EU external policy action to combat violance against women and promote sexual and reproductive health rights

AuthorJeney, Petra; Cotroneo, Clara
IPOL | Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs
18 PE 621.927
The European Union is committed to take action against gender-based violence/violence against
women (GBV/VAW) and to promote sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) in its international
cooperation and development policy. These commitments are widely reflected in various major policy
documents, a central one being the current European Consensus on Development revised in 2017,14
which reinstates a strong commitment to SRHR and GBV/VAW in line with the 2030 UN Agenda for
Sustainable Development. The key stance taken by the EU is the following:
"The EU remains committed to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and to the full
and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Programme of Action of the
International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the outcomes of their review
conferences and remains committed to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), in this context.
Having that in mind, the EU reaffirms its commitment to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the
right of every individual to have full control over, and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to
their sexuality and sexual and reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion and violence. The EU
further stresses the need for universal access to quality and affordable comprehensive sexual and
reproductive health information, education, including comprehensive sexuality education, and health-care
These EU commitments are also articulated in development policies, chiefly the EU’s Gender Action
Plan II (GAP II), the framework of which the European Commission, the European External Action
Services and the EU Member States streamline their approach to gender equality through external
action. GAP II focuses on gender mainstreaming, and to make progress regarding (1) stopping violence
against women and girls (2) improving women and girls’ socioeconomic rights and (3) increasing
women participation in decision-making processes at all levels. The new GAP III for the period between
2021-2025 is currently under discussion and its adoption is expected by the end of 2020. The new
initiative builds on the Commission’s two previous gender action plans in reaffirming gender
equality/women’s rights as a key strand of EU foreign policy. It would also align EU action with
international commitments taken by the bloc, especially under the 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable
Development, the UN Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, the
UN Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action for advancing women's rights and the UN women,
peace and security agenda.
Being committed to the implementation of the 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development, both in
its internal and external policies, the EU promotes Goal 5 on gender equality to achieve gender equality
by ending all forms of discrimination, violence and any harmful practices against women and girls in
the public and private spheres in its external actions.16 In this direction, the EU has adopted, in
December 2018 and the corresponding Action Plan for 2019-2024.17 In addition, the relationship
14 The New European Consensus on Development ‘Our World, Our Dignity, Our Future’ Joint Statement by the Council and the
Representatives of the Gove rnments of the Member States Meeting Within the Council, the European Parliament and the European
https://ec.europa. eu/international-partne rships/system/files/europea n-consensus-on-development-final-20170626_en.pdf See paras 33
and 34.
15 Ibid. para 34.
16 Crowley, N. and Sansonetti, S., 2019. New visions for Gender Equality 2019.
17 Council conclusions on Wo men, Peace and Security as adopted at t he 3662nd meeting of the Council on 10 Dec ember 2018
15086/18 and EU Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) 2019-2024 EEAS(2019) 747 respe ctively.
Evaluating the EU’s Response to the US Gag Rule
PE 621.927 19
between gender equality and sustainable development has been highlighted by different EU
Parliamentary groups.
2.1. EU’s Action on violence against women in the world
EU’s responses to the impact of the US Gag Rule have been financial as well as political. At the political
level, in addition to the Recommendation cited above, the former Vice-President Mogherini, on behalf
of the Commission commented on the policy by saying that:
In the area of humanitarian aid, the provision of sexual and reproductive health services is mainly
mainstreamed through projects delivering primary healthcare. Over the past decade the Commission has
allocated, through the EU's humanitarian aid budget, around EUR 200 million annually to healthcare,
including sexual and reproductive health. And in 2016, the Commission allocated EUR 18.4 million, through
the EU's humanitarian aid budget, to the United Nations Population Fund for targeted actions in the area of
sexual and reproductive health.18
Some of these initiatives have seen involved individual and groups of Member States, for example the
She Decides campaign which we shall see shortly. Others have seen the EU’s involvement in global
networks of partners, such as in, the Spotlight Initiative. The Spotlight Initiative19 was launched in 2017
in the framework of a partnership between the EU, the United Nations (UN) and civil society actors. The
initiative comprises a series of activities to eliminate gender-based violence and advance the Agenda
2030, which aims at improving gender equality and women’s empowerment. The initiative, endowed
with a contribution of EUR 500 million by the EU, seeks to provide relevant support to dedicated
national and regional programmes in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Pacific and the Caribbean on a
variety of topics related to violence against women and girls, and particularl y aims to build on existing
processes and actions. The initiative has specific institutional arrangements to allow for the inclusion
of relevant civil society organizations.
Several initiatives have been made in order to monitor the progress of the EU and Member States
towards advancing the gender equality agenda, promoting SRHR and FP abroad. One noteworthy
initiative is Europe Countdown 2030 Europe, a Consortium of 15 leading European non-governmental
organizations working to ensure advancement of human rights and investment in family planning.
Countdown 2030 tracks donations by EU insti tutions and Member States towards reproductive health
and family planning programmes. Importantly, the initiative aims at strengthening the accountability
of donors relatively to their commitments towards achieving greater gender equality and universal
access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health. Complementing the work already done to
describe trends, objectives and achievements at the EU and Member States’ levels, this chapter looks
at the actions of EU institutions (Section 2.2) and Member States (Section 2.3), considering both the
financial and political commitments made in the context of the 2019 Nairobi Summit (Section 2.4) and
with a view to the 2021-2017 MFF (Section 2.5.). In presenting our summary findings here below, we
would like to emphasise the methodological difficulties related to tracking EU and Member States’
donations, funds and pledges in this area and acknowledge the usefulness of the resources provided,
among others, by Countdown 2030, the European Union’s Financial Transparency System (FTS) and the
European Commission’s Directorate-General for the Budget’s input.
18 https://www.europarl.europa. eu/doceo/document/ ml

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