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Archive for the ‘Millenium Development Goals’ Category

The 3rd World Conference of Speakers of Parliament closed with the adoption of a declaration on the need to secure global democratic accountability. Over 130 Speakers of Parliament gave their assent to a text that affirmed how accountability and representation lie at the heart of democracy.

Full text of the Declaration adopted by the Conference [PDF]

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Report delivered by Erika Forster-Vannini, Speaker, Council of States, Switzerland

The women Speakers of parliament concluded their Sixth meeting held on 16 and 17 July in the Swiss Parliament by adopting the Bern Initiative for Global Parliamentary Action on Maternal and Child Health, an eight-point plan for action to:

  1. Advocate the development or strengthening of gender-equitable national health action plans addressing family planning, skilled care during delivery, and emergency care;
  2. Review and, where required, enact legislation ensuring that the national legislative framework is aligned with international treaties, does not discriminate against women and girls, ensures their effective access to care, protects women from all forms of gender-based violence and children from abuse, violence and neglect;
  3. Hold debates and dialogues in parliament on women’s and children’s health alongside the discussions on the budget;
  4. Commission reports on the impact the budget will have on the achievement of MDGs 4 and 5 and introduce gender-sensitive budgeting;
  5. Advocate fulfillment of international official development aid commitments and ensure that all official international aid is provided through the national budget adopted by parliament;
  6. Monitor the implementation of the budget from the perspective of MDGs 4 and 5;
  7. Undertake visits to facilities in the country and hold public hearings in parliament with the participation of women and children to assess the impact of health legislation, policies and budgets; and
  8. Promote women’s empowerment by all means.

I strongly encourage all of you to join me and all the women Speakers in taking action for women’s and children’s health and in implementing the Bern initiative in its 8 points of action.

Full text of the Bern Initiative for Global Parliamentary Action on Maternal and Child Health [PDF]

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There is palpable progress on the MDGs – enough to justify a more upbeat mood than in the past.  The numbers do not tell the whole story. Case after case shows that the MDGs are perfectly doable if there is enough political will and if governments exercise true leadership. By increasing social investments by just a fraction of GDP, even some of the poorest countries were able to provide free primary education and other essential services. It is the job of parliamentarians to make sure that the right decisions are made and followed up on.

Aid is important to the success of the MDGs… [but] must be more effective.  There are still countless stories of waste and expensive overheads.  Excessive politicy conditionality remains an issue in many countries.  More aid should be in the form of budget support. Internal resources are more important [than aid and] good governance remains key to the success of the MDGs.  Corruption…continues to divert development funds away, undermining confidence in the institutions by both citizens and donors.  South-South cooperation can also help achieve the MDGs.  As more and more countries transition from developing to developed, they should share their experiences and practices with other developing countries in the region.

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Excerpts from the panel discussion:

There has been incredible progress towards implementing the MDGs.    More than I had expected when I was at the Millennium Summit.  Meeting the MDGs by 2015 is doable when governments act together and use aid wisely.   (Eveline Herfkens: Founder of the UN Millennium Campaign and Special Advisor to UNDP)

The effects of the various crises result in poor people developing coping strategies – dropping kids from schools, adjusting down standards of nutrition – all of which have long-term negative consequences. (Otavino Canuto, Vice-President for Poverty Reduction and Economic Management, World Bank)

MPs, parliament and governments are keen to follow people’s opinion, the attitudes of ordinary people is important.  It is true aid still comes with conditions, one also understands that donor countries must explain to their citizens what purpose their taxes serve. Therefore, it is also difficult to move away from project to general budget support because of less visible results. (Sauli Niinistö, Speaker of the National Assembly of Finland)

Rwanda has actively promoted equality between men and women in political life.  Women make up 56% of  the Rwandan Chamber of Deputies.  This was not a question of resources but of political will and a vision for development. (Rose Mukantabana: Speaker, Chamber of Deputies, Rwanda)

We should remember that meeting the MDGs is not only in obtaining help from the World Bank and others, it is much more up to countries themselves, at the national level to implement the MDGs.

At a recent meeting in West Africa, parliamentarians were in agreement that their role was not to negotiate with donors, this is the job of the executive.  However, parliaments have an oversight role in development aid received by national governments and need to receive information either from the executive or from donors on aid received.

40 to 45% of the aid for development is spent on international consultants, reports and studies. Donors should not impose this hiring of consultants.

MPs are not doing enough because of the problem of political patronage. We praise our governments rather than being critical of them.  This is an obstacle to meeting the MDGs in many countries.

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Opening the conference, the IPU President alluded to the time, ten years previously, when he had been President of the UN General Assembly at the time of the Millennium. The moment had been a pivotal one for parliaments seeking a voice in international affairs, and he had helped ensure that they were not forgotten in the Millennium Declaration. A similar impulse of democratic vigour was needed to rekindle faith in the fulfilment of the development goals which had sprung from the Millennium.

The UN Secretary-General then commented on how diverse the audience before him was. By that very diversity, parliaments were the voice of the people. He had, he said, witnessed at first hand the birth pains of democracy in the Republic of Korea, and the stability and prosperity that were its rewards. At a time of crisis and challenge, said Mr. Ban, let us deepen our strategic partnership.

The meeting went on to hear a report on how parliaments organise their work with the United Nations, presented by the Vice-President of Uruguay. Senate President Astori singled out good practices in different parliaments as examples of parliamentary involvement. The Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa reported on parliaments working to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Speaker Sisulu referred to the crucial oversight function of parliaments in making the goals a reality. His report emphasised the need for parliaments to table national reports on the MDGs. It was for parliaments to ensure that commitments to the MDGs were reflected in national budgets.

The meeting then heard a presentation by Rose Mukantabana, Speaker of the Rwandan Chamber of Deputies, on global standards for democratic parliaments. Ms. Mukantabana said that parliaments should apply themselves to the task of drafting standards which they should apply to themselves. Only then would they be firmly placed to require more accountability of government at both the national and global levels. Only then would they be able to provide a sound foundation for democracy. This preliminary part of today’s meeting closed with an update on the IPU’s relations with the United Nations from its Vice-President, Geert Versnick of Belgium. The IPU, said Versnick acted as a catalyst in facilitating interaction with the world of the United Nations and helping to make sure that the views of the parliamentary community were heard at the United Nations. Substantive cooperation with the UN’s specialised agencies had been developing fast since permanent observer status had been awarded to the IPU in 2002. The present challenge was to develop a common strategy for ensuring more coherent support by parliaments to the work of the United Nations.

Reports on progress since the 2005 Speakers’ Conference:
Meeting the Millennium Development Goals [PDF]
Building global standards for democratic parliaments [PDF]
Strengthening the IPU and its relationship with the United Nations [PDF]

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Delivering on the UN Millenium Development Goals is a solemn pledge of the international community, an important measure to uphold dignity, equality and fairness of mankind, and the most urgent and most important issue that needs to  be addressed if we want to realize common development.

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Progress [in achieving MDGs 4 and 5] would not be possible without the many initiatives that come from outside political circles. They are of enormous value to us as parliamentary presidents. They open our eyes and we should give them every encouragement. I am confident that the UN Secretary General’s joint plan of action will create a partnership that includes all the different players in the healthcare field. Public-private partnerships are essential to speed up access to advanced technology.

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