REPORT ON QUESTIONS RELATING TO DEVELOPMENT
Approved by the IPU Governing Council at its 183rd session
(Geneva, 14 October 2008)
- Development issues have always been part of political debates and activities at the IPU. In the last five years alone, IPU Assemblies and the Second Standing Committee on Sustainable Development, Finance and Trade have debated issues relating to foreign aid, development finance, employment, poverty reduction, environment, biodiversity, trade, migration, public goods and natural disasters.
- During the same period, the IPU has contributed to the evolving international debate on development by reflecting the views of parliaments on issues as diverse as development goals, poverty reduction, climate change, social development, decent work, the information society, migration, innovative sources of financing for development, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. It has done so by taking the floor at the United Nations, at its conferences and in its specialized agencies. On some occasions it has organized panel discussions; on others it has mobilized a parliamentary presence and held parliamentary meetings.
- The IPU has organized several capacity-building seminars for African, Asian and Arab parliaments on sustainable development. The IPU also mobilizes parliaments in least developed countries in support of their country’s special development needs as reflected in the Brussels Plan of Action for LDCs.
- Since 2000, the IPU has been implementing an extensive programme on trade and development issues. It organizes, together with the European Parliament, an annual Parliamentary Conference on the World Trade Organization (WTO). The latest in the series of meetings will take place in Geneva in early September this year. The IPU also mobilizes parliaments in support of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and contributes to its discussions, most recently in April 2008 at UNCTAD XII in Ghana.
- Taken together, these activities cover a wide range of development issues in several ways. What is different today, however, is the desire expressed by many members of parliament, governments and international organizations for the IPU to promote parliamentary action in the area of development along the lines of its ongoing activities in relation to democracy.
- Moving in this direction will necessarily take time and resources. It requires a gradual approach, an active involvement of IPU Members and parliamentarians who deal with these issues on a daily basis, and support from donors on a voluntary basis. Provisions have been included for this purpose in the 2009 programme and budget and are reflected in greater detail in the comprehensive programme document for 2009 to 2011.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
- The MDGs are eight Goals with a target date of 2015 that respond to the world’s main development challenges. The eight Goals aim to (1) eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, (2) achieve universal primary education, (3) promote gender equality and empower women, (4) reduce child mortality, (5) improve maternal health, (6) combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, (7) ensure environmental sustainability, and (8) develop a global partnership for development.
- From the very outset, the IPU has been closely associated with Goal 3: promote gender equality and empower women. The IPU, through its gender partnership programme, provides statistical information, analysis, advice and support to the United Nations in promoting the attainment of this goal. This action is deeply embedded in IPU’s work and requires no additional impetus at this stage.
- Over the past two years, the IPU has started to pay greater attention to five of the other MDGs: those relating to child mortality, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, environmental sustainability, and global partnership for development. In addition, it has focused on part of the poverty reduction agenda. The current situation is summarized below.
Child mortality and maternal health
- On the occasion of the 118th Assembly held in Cape Town, South Africa, the IPU joined efforts with the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) to promote parliamentary action in support of maternal, newborn and child health in 68 priority countries where 97 per cent of the global maternal and child deaths occur. At a special parallel session, members of parliament from sixty-one countries attending the IPU Assembly engaged in discussion with the PMNCH. They agreed several recommendations for parliaments to help reduce substantively the number of deaths by improving the living conditions of mothers and children.
- Following up on the discussions, the IPU and PMNCH have jointly written to the parliaments of the countries concerned to encourage them to follow up on the debate and to take concrete action in support of Goals 4 and 5. Each parliament has been given a complete dossier containing a report on the situation in their respective country together with policy recommendations and examples of good practice for improving the situation. The two organizations are now starting to assist several parliaments in this field. They will monitor developments during the coming months and will report on progress at the 120th Assembly, to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, next year.
- This activity will be incorporated into IPU’s programme of work for the coming years. From a purely managerial point of view, it is being handled within IPU’s child rights programme. The IPU works closely with the PMNCH and its constituent partners in implementing this activity, in particular with WHO, UNICEF and The Lancet medical journal.
HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
- The IPU launched a programme in 2006 to mobilize parliaments in the fight against HIV/AIDS. With funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the IPU set up an Advisory Group composed of several members of parliament with extensive experience in working on HIV/AIDS issues in parliament. The Advisory Group assisted the IPU in developing a programme of activities which has included field missions to examine how countries address the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the production of a comprehensive guide for parliamentarians, Taking Action against HIV, and the convening of the first Global Parliamentary Meeting on HIV/AIDS late last year.
- This year, the Governing Council approved the revised and expanded composition of the Advisory Group and adopted modalities for its functioning. In June, several of the members of the Group briefed members of parliament attending the special session of the United Nations General Assembly on AIDS and took part in a working luncheon organized for the MPs by the IPU, UNAIDS and UNDP. It was followed up in August with a further working session for members of parliament attending the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico.
- Future activities will build on the recommendations contained in the Handbook. Training seminars, Advisory Board field visits and a second global parliamentary meeting for parliamentarians on HIV/AIDS are envisaged. A first field visit will take place in South Africa later this year and will be combined with a training seminar for members of parliament from the SADC region. The IPU has also been asked to develop a parliamentary and political track for the XVIII International AIDS Conference that will be convened in Vienna in 2010.
- Global warming and climate change provided the overall theme for the political debates that took place at the IPU during much of 2007. The IPU issued a presidential statement to promote a campaign in parliaments to address the issue and reinforce climate change policy and legislation. The IPU received a progress report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on the international community’s efforts to get to grips with climate change. It also developed an institutional policy on climate change, after mapping its carbon footprint for the first time.
- In early 2008, the IPU took part in the UN General Assembly thematic debate on climate change. In May, the IPU was represented at a high-level dialogue in Bonn between parliamentarians and parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Currently, the IPU is preparing for the panel discussion in Geneva (and subsequent debate during the 120th Assembly) on climate change, sustainable development models and renewable energies. It is also making plans for an Advisory Group that could assist the Organization in designing a comprehensive and sustained programme of activities involving regional parliamentary meetings, development of tools for parliamentarians, training activities and political campaigns to raise awareness in parliament. Special attention should be paid to mobilizing parliaments in support of an international agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, which expires at the end of 2009.
Global partnership for development
- The IPU has devoted considerable attention to development cooperation issues since 2007. Two parliamentary rapporteurs prepared a substantive report on parliamentary oversight of State policies on foreign aid which was debated during the 118th Assembly. Based on the recommendations of the outcome document, the IPU will undertake case studies in several African countries later this year to review the level of parliamentary involvement in planning and assessing national development plans and programmes and identify obstacles to parliaments’ full engagement. The first case study will be carried out in the Parliament of Zambia.
- The IPU also participated in preparations for the first formal session of the Development Cooperation Forum (DCF), recently launched by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The IPU was represented at two preparatory meetings in Vienna and Cairo in 2007 and 2008 respectively, was a member of the Advisory Group set up by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, and helped the United Nations organize a "stakeholders" meeting with members of parliament, local government and civil society in Rome in May to prepare input to the DCF. Subsequently, the IPU moderated a panel discussion held during the DCF meeting in New York in early July.
- The IPU has provided input and advice to governments as they prepare for the OECD meeting in September in Accra to evaluate progress in implementing the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. The Declaration was adopted by more than 100 countries in 2005 and aims to reform the way in which development aid is delivered and managed. The draft outcome document of the Accra meeting recognizes more explicitly than the original Paris Declaration the significant responsibilities of parliament in relation to aid effectiveness.
- In following up on all of these activities, the IPU should now ideally initiate a capacity-building programme for parliaments that includes the production of information materials and/or a handbook for parliamentarians, training seminars and advice. Continued advice should also be given to bilateral and multilateral donors and other actors on how they can help improve national ownership by engaging parliaments in the development process.
- The global partnership foreseen in Goal 8 goes far beyond the development cooperation issues outlined above and includes actions to facilitate development and its financing. The IPU took part in the early debate on financing for development, made a contribution to the first Financing for Development (FfD) Conference in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2002 and its follow-up, and it is encouraging parliaments to be represented at the second FfD conference that will take place at the end of this year in Doha, Qatar. The IPU will also deliver a political statement at that meeting.
- Trade and development is also part of the global partnership. The IPU has a separate mechanism in this area which focuses principally on facilitating parliamentary awareness of and involvement in the current Doha Development Round of international trade negotiations (see paragraph 4 above).
- The debate during the 118th Assembly under the theme Pushing back the frontiers of poverty provided ample proof of the importance of the subject to parliaments everywhere. Target one aims to reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people, and reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.
- In recent years, the IPU has addressed productive employment and decent work. On several occasions, most recently at the 116th Assembly, the IPU debated job-creation and employment security. In 2007, in Lisbon, the IPU participated in the ILO Forum on Decent Work for a Fair Globalization. Earlier it had also contributed to the report of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization which was prepared under the auspices of the ILO.
- The Governing Council agreed in 2006 that the IPU should pay greater attention to employment and decent work issues. It endorsed a plan for increased cooperation with the ILO that includes the organization of seminars and workshops, the production of training materials for members of parliament, and the creation of a parliamentary Advisory Group that can drive the process forward. So far, however, this programme has not been implemented for lack of human and financial resources.
- IPU Members want to see their organization become more effective in its work on development issues and of greater use to them. Their views coincide with those of many governments and international organizations which now realize more clearly the crucial responsibilities parliaments have in reaching internationally agreed development goals.
- Achieving that will require considerable work. It means moving from debates and panel discussions to action in parliaments, learning from positive experiences, sharing knowledge, providing training, and monitoring results. The experience gained thus far from the HIV/AIDS programme has been positive and can provide inspiration for the future development of a programme of activities.
- That experience demonstrates that a relatively small yet representative group of members of parliaments who work on a daily basis on HIV/AIDS issues in their respective parliaments, have the necessary knowledge to advise the IPU on its future programme of activities and to help the Organization carry them out. They also have the stature and legitimacy that make them powerful spokespersons for the IPU and can help mobilize their colleagues in other parliaments.
- Largely as a result of their commitment, the IPU has been able to harness and develop the beginnings of a working relationship with close to 300 members of parliament who all have important responsibilities in their parliament and country in relation to HIV/AIDS. With their continued participation, the IPU should be able to meet its objectives of helping parliaments address the HIV/AIDS pandemic and, as a result, assume its responsibility of providing a parliamentary dimension to the work of the United Nations.
- IPU’s gender partnership programme was developed along very similar lines and it is suggested that this practice guide the IPU as it sets out to establish a comprehensive programme of activities in the area of development.
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