International and Regional Policy

Power of Numbers (SDGs) // Power of Numbers (MDGs) // Technical Guidance

Power of Numbers (SDGs)

The post-2015 development goals, called the Sustainable Development Goals, are set to be established by the UN in 2015. The Health, Human Rights, and Social Justice program at Harvard FXB, led by Harvard FXB policy director Alicia Yamin is collaborating with the New School for Social Research on a study of the impacts of the SDGs on policy priorities, policy change, and on changes in knowledge and discourse. The study will use a case study design similar to the Power of Numbers study described below (August 2015)

Power of Numbers (MDGs)

Capture-Power-of-Number-book-coverThe Power of Numbers project, now concluded, aimed to explain the way that global goal-setting influences shifts in policy and thinking by key stakeholders in international development, including national governments, donor agencies, the UN, and civil society. The project refocused debate away from the question of whether the MDGs were likely to be achieved to examine if and how the MDGs have shifted global and national policy priorities and discourse.

Power of Numbers engaged scholars from around the world to perform 11 case studies, each focused on a specific MDG goal or target. The case studies explored how the MDGs created incentives for behavior (policy) change and knowledge (ideas) change. Each case study examined

* the analytical and normative origins of each goal/target
* the empirical effects on policy priorities
* the normative effects on discourses and narratives
* the choice of indicators used and its incentive effects
* alternative indicators that could have been used

Findings from the project were presented to audiences who will shape the post-2015 development agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2014, the findings from the project were published in special double issue of the Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, co-edited by Yamin and Fukuda-Parr. In 2015, these papers were published in book form.

Technical Guidance

Capture-unhchr-summary-guide-policy-makersThe United Nations’ Technical Guidance on the Application of a Human Rights-based Approach to the Implementation of Policies and Programmes to Reduce Preventable Maternal Morbidity and Mortality is the first concrete reference on a human rights-based approach (HRBA) to health to be adopted by the UN Human Rights Council.

The drafting of this landmark guide was led by Alicia Yamin. It sets a precedent for putting human rights-based approaches into practice and has implications that reach far beyond the sexual and reproductive health of mothers.

Beyond merely identifying the link between maternal morbidity and mortality and human rights, the guide provides detailed assistance to policymakers and civil society organizations on how to combat maternal death and morbidity in accordance with human rights standards.

UNHCHR in 2015 published two practical modules based on this report, one for policymakers, the other for civil society organizations. These were developed by Harvard FXB in collaboration with other partners. Both incorporate a component on child mortality.

Yamin has given various talks on the implementation of the guide in international fora. She delivered a webinar for the global staff of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). To launch UNFPA’s Actions for Human Rights Campaign, the webinar was broadcast live to 35 UNFPA offices worldwide.

Harvard FXB’s Health, Human Rights and Social Justice program  is working with civil society groups in Africa to advocate for explicit adoption of implementation guidelines for the Technical Guidance.

In November 2013 Yamin and her team participated in and facilitated sessions at a regional meeting in Malawi. The “Regional Workshop on a Human Rights-Based Approach to Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health, Including Related Sexual and Reproductive Health Issues” drew participants from South Africa, Malawi, Uganda, and Tanzania, as well as facilitators from various UN agencies. The workshop highlighted the guide and how it can be implemented.