Harvard T.H. Chan: School of Public Health   |  May 9, 2013

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The only goal related to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was MDG 5, which called for improvement in maternal health and set a target of a 75 percent reduction in maternal mortality ratios (MMRs)
from 1990 levels by 2015. Another target, MDG 5B, relating to universal access to reproductive health was added belatedly, in the face of substantial political opposition. In this article, we begin by providing some context for the selection of the targets and indicators chosen to measure “improvement in maternal health” and also consider why the broad vision of SRHR set out at international conferences in the 1990s was reduced to maternal health in the MDGs. Next, we examine what progress has been made with respect to MDG 5, focusing in particular on the human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination, participation and transparency, and accountability. We then turn to what has happened as a result of the choices made with respect to the targets and indicators focusing on maternal health, as well as the aspects of SRHR that were left off the MDG agenda. By examining research, funding, and programming we consider the intended and unintended consequences of the choice of MDG 5 as a goal, together with its targets and indicators, for the SRHR agenda. Finally, we consider various scenarios for including SRHR in goals that have been proposed moving forward, and discuss criteria for selecting targets and indicators from the perspective of human rights.

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