC was launched on February 26, 2014 in Bellagio, Italy with the adoption of the Bellagio Declaration on UHC. to generate a better understanding among parliamentary colleagues as they work together on the road to achieve UHC. and set the groundwork to launch this global initiative, sharing their experiences too.
During the United Nations Summit for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the member states approved the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is an agenda that puts gender equality, women’s rights and empowerment as the constitutive axis of sustainable development.
There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals with their 169 targets. They have a broader scope than the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), since they are universally applicable to all countries striving to end poverty, reduce inequality and fight against climate change. The SDGs cover three dimensions of sustainable development: economic growth, social inclusion and protection of the environment.
During the 36th session of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Mexico 2016), the member states adopted by resolution the creation of the Forum of the Latin American and Caribbean Countries on Sustainable Development as a regional mechanism for the follow-up and review of the implementation and follow-up of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as its targets and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development. Finally, the “Operational Guide for the Implementation and Follow-up of the Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development” provides the countries of the region with specific guidelines for the implementation of the priority measures of said Consensus and offers relevant inputs for monitoring both nationally and regionally. Parliamentarians play a key role in the follow-up at the national level to ensure the adoption of adequate legal frameworks.
In the Latin American and Caribbean region there have been significant advances in terms of women’s reproductive rights, and progress has been made in gender equality commitments through the adoption of legal frameworks and laws related to reproductive health. Unfortunately, the progress has been slow and made through the introduction of social policies limited by the lack of implementation and financial resources in many of the countries of the region. Likewise, there is a lot of opposition regarding the advancement of sexual and reproductive health issues, especially of religious conservative groups.
Despite being a middle-income region, Latin America and the Caribbean continues to be one of the least equitable in the world. The region has one of the highest rates of adolescent pregnancies. Between 1990 and 2015, maternal mortality in Latin America fell by 52%, but within countries there are disturbing gaps that remain unresolved. In addition, unsafe abortion contributes to maternal mortality. In the region, approximately 6.5 million induced abortions were performed per year, between the 2010-2014 period, 93% of which occur under high-risk conditions. Unsafe abortion remains a high-priority issue to reduce the number of women who cannot access safe procedures.
Early forced marriage and early unions are an extended practice in Latin America and the Caribbean but remain invisible. The increase and visibility of gender violence in the region reflects the imbalance of power relations in relationships, families and society. One aspect of the violence that is increasing more and more in the region is child marriage. Despite national laws that prohibit it in many countries, this phenomenon remains a threat and the prevalence in rural areas is almost double that of urban areas.
In Latin America and the Caribbean 19% of girls between 15 and 19 years old, that is, one in five, are married or in an early union. This situation is alarming because girls and adolescents are often forced to marry men much older than them, and even have been abused by them, consequently many get pregnant, leave schools and are exposed to various situations of violence. Latin America and the Caribbean is the region with the highest proportion of adolescent pregnancies, with 18 out of every 100 births corresponding to mothers between 15 and 19 years of age.