Dr. Pratibha Mehta, UN Resident Coordinator in Vietnam, has granted an interview to the Vietnam News Agency, talking about the cooperation between the UN and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and parliaments' role in sustainable development goals on the occasion of the upcoming 132nd IPU Assembly.
The interview ran as follows:
Q: Could you please tell about the cooperation and mutually supportive relationship between the UN and the IPU?
|Dr. Pratibha Mehta
The IPU and United Nations have enjoyed a close working relationship since the early 1990s, together contributing to more transparent and accountable international relations and decision-making. The cooperation between the UN and the IPU was institutionalised in two major Conferences of Speakers of Parliaments in 2000 and 2005 in New York.
At the first conference, the Speakers of the world's parliaments committed to join forces with the United Nations to help address the complex challenges facing the world and improve developmental outcomes. In 2010 they convened again to evaluate the work of the parliamentary community to help advance the Millennium Development Goals and other key global objectives. In the final declaration, the Speakers pledged to support a reformed United Nations with more frequent and structured engagement with national parliaments.
In November 2002 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution granting observer status to the IPU. This resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and the IPU has allowed for the circulation of official IPU documents in the General Assembly and has enabled the IPU to directly contribute to the work of the United Nations.
The ongoing cooperation is grounded in two main institutional mechanisms:
- a Parliamentary Hearing, which is organised by the IPU during the annual Autumn session of the UN General Assembly and provides an opportunity for members of parliaments to engage in substantive and interactive debates with UN officials and other stakeholders.
- a dedicated Committee on United Nations Affairs within the IPU, which was established in the Spring of 2007 and has conducted field missions to pilot countries implementing the "Delivering as One" UN initiative at the national level. These missions sought to evaluate progress in ensuring greater system-wide coherence in the UN, including in terms of greater involvement by parliament in the elaboration of national development plans and the monitoring of aid effectiveness. The Committee fielded a mission to Vietnam examining UN reform in February 2009.
The IPU and the UN are also implementing joint activities on priority areas such as democracy, including strengthening of parliaments, human rights, women's issues, child protection, HIV/AIDS, trade and sustainable development. This collaboration also involves a growing number of UN specialised agencies and programmes.
Thus there is clearly a substantive partnership between the UN and the IPU covering many areas of common interest. We fully expect this relationship to further strengthen in the years ahead.
Q: Your view on the general theme of this IPU in Vietnam, especially in relation to the role of Parliaments in the development and implementation of the post-2015 agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals?
The 132 nd IPU Assembly will cover various issues related to peace and security, trade, sustainability and human rights, including cyber warfare, water governance and other topics. There are also forums for youth and women parliamentarians to discuss issues of concern. The theme for the general debate of the Assembly is "Sustainable Development Goals: Turning words into action".
Now is a critical time in the development of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the new global framework to be agreed, that will build on the work of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which expire this year. Since last year, UN initiated series of consultations and public survey to hear people's aspirations of a world they want to see post 2015. In addition, an Open Working Group (OWG) which included 70 UN member states which has made recommendations on a set of sustainable development goals. Based on all the inputs and recommendations, the UN Secretary General has produced his Synthesis Report to serve as the basis for negotiations and final adoption of SDGs in the General Assembly in September 2015.
It is therefore timely that the 132 nd IPU address the role of parliaments in realising and localising the SDGs. This also offers a channel for parliaments to feed-into the final deliberations this year, which will shape the framework for guiding and tracking international development progress to 2030.
The post 2015 agenda builds on the implementation and unfinished agenda of the MDGs. We may therefore want to review progress towards MDGs, both globally and locally. Some 15 years after the signing of the Millennium Declaration, it is clear that genuine and lasting progress has been made. Globally, many of the goals and targets have been achieved or are close to achievement. Extreme poverty has been halved, the rapid spread of serious diseases, such as Tuberculosis and Malaria, has been halted, gender disparities in education have narrowed and the prospect of access to improved water and sanitation has become a reality for many.
Vietnam is no exception to this. On many of the goals and targets, its performance has been exemplary. The poverty rate has decreased from 10 percent in 2000 to 6 percent in 2014. The mortality rate of children who are under 5 years old has decreased by more than half during the last two decades, from 58 per 1,000 in 1990 to 22.9 per 1,000 in 2014. The maternal mortality rate related to pregnancy was reduced by more than 2/3 from 1990 to 2014, from 233 to 60 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. In achieving these goals, the Government's commitment and adaptation of the MDGs to the national context, and mainstreaming within development plans has been crucial.
It is important to clarify that the proposed SDGs are not merely a second round or iteration of the MDGs – but are more ambitious and comprehensive. The development landscape has changed considerably. Some challenges, especially climate change and growing inequities between and within countries, have become more pressing. The draft SDG framework recognises the importance of global public goods and of global partnerships - between States, but also by engaging various stakeholders including the private sector, parliaments and civil society. The draft SDGs also map out a wider but more grounded development agenda heralding a new way of working and monitoring change. This has implications for national strategic policymaking everywhere, including in Vietnam. A distinct SDG on better governance is set out in the proposals of the Open Working Group.
It's impossible to talk about development and implementation of SDGs without emphasising the role of Parliaments. First and foremost, effective delivery of the SDGs implies parliamentarians become more actively engaged in policymaking, especially at the strategic level. This involves going beyond monitoring and evaluating progress, to guiding and mandating reforms, and ensuring overall policy coherence.
Secondly, parliaments need to consider how these functions might be supported and institutionalised within their business processes. While there are many examples from the MDG era of the type of arrangements which might be employed – for example the use of Standing Committees in the Philippines or the MDG resolution enacted in Mongolia – it is important that national law makers build solutions relevant to their own contexts.
Finally, national parliaments have an important role in facilitating partnership working - within and across the state, between ministries and local administrations; but also outside of it – encompassing civil society and the private sector. As the National Assembly in Vietnam has evolved and been empowered in recent years, business interests, mass organisations and other non-state actors have received a stronger hearing. This should continue under the SDG framework.
The 132nd IPU's focus on SDGs represents an opportunity for parliamentarians to debate their role in accelerating and shaping development efforts. I trust that parliamentarians coming to the IPU will participate vigorously and take actions towards achieving ‘dignity for all'.— VNA/VNS