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The sustainable development goals are coming!

Fifteen years ago, the international community agreed upon the ‘millennium development goals’, an ambitious project to achieve considerable progress in the field of development by 2015. These goals included the reduction of maternal and child mortality, universal access to reproductive health care, equal rights for women and men, and the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Important progress has been made since then, but not all the goals will be reached by the end of 2015. The United Nations are preparing to continue the work by launching a new set of goals, this time for the period 2015-2030. The successor to the millennium development goals will be called ‘the sustainable development goals’. The draft document proposes 17 general goals and 169 concrete targets. General goals are for instance the elimination of poverty and hunger, the reduction of inequality, access to water and energy for everybody, ensuring sustainable patterns of production and consumption, and preservation of biodiversity. In the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights, the proposed targets are gender equality and universal access to reproductive health and rights. These are beautiful principles, but how they will be interpreted by the different countries and how much attention and resources they will receive remains unsure. Achieving these goals will anyway not be possible without struggle: there is still considerable opposition against equal rights and empowerment of women, abortion, sexual education for young people, and rights for gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people. A first big step will be the approval of the sustainable development goals. This is scheduled to happen during the top conference of the United Nations that will take place from 25 until 27 September in New York. Marleen Temmerman will be there. She will insist on sufficient attention for sexual and reproductive health, and on a sufficiently broad and comprehensive interpretation that doesn’t avoid sensitive issues.