Namibia, 23 October 2010: Regional parliamentarian commits to strengthen child-sensitive policies
WINDHOEK, 23 October 2010 - At the conclusion of a three-day meeting convened by the Inter Parliamentary Union, Parliament of Republic of Namibia and UNICEF, 40 members of parliament from 13 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa committed to doing more to promote and expand efforts in building safety nets and social protection schemes for their most vulnerable children.
In a final outcome document delegates reiterated they would continue to create and pass laws that sought to protect the most vulnerable children. They also committed to scaling up social protection measures that are child-centred, allocating budgets and providing better oversight to hold government and executives accountable.
In a region where half the population survives on less than $1.25 per day, and an estimated 9.7 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS, and millions more have experienced deepening poverty, lost education, and discrimination due to the impact of the HIV pandemic, delegates highlighted the need for urgent action by all governments and parliaments.
Delegates acknowledged that while their leaders had committed to the Abuja Declaration target of 15 percent of their GDP on health and HIV, only a handful of countries had met this target. In many cases, despite efforts to improve access to health and education services, many of the poorest are still missing out faced with indirect barriers that prevent them from benefiting from these public services.
Evidence presented at the meeting indicated that the cost of social transfers, including cash benefits for the most vulnerable, is an investment that will in a long run pay for itself and have great returns on social and economic development. Failing to invest (especially in early years) is wasteful and costly in the long run. Protection against child poverty is the best evidence of the success or failure of government.
“Parliaments have an important role to play in oversight and ensuring that the budget reflects the social priorities. To face many of our challenges we need strong leadership. When almost fifty percent of our population is under the age of 18, many of our countries suffer high rates of HIV, poverty and unemployment, we need to make sure our development agenda is determined by our children’s welfare, future and inheritance,” said IPU President Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab, who is also the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Namibia.
Already many countries, including South Africa, Kenya and Malawi, have comprehensive child protection acts that include measures to provide and protect vulnerable and orphaned children. In others, such as Lesotho and Namibia, legalisation has been drafted and now needs to be approved by parliament. The challenge remains that more needs to be done to implement these laws, educate the public about them and make sure they are operational.
“We know that communities have been on the front line of caring for children who have lost parents and felt the harsh brunt of the AIDS pandemic. The recent global financial crisis has further heightened their vulnerability and deepened poverty. What we are calling for is not new. It is simply about reinforcing these efforts to care for each other, especially our children and make them an integral part of Government development plans,” said Elhadj As Sy, UNICEF’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa.
The delegates also acknowledged that it was critical they built alliances with civil society, religious and traditional leaders to build more political will for investing in comprehensive child- and HIV-sensitive schemes and make sure that they reached those in need.
In the outcome document, they committed to developing a holistic approach to social protection and to acknowledging the need to coordinate efforts at “addressing the current economic and employment crisis, the underlying corruption in many of our countries as well as gender inequalities, which all constitute obstacles to the achievement of child rights.”
They agreed they need to prioritise economic empowerment for families and households affected by AIDS, ensure they have adequate social care and support, strengthen obstacles to quality health education and other services and address stigma and discrimination.
Note to the editors:
Parliamentarians attending this event arefrom Angola, Burundi, DRC, Lesotho, Mauritius, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Established in 1889 and with Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the IPU – the oldest multilateral political organization in the world – currently brings together 155 parliaments and eight associated regional assemblies. The world organization of parliaments also has an office in New York, which acts as its Permanent Observer to the United Nations. IPU website: www.ipu.org
For more information, to arrange an interview or for B-roll footage, please contact:
Shantha Bloemen, UNICEF Johannesburg, Tel:+27 79 495 5938, firstname.lastname@example.org
Judy Matjila, UNICEF Windhoek, Tel: +264 61 204 6253 Cell: +264 81 127 5963, email@example.com
Manuel Moreno Gonzalez, UNICEF Windhoek, Tel: +264 61 204 6299, Cell: +264 081 475 8604, firstname.lastname@example.org
Meeting Outcome Document [PDF]
Meeting agenda [PDF]