Keeping up with commitments: EU challenges and recommendations for the way forward

AuthorJeney, Petra; Cotroneo, Clara
IPOL | Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs
42 PE 621.927
In this chapter, we analyse some of the challenges and limitations of EU and EU Member States’
responses. The EU is considered a leading actor in promoting SRHR globally. At the same time, EU
attempts to foster SRHR inside the Union and in partner countries can be at times a challenging task,
as the topic touches on traditions, beliefs, norms a nd prevailing power relations.
The EU’ action in this field has encountered a number of external and internal challenges. We identify
and discuss three main sets of challenges:
A) Challenges related to traditional, cultural and religious beliefs which hinder the implementation of
EU SRHR-related programmes in partner countries (Section 3.1)
B) Political views, policy framings of the issue and major shifts: the rise of right-wing and populist views
in the EU, the clash between SRHR agendas and conservative legal systems and Britain’s exit from the
EU might jeopardise the EU’s leading role in promoting gender equality and SRHR abroad (Section 3.2)
C) Political and financial challenges brought up by the COVID-19 pandemic (Section 3.3)
Finally, we provide recommendations (Section 3.4) to push forward the EU’s response to the US MCP
and the Union’s leading role in SRHR.
3.1. EU’s external action in SRHR in challenging contexts
In its new Gender Equality Strategy (2020-2025), the Commission committed to advancing the gender
equality agenda, internally and in external action:
“Gender equality and women’s empowerment is a core objective of EU external action. It is important
that the EU’s internal and external actions in this field are coherent and mutually reinforce each other.
The EU promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment in its international partnerships,
political and human rights dialogues with third countries, EU trade policy as well as in the EU’s
neighbourhood and enlargement policies, including in the context of accession negotiations and the
Stabilisation and Association Process. Moreover, gender-related actions are included in the EU’s actions
in fragile, conflict and emergency situations”
One of the major obstacles to implementing action promoting access to sexual and reproductive
health services is ensuring the collaboration of governments and community leaders in partner
countries. 88 We explore here three major challenges, often interwoven with one another in
implementing for SRHR in partner countries and implementing related programmes. The first
challenge consists of challenging leaderships in partner countries, due to their authority role in
advancing - or obstructing - a gender agenda and empowering their communities.89 A 2019 study on
the provision of sexual and reproductive health care services in the Democratic Republic of Congo
shows that the support and engagement of community leaders is essential to expand contraceptive
and post-abortion care, given the power these personalities have in changing beliefs and habits in their
88 Ackerson, K. and Zielinski, R. , 2017. Factors influencing u se of family planning in women li ving in crisis affected are as of Sub-Saharan
Africa: A review of the literatur e. Midwifery, 54, pp.35-60.
89 Ibid.

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