Asia-Pacific Members of Parliament and civil society to focus on disparities as MDG deadline looms

Over 100 representatives of parliament, civil society and development partners from 13 Asian countries gathered in Manila for this Forum.

Manila, The Philippines. — Active engagement of parliaments, civil society organizations (CSOs) and development partners remain at the heart of accelerated efforts to address disparities in achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015, even as a new global agenda is already taking shape. Over 100 representatives of these three sectors from 13 Asian countries gathered in Manila for a high-level regional parliamentarian and CSO Forum on MDG acceleration and the post-2015 development agenda.

“If we fail to prevent the worse outcomes of these global challenges, there is definitely greater risk for political unrest, violence, and possible breakdown of democratic governance,” said Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., Speaker of the Philippine House of Representative.

“The three mechanisms that can be used by parliaments to heighten accountability in legislation are oversight, budget scrutiny and representation. If parliamentarians do not take the lead, it would be unlikely for other national bodies to fill in this vital role,” Belmonte said.

With the looming deadline, members of parliament and CSO representatives in Asia Pacific are drawing from critical lessons learned from the MDGs to help pave the way for lasting social, economic and environmental sustainability beyond 2015. There is also a more concerted effort to correct the previous lack of parliamentary participation in the formulation process.

“We only have three years to deliver on our MDG commitments. Even as we frame our new global agenda, we need to sharpen focus on accountability, democratic governance, and social inclusion and disaggregation of data to reflect the realities of women and vulnerable populations and countries,” said Fiame Naomi Mata’fa, Minister of Justice and Courts Administration, Samoa.

This call is embodied in the “Manila Declaration by Parliamentarians and Civil Society on the MDG Acceleration and the Post 2015 Development Agenda” drafted by parliamentarians and CSOs in Asia-Pacific region.

“To face challenges and realize sustainable development, we need new commitments. Post-2015, the role of parliaments is to build and strengthen political consensus,” Indonesian Member of Parliament Dr. Nurhayati Ali Assegaf said. “Indonesia is committed to take on a leadership role in ASEAN with our president co-chairing the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.”

According to regional CSOs, the process for designing the post-2015 development agenda has to be the reverse of previous ‘top down’ processes. “We need an inclusive process which is led by the poorest of the poor and socially excluded communities to define a new set of goals rooted in the principles of human rights, gender justice and the rights of planet earth,” said Amitabh Behar, Global Co-Chair, Global Call to Action Against Poverty.

“One of the region’s greatest successes has been in propelling people out of poverty,” said Minar Pimple, Regional Director of United Nations Millennium Campaign. Global and national averages, however, do not account for inequalities, vulnerability and exclusion based on gender, social grouping, and geographical disparities. “Accelerated delivery of the MDGs, especially for left behind social groups, is a precondition for a credible post-2015 development agenda,” Pimple said.

“Parliamentarians in the recent 10th General Assembly of Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD) pledged to engage in the review processes of the MDGs and International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action in an integrated manner, looking at priorities for moving forward in the post-2015 period,” said Ramon San Pascual, AFPPD Executive Director. “We hope this forum will become the beginning of a holistic discussion on a new global development framework encompassing various international commitments.”