Eighteen parliaments from the Asia-Pacific region met in Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia, from 27 to 28 May 2019, to assess their country’s progress in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). According to data from the United Nations, the region is lagging behind others in implementing the SDGs, with no country on track to achieve SDG targets by 2030.
Parliaments have been engaging with the SDGs more than with their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals. They have also recognized that many SDGs, for example those concerned with the environment, require going beyond national borders and seeking regional cooperation. The IPU, as the global convener of parliaments, has held over 20 regional SDG seminars over the last few years, as well as several national ones.
The seminar in Mongolia provided an opportunity for parliaments from the region to report on their progress and build on recommendations from the first seminar held in the region, in Viet Nam in 2017.
The cross-cutting theme of the seminar was the importance of education, an issue that had been highlighted in the recent Doha Declaration, adopted by MPs at the 140th IPU Assembly in April. In the Mongolia seminar outcome document, MPs acknowledged “that ensuring quality education is central to the achievement of all SDGs and in breaking the cycle of poverty”. Giving access to quality education, in particular to the most vulnerable sections of the population—such as marginalized groups, women, and stateless people—can help lift them out of poverty by, for example, allowing them to apply for better-paid jobs.
Other topics on the agenda included health, climate change and citizens’ involvement in implementing the SDGs. Participants stressed the importance of education in improving the health of communities. They agreed to build political will and commitment to achieving Universal Health Coverage and sustainable health systems.
They also examined how environmental literacy can build a culture of climate change prevention and raise awareness of climate change and disaster reduction. To do so, the outcome document calls for MPs “to maximize their roles as legislators and overseers” and increase regional and global cooperation with a view to sharing information and experiences.
Citizen engagement is important to create a sense of national ownership of the SDGs. Participants discussed innovative ways in which to do this, including mechanisms through which citizens could provide feedback to policymakers on the achievement of the SDGs.
Speaking at the opening, IPU President Gabriela Cuevas Barron said, “The Asia Pacific region is home to more than half the world’s population. As parliamentarians, we have a critical role to play to ensure that government actions are inclusive and transformative for those whom we represent. The SDGs cannot be achieved if certain groups in society are ignored. They are for everyone.”
As part of the preparation for the seminar, the Mongolian Parliament launched a local translation of the IPU- UN Development Programme (UNDP) self-assessment toolkit on SDGs. The Mongolian translation joins seven other language versions of the tool kit, demonstrating its global usefulness for parliaments.
Also present at the seminar, the Fiji parliament launched a guidance note on integrating the SDGs across the work of all its parliamentary committees with support from the IPU and UNDP.