Narrowing the Gaps: Parliamentarians from all over the world focus on equity at conference in Panama
Panama City, 18 April 2011 – Parliamentarians convened in Panama City to address the urgent need for accelerated progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals with equity.
With the MDG deadline less than five years away, it is increasingly evident that progress is uneven in many key areas. In fact, compelling data suggests that millions of the world’s most disadvantaged, vulnerable and marginalized children are being left behind: the children who are facing the longest odds.
More than 650 parliamentarians from over 100 countries attended the 124th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). They discussed how they can address the deepening disparities that must be tackled in order to achieve more sustainable, more equitable progress towards the MDGs and beyond. “As members of parliament we have a particular responsibility to know what the situation is, to go beyond the figures and look at realty.” said IPU President Theo-Ben Gurirab. “I am afraid that we still have a long way to go to bridge the gaps and reduce inequalities, but I am convinced that we are committed to doing so”.
“UNICEF recently examined 26 countries worldwide where the national under-five mortality rate has declined by 10 per cent or more since 1990. In 18 of them, the gap between the child mortality rates of the richest and poorest quintiles either grew or stayed the same. In 10 of these 18 countries this disparity rose by at least 10 percent,” noted UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Bernt Aasen .“The conclusion that we arrived at as an organization and which is driving our work is that an equity approach - aimed at meeting the rights and needs of the most deprived – is the way to accelerate progress for all children,” Assen added during a a joint panel organized by the IPU and UNICEF.
During the same panel, Slavica Dukić Dejanović, Speaker of the National Assembly of Serbia emphasized the importance of identifying and targeting marginalized communities. “It is very important for us, as Members of Parliament, to complement this picture with direct contact with children and adolescents, and their families. Through public hearings and visits to local communities, and through discussions with local authorities and civil society representatives, our understanding of children’s situation and exclusion has grown,” said the Speaker.
Parliamentarians agreed that they can play a critical role in ensuring equitable outcomes for children and can do more to focus efforts on reaching the most disadvantaged and marginalized children - by allocating resources for national budgets on an equitable basis; shaping and enforcing laws to empower marginalized populations; holding governments and civil society accountable to national and international obligations; and ensuring that the voices and interests of excluded children and families are heard and adequately represented in the chambers and decision making processes of parliament.