Lunch speech to MPs in action for maternal health

Stella Ronner-Grubacic, ambassador for the Millennium Development Goals

Ladies and gentlemen,

The minister has already addressed you in the video you just saw, so there is no need for me to repeat the message he transferred to you about the importance the Netherlands attaches to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

I simply want to tell you how extremely pleased I am to be able to offer this lunch to you today on behalf of Minister Koenders. It gives me the opportunity to be with so many women (and men!) whose work is vital to achieving this goal.

Both as the Ambassador for Millennium Development Goals, and as a woman, I have been struck many times by the stories and accounts about maternal health and the risks that women, all around the world, run because of the fact that they are pregnant. I say deliberately “all around the world”, because let us not forget that pregnancy requires care wherever you are. Making pregnancy and delivery safer is important for all women, no matter where they are. This does not alter the fact however, that the maternal mortality rate varies enormously from one part of the world to the other. Not long ago, a woman from Afghanistan told me that the chance of dying in child birth and related causes in her country is a staggering 1 in 6. This is a figure that is practically beyond imagination.

I find that perhaps the most difficult part of my job and the biggest challenge for me as ambassador for MDGs is to make sure that these stories are not only heard, but translated into real deeds and decisive action, for instance when we attend diplomatic gatherings and international meetings, such as the summit on MDGs in New York at the end of September.

How do you do that? Is it possible at all? Or is there perhaps some truth in the suggestion that if men were the ones to give birth and to have children, MDG5 would not be the most off-track goal? I do not want to be unfair to the men present here, but the question deserves to be raised every once in a while, just to keep everybody alert.

Of course, as national governments we are not alone in having to achieve the MDGs. We are supported by the work of multilateral organizations. Their work is of huge importance: a clear example is the launching by the World Bank, WHO, UNFPA and UNICEF of their harmonized approach towards improving maternal and newborn health in order to jointly accelerate the implementation at country level. I am happy to see all four organisations represented in this conference. It illustrates their joint commitment to deliver as One UN.

What was also achieved in New York in September, and what the Netherlands government considers another important success, is that MDG 5 and the other health-goals were raised to the top of the UN-agenda. This is important because political leaders everywhere have to be constantly reminded of their commitments and their responsibilities. This goes for politicians both in the developed and in the developing world. Political leaders have to be held accountable. And this is where you come in. You are the ones who are best-placed to do this; you can call your politicians to Parliament, remind them of their duties and urge them to implement worldwide commitments and policy goals.

If this conference can help you with this important job, I think it can be called a great succes. I know for sure that this is the aim of the organizers, whom – like the minister – I would like to congratulate on their efforts and stamina to get this major event off the ground. I am hopeful that this lunch can be a small contribution to that success. We have organized it in such a way as to provide a real platform for more contacts, future activities and closer cooperation. If we are succesful in achieving this aim, it will have made my job today a very pleasant and useful one.

I wish you great success during the rest of the conference and would like to propose this toast to all of you, and especially the organizers, the WHO, the IPU and the Dutch Parliament, and more particularly Ms. Chantal Gill’ard. Here’s to you.

Enjoy your lunch.