This morning saw the official beginning of CPA UK’s conference on the MDGs, at a session featuring addresses from H.E. Kamalesh Sharma, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Rt Hon. Lord Howell, UK Commonwealth Minister, and Ms Eveline Herfkens, founder of the UN Millennium Campaign.
During the session, Mr Sharma gave an outline of the Commonwealth’s ‘significant contribution’ to realising the MDGs, aiming at ‘sustainable advances’ and advocacy for small states. Lord Howell reinforced this with his declaration that the Commonwealth is a network ideally placed to work in ‘a new international landscape…towards the global end of poverty.’
Ms Herfkens then gave the assembled parliamentarians a call to action, outlining their ‘power to hold governments to account for promises made on the world stage’ and responsibility for involving vulnerable people in the political process. She also highlighted their legislative function, and urged them to revise legal frameworks that disempower women, whose involvement is crucial for the development process.
The theme of women’s role in advancing social progress was revisited in an afternoon session on the relationship between human rights and the MDGs. Speakers Ignacio Saez of the Centre for Economic and Social Rights, Mac Darrow of the UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, and Savio Carvalho of Amnesty International all raised the issue that equality is not a cornerstone of the MDGs in the same way it is of human rights frameworks, and gave forceful arguments for ensuring its centrality to any post-2015 framework.
Regional groups breakout sessions
In the final part of the day, delegates grouped into geographical breakout sessions to identify regional challenges and opportunities for achieving the MDGs. The Southern and Eastern African group engaged in a wide-ranging passionate discussion on trade, regional security, human rights, corruption and the relationship between donor and recipient countries. The discussion of ECOWAS countries centred on the issues of economic migration and gender equality, as well as the merits of differing systems for measuring MDG progress.
Asia Pacific representatives also focused on gender equality, and the various factors preventing women fully engaging in society, politics and the economy. As a group with several small island states, there was also some discussion of the immediate threats posed by climate change.
Europe and the Americas focused on the importance of a unified approach to the MDGs, suggesting the CPA as a potential forum to bring parliamentarians together annually to assess progress.
Each region nominated two representatives to participate in writing the conference communiqué.