MDGs conference continues with detailed examinations of the role of parliamentarians

The CPA UK International Parliamentary Conference on the MDGs continued today with sessions focusing on the day-to-day work parliamentarians can undertake towards achieving the MDGs.

The day began with a discussion of ‘MDGs 4 and 5: Keeping the Promise on Women’s and Children’s Health,’ chaired by Rt Hon. Baroness D’Souza CMG, the Lord Speaker. Addressing the session, International Development Minister Rt Hon. Alan Duncan MP affirmed that ‘A major part of [the UK’s] development philosophy is that we have to put girls at the heart of everything we do,’ with particular emphasis on education.

This theme was reiterated by Hon. Sylvia Ssinabulya MP of Uganda, while Dr Flavia Bustreo of the World Health Organisation and Prof. Paul Hunt of Essex University both paid tribute to what has been achieved and outlined the huge amount yet to be done in order to achieve equality of access to healthcare for vulnerable groups of women and children.

This was followed by a session on financial accountability, featuring Cyril Muller from the World Bank, Hugh Bayley MP of the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank and IMF, and Max Everest-Phillips of the Commonwealth Secretariat. All speakers highlighted the importance of openness in promoting good governance – whether through ‘penetrating parliamentary questions’ (Hugh Bayley), ‘democratising development…[and] access to information’ (Cyril Muller) or visibly ‘sound and fair taxation systems’ (Max Everest-Phillips).

Delegates then moved on to a meeting examining the role of parliamentarians as watchdogs, holding governments to account for promises made on the international stage. Giving their perspectives at the session chaired by Rt Hon. Baroness Hayman, former Lord Speaker, were international expert on parliamentary strengthening Dyfan Jones and Rt Hon. Malcolm Bruce MP, Chair of the International Development Select Committee.

For the final part of the day, delegates attended breakout sessions, considering aid effectiveness, private sector partnership, sustainable development and the Horn of Africa famine.

On aid effectiveness, the focus of the discussion was the requirement for greater transparency for parliamentarians in governments’ use of overseas aid, in order to avoid corruption and ensure efficiency. The session looking at the private sector’s role in development forcefully urged parliamentarians to support the private sector in order to raise the tax revenues that guarantee sustained investment in health, education, and infrastructure.

The third breakout group looked at sustainable development. It concluded that parliamentarians must be aware of the long-term consequences of consuming developing nations’ resources. Additional consumption and external pricing factors affect the approach to production, often to the detriment of regional and local ecosystems and local wealth.

The session on the Horn of Africa featured constructive suggestions and recommendations for the improvement of agricultural production policies and infrastructure to mitigate the effects and attempt to prevent seasonality and failed harvests in the region.