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At a glance: Panama

Parliamentarians from around the world focus on equity at conference in Panama

By Tamar Hahn

PANAMA CITY, Panama, 21 April 2011 – Nearly 1,000 parliamentarians from around the world gathered in Panama City this week for the 124th annual assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

VIDEO: 20 April 2011 - UNICEF reports on the 124th annual Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, held this week in Panama. Parliamentarians from around the world discussed an equity approach to reach vulnerable children.  Watch in RealPlayer


The main focus was on progress towards reaching the millennium development goal targets for the most vulnerable children.

“We must ensure that we reach all children and not feel satisfied with the averages that hide the disparities,” said Bernt Aasen, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “To that end we are using an equity approach which prioritizes the delivery of life-saving interventions to children who are the most deprived, who suffer the greatest discrimination and who fall furthest outside existing safety nets.”

Growing disparities

To showcase some of these disparities, UNICEF´s country office in Panama organized visits that would bring parliamentarians out of the conference halls and closer to communities.

© UNICEF Video
Parliamentarians from more than 100 countries gathered for the annual conference, held this year in Panama.

A group of parliamentarians visited Movimiento Nueva Generación, a community-based organization located in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Panama City, where violence and gangs are a serious problem.

The UNICEF-supported initiative uses dance, sport, and art activities to provide a safe space for children and adolescents, who are also able to learn computer skills and do their homework.

Dalys Perez, 17, joined the group seeking a positive influence in her life after her mother went to prison. She was attracted by the dance classes on offer. Dalys now goes to the centre every day after school and is a dedicated volunteer, helping children with their homework and lending a hand at the front office.

© UNICEF Video
Children from Movimiento Nueva Generación, a UNICEF-supported community-based organization in Panama City, perform a dance for the parliamentarians.

“Many of the children at Movimiento Nueva Generación have gone through difficult times just like me,” said Dalys. “We have found tremendous support here and we want to give back and make sure that other children don’t go through the same things we had to endure.”

Strong partnership

UNICEF and the Inter-Parliamentary Union have a proud history. Together, the organizations have tackled some of the greatest challenges facing the world’s children, from the impact of armed conflict and the worst forms of child labour, to child trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Mr. Aasen stressed that parliaments have a critical role to play in achieving equitable outcomes for children by ensuring national institutes of statistics monitor their situation, allocating resources from national budgets, enforcing laws to empower marginalized populations, preventing violence and promoting birth registration.

© UNICEF Video
Bernt Aasen, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, addresses parliamentarians at the 124th Inter-Parliamentary Union in Panama.

Witnessing the reality of children who risk being left behind made the commitment of many parliamentarians even stronger.

“If the Millennium Development Goals are to become a reality those of us who are elected officials need to go beyond speeches and legislation,” said Daniel Bianci, a member of the Uruguayan parliament. “We need to go out to the field, see things with our own eyes and get to know the people we serve, particularly children.”



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