A record number of MPs from 36 parliaments participated in the 2017 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on sustainable development, from 10 to 19 July, in New York. The HLPF is the platform where governments and other stakeholders, including parliaments can monitor progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This year, 44 countries presented national progress reports.
In his address to the HLPF, IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong noted that the Dhaka Communiqué from the 136th IPU Assembly on Redressing inequalities: Delivering on dignity and well-being for all was a fitting political contribution to this year’s HLPF, whose main debate was on poverty eradication. He pointed out that the Communiqué’s “real sub-text is that poverty and attendant inequalities are not an economic problem, strictly speaking: they are a political problem requiring a political solution.” After noting that economic growth alone will not suffice to reduce inequality, Mr. Chungong said, “What is needed most urgently is a pro-active effort at redistribution—of wealth, and with that, of power—which can only happen if parliaments and indeed all other decision-making centres at national and global levels represent more effectively all people in our societies, including the poor and the marginalized.”
On 17 July, the IPU organized a side event for parliamentarians attending the HLPF. It was an opportunity to review parliamentary action on the SDGs and exchange experiences on oversight practices and legislation. The discussion revealed growing awareness of the SDGs in parliaments worldwide. Many parliaments are retooling, establishing structures and processes to mainstream the SDGs. MPs noted that the interconnected nature of the SDGs requires an all-of-parliament approach to overcome silos and a multi-perspective review of every issue. Institutionalizing the SDGs in parliament requires engaging all members, not just those of committees focused on development. Mr. Anti Avsan, President of the IPU Committee on UN Affairs, encouraged all parliaments to carry out self-assessments using the IPU-UNDP toolkit.
Despite growing parliamentary presence at the HLPF, an IPU survey conducted in the run-up to the 2017 session shows that only nine parliaments out of 44 were consulted to some degree in the preparation of national reports, suggesting that their ownership has yet to fully filter to the parliamentary level.
A second side event, Democratic Accountability for Gender Equality in Service Delivery and Poverty Eradication, took place on 18 July. It was co-organized with the Mission of Peru to the United Nations, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) and the International Development Law Organization (IDLO). In his address to this forum, Mr. Chungong stressed that “Gender equality is not an add-on element when it comes to combatting socio-economic inequalities and poverty, or ensuring universal access to basic services. Gender equality is a sine qua non for achieving progress in all these areas.” Participants discussed the practical instruments and analytical tools essential to achieve the gender equality goal of the SDGs (Goal 5) at the country level.
Also on 18 July, Every Woman Every Child (EWEC) launched its 2017 Progress Report. IPU President Saber Chowdhury, a member of the EWEC High-Level Steering Group, noted that: “Parliaments have a key role to play to unlock and leverage the full potential of women, children and adolescents. They are the bridge between citizens and their government.”
For complete coverage, watch the IPU press conference at the UN with Saber Chowdhury, Martin Chungong and Petra Bayr, MP, National Council of Austria.