Procedure : 2008/2621(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : B6-0395/2008

Texts tabled :


Debates :

PV 03/09/2008 - 15
CRE 03/09/2008 - 15

Votes :

PV 04/09/2008 - 7.5
CRE 04/09/2008 - 7.5

Texts adopted :


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See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B6-0377/2008
1 September 2008
to wind up the debate on the statement by the Commission
pursuant to Rule 103(2) of the Rules of Procedure
by Pasqualina Napoletano, Alain Hutchinson, Glenys Kinnock, Neena Gill and Anne Van Lancker
on behalf of the PSE Group
on maternal mortality ahead of the UN High Level Event, 25 September - review of the Millennium Development Goals

European Parliament resolution on maternal mortality ahead of the UN High Level Event, 25 September - review of the Millennium Development Goals 

The European Parliament,

-  having regard to the Millennium Development Goals adopted at the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in September 2000,

-   having regard to the June European Council's 'Agenda for Action' and its 2010 milestones,

-  having regard to the Commission report on the 'Millennium Development Goals 2000–2004' (SEC(2004)1379),

-  having regard to the Presidency Conclusions of the PersonNameBrussels European Council of 16 and 17 December 2004, confirming the full commitment of the European Union to the Millennium Development Goals and to policy coherence,

-  having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council 'Gender Equality and Women Empowerment in Development Cooperation' (SEC(2007) 332),

-   having regard to the Joint placeAfrica-EU Strategy,

-  having regard to European Parliament resolution of 13 March 2008 on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Development Cooperation (2007/2182(INI)),

-  having regard to its resolutions of 12 April 2005 on the role of the European Union in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and of 20 June 2007 on 'The Millennium Development Goals – the midway point',

-  having regard to its resolution of 17 November 2005 on a development strategy for placeAfrica , and of 25 October 2007 on the state of play of EU-Africa relations,

-  having regard to the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in September 1995, to the Declaration and the Platform for Action adopted in Beijing as well as to the subsequent outcome documents adopted at the United Nations Beijing +5 and Beijing +10 Special Sessions on further actions and initiatives to implement the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action adopted respectively on 9 June 2000 and on 11 March 2005,

-  having regard to the joint statement by the Council and the representatives of the governments of the Member States meeting within the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission on European Union Development Policy: 'The European Consensus' (The European Consensus on Development), signed on 20 December 2005, and to the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid of December 2007,

-  having regard to the United Nations Population Fund's State of World Population reports of 2005 and 2006, entitled 'The Promise of Equality: Gender Equity, Reproductive Health and the Millennium Development Goals' and 'A Passage to Hope: Women and International Migration', respectively,

-  having regard to Regulation (EC) No 1905/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 establishing a financing instrument for development cooperation ('Development Cooperation Instrument' (DCI)),

-  having regard to the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, also known as the 'Maputo Protocol', which came into force on 26 October 2005, and to the Maputo Plan of Action for the operationalisation of the Continental Policy Framework for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights 2007-2010, adopted at the special session of the African Union in September 2006,

-  having regard to the UN International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in September 1994, the Programme of Action adopted in Cairo, and to the subsequent outcome documents adopted at the UN Cairo+5 special session on further actions to implement the Programme for Action adopted in 1999,

-  having regard to the PersonNameBrussels framework for action and recommendations on health for sustainable development, adopted by the health ministers of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) in PersonNameBrussels in October 2007,

-  having regard to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which entered into force on 3 January 1976, and in particular its Article 12,

-  having regard to Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 14, The Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health, UN Doc. E/C 12/2000/4 (2000),

-  having regard to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women of 3 September 1981,

-  having regard to Rule 103(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas maternal mortality is the MDG that has fallen furthest adrift of its target: MDG 5 calls for a 75% cut in the maternal mortality rate by 2015, to which 186 countries have committed themselves,

B.  whereas over half a million women die in pregnancy or childbirth every year, and 99% of these deaths take place in developing countries; whereas in 20 years, the rate in sub-Saharan Africa has barely moved ,with only a 0.1 annual rate of reduction in the region, and women there have a lifetime risk of one in sixteen dying in pregnancy and in childbirth; whereas maternal mortality is the most dramatic indiPersonNamecator of global health inequalities,

C.  whereas, besides geographical inequality, experience and research on maternal mortality reveals significant disparities in maternal mortality rates in relation to wealth, race and ethnicity, urban or rural loPersonNamecation, literacy levels, and even language or religious divisions within countries, including industrialised countries, a disparity which shows the largest discrepancies of all public health statistics,

D.  whereas the G8 has agreed a package on health that will help train and recruit 1.5 million health workers in Africa and ensure that 80% of mothers are accompanied in childbirth by a trained health worker; whereas this includes a commitment to upscale to 2.3 health workers per 1000 people in 36 African countries experiencing a critical shortage; whereas, however, there is no mention of ring-fencing the USD 10 billion which civil society activists claim would be required to save the lives of six million mothers and children each year,

E.  whereas maternal mortality and morbidity constitute a global health emergency; each year it is estimated that approximately 536 000 women die during childbirth and, furthermore, one out of twenty experience serious compliPersonNamecations, ranging from chronic infections to disabling injuries such as obstetric fistula or lifelong disabilities,

F.  whereas there is no mystery about why women die in pregnancy and childbirth: the causes of maternal mortality are clear and well known, as are the means to avoid it,

G.  whereas maternal mortality could be prevented by increasing access to and adoption of family planning methods, by access to and provision of safe, quality maternal care, particularly during pregnancy, at delivery, with emergency obstetric care, and in the post-partum period, as well as by improving women's health and nutrition status and their position in society,

H.  whereas this preventive approach includes training women and health workers to recognise complications in pregnancy and childbirth and to seek appropriate care, requires a network of appropriate health facilities that can be reached within a reasonable time period given available infrastructure and transport, and requires the provision of adequate care at these nearby health facilities, by trained staff, with effective management and available electricity, water and medical supplies,

I.  whereas preventable maternal deaths constitute violations of the right to life of women and adolescent girls, as laid out in numerous international human rights commitments, including the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the causes of maternal mortality and morbidity can also involve or violations of other human rights, including the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and the right to non-discrimination in access to basic health care,

J.  whereas it is the responsibility of governments to provide either themselves or through others, health care services as of right, and whereas even for governments with limited resources there are immediate measures that can be taken that will have an impact on maternal health,

K.  whereas, ultimately, the underlying causes of maternal mortality and birth-related injuries are less likely to be practical or structural than symptomatic of the low value and low status accorded to women, who are generally disadvantaged in society, and recognising that, in countries with similar levels of economic development, the higher the status of women, the lower the rate of maternal mortality,

L.  whereas women are particularly vulnerable during pregnancy or childbirth because of several forms of discrimination, including disparities between men and women in the household, traditional practices that are harmful to women, violence against women, lack of power over their reproductive rights, rejection of female babies and stereotypes of women as primarily mothers and carers; whereas the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has been ratified by all EU Member States,

M.  whereas the UN General Assembly has included 'universal access to reproductive health by 2015' as a sub-goal in the list of MDGs under MDG5 - Maternal Mortality,

N.  whereas at the International Conference for Population and Development (ICPD) the international community pledged new resources, identifying 'reproductive health' (including family planning and maternal health services) as a central priority for international development efforts,

O.  whereas rather than increasing support, total donor funding for family planning is now far lower than it was in 1994, having fallen from USD 723 million in 1995 to USD 442 million in 2004 in absolute dollar terms,

P.  Whereas the EU has made regular and consistent commitments to meeting the MDG 5 target, most recently in the June 2008 Agenda for Action,

Q.  whereas despite the gravity of this problem and the violation of human rights, maternal health services have remained low on the international agenda, overshadowed by attention to disease-specific interventions, and this has led to the marginalisation of maternal mortality, while high HIV rates have contributed to stagnating or deteriorating progress towards reduction of maternal mortality and morbidity,

1.  Expresses strong concern at the fact that maternal mortality (MDG 5) is the only MDG on which not only has there been no progress since 2000, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and placeSouth Asia, but 20 years ago the figures were the same as they are now;

2.   Notes that alongside eduPersonNamecation, the empowerment of women significantly contributes to the improvement of MDG 5 (maternal health);

3.  Calls on the Council and Commission, ahead of the UN High Level Meeting on the MDGs, to prioritise action to meet MDG 5 on improving maternal health;

4.  Calls on the Commission and Council to reduce the disparity between maternal mortality rates in industrialised and developing countries, through increased investment and action to improve human resources for health, and greater resources and commitment in order to strengthen health systems and basic health infrastructure, including allocations for monitoring, supervision, basic public health functions, community action and other necessary support functions;

5.  Calls on the Commission and Council to intensify efforts to eliminate preventable maternal mortality and morbidity through developing, implementing, and regularly evaluating 'road maps' and action plans for the reduction of the global burden of maternal mortality and morbidity, which adopt an equity-based, systematic and sustained human rights-centred approach, adequately supported and facilitated by strong institutional mechanisms and financing;

6.  Calls on the Commission and Council to follow the success of schemes combating maternal mortality in places such as Methani in Chhattisgarh, India, and expand the provision of maternal health services in the context of primary health care, based on the concept of informed choice, education on safe motherhood, focused and effective prenatal care, maternal nutrition programmes, adequate delivery assistance that avoids excessive recourse to caesarean sections and provides for obstetric emergencies, referral services for pregnancy, childbirth and abortion complications, post-natal care and family planning;

7.  Calls on the Commission and Council to promote the access of all women to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services;

8.  Calls on the Commission and Council to adopt and develop the already well-established indiPersonNamecatPersonNameors and benchmarks for reducing maternal mortality (including ODA allocations), and to establish monitoring and accountability mechanisms that could lead to a constant improvement of the existing policies and programmes;

9.  Calls on the Commission and Council to guarantee that reproductive health care services are available, accessible, and of good quality, and devote the maximum available resources to the policies and programmes on maternal mortality;

10.  Calls on the Commission and Council to ensure the collection of reliable and timely data to guide implementation for addressing maternal mortality and morbidity;

11.  Calls on the Commission and Council to enable training, capacity-building, and infrastructure for an adequate number of skilled birth attendants and to ensure access to such attendants for all pregnant women and girls (and to ensure that 'road maps' and national action plans reflect this target/outcome/goal);

12.  Urges the EU to continue to be in the vanguard of efforts to support sexual and reproductive health rights by maintaining levels of funding for the implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action, and regrets that while sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of maternal mortality, it also has the lowest rate of contraceptive use in the world (19%) while 30% of all maternal deaths in the region are caused by unsafe abortions;

13.  Believes that in order to meet the MDG targets on universal access to reproductive health by 2015, the level of funding from the EU has to be increased, or the lives of women who die because of pregnancy and related causes will continue to be lost;

15.  Calls on the Commission and Council to develop programmes and policies to address the underlying determinants of health that are essential to prevent maternal mortality such as participation in health-related decision-making processes, information on sexual and reproductive health, literacy, nutrition, non-discrimination and the social norms underlying gender equality;

16.  Calls on the Commission and Council, following the advances made in the reduction of maternal mortality, to participate actively in global forums such as 'Countdown to 2015', to share best practices on the programmes and policies in this regard, and to promote a continued momentum for improvement;

17.  Urges EU Member States to refrain from reneging on funding commitments to meet the MDGs, including MDG 5, and calls on the Council Presidency to take the lead and set an example by ensuring that adequate, predictable funding is available and that efforts are scaled up so that lives can be saved;

18.  Asks the Commission to ensure that MDG contracts concentrate primarily on the health and education sectors;

19.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Governments and Parliaments of the CityplacePlaceNameMemberPlaceType States, the UN Secretary-General, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD.

Last updated: 2 September 2008Legal notice