Abimbola Akosile captures the various vital outcomes of the All African Parliamentary Conference on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which was hosted in Abuja recently by the National Assembly of Nigeria, the ECOWAS Parliament, the United Nations SDG Action Campaign and the African Network of Parliamentarians on the SDGs
The All African Parliamentary Conference on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) brought together about 150 participants and around 75 parliamentarians from across national and regional parliamentary institutions in Africa, and took place in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city.
The National Assembly, the ECOWAS Parliament in partnership with the United Nations SDG Action Campaign and the African Network of Parliamentarians on the SDGs hosted the regional parliamentary conference on the SDGs.
The Chairman, Committee on the SDGs, House of Representatives, Nigeria and Chairman, Conference Organising Committee, Hon Tijjani Abdulkadir Jobe, and the Acting Regional Coordinator, Africa UN Millennium Campaign/UN SDG Action Campaign, Mr. Hilary Ogbonna played key roles to facilitate the event, which drew participants from across Southern, West and East Africa.
At the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, which took place at the UN headquarters in New York, USA, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) after its expiration on December 31, 2015.
The Abuja forum was based on the belief that effective domestication of the 17 SDGs and 169 targets at national and sub-national levels will depend largely on concrete parliamentary ownership and actions towards enabling legislations, appropriation, oversight and monitoring of the SDGs.
The conference was the first gathering of African parliamentarians convened for the sole purpose of discussing parliamentary engagement with the SDGs since the latter were adopted.
It aimed to promote solidarity, cooperation and learning amongst African parliaments to build capacity, promote partnerships and foster parliamentary engagement with the SDGs and to contribute to the process of domestication, institutionalisation, implementation and monitoring of the SDGs at regional, national and sub-national levels in Africa.
Also, the forum was attended by representatives from regional and national parliamentary bodies in Africa, including the Pan African Parliament, the East African Legislative Assembly and the SADC Parliamentary Forum.
Countries that were represented at the conference included Benin Republic, DR Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Tanzania, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Kenya, Niger, Uganda, Zambia, Togo, Gambia, Chad, Central African Republic and Swaziland.
At the conference, the participants acknowledged that parliaments across Africa have been instrumental in shaping and advancing democratic governance and people-centred development on the continent;
They recognised the vital role of Parliaments and Parliamentarians in enhancing planning, implementation, monitoring and accountability of interventions in development through legislation and resource allocation as well as through oversight and parliamentary scrutiny of the work of the executive, promoting democratic norms, people-centred governance and development in Africa.
They recalled that one of the main outcomes of the Rio+20 conference of 2012 was the agreement by member States to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which would build upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and converge with the post 2015 development agenda.
To the participants, it is imperative that in order to maximise impact of the SDGs post-2015 Agenda, parliamentarians should be actively engaged at the very beginning to ensure familiarity with and support for the agenda as well as coordination of activities of the numerous parliamentary committees and caucuses dealing with issues relevant to the SDGs.
They recalled the meeting of African Parliamentarians which convened in Abuja in 2010 resolving to turn the network leading to the launch of African Network of Parliamentarians on MDGs under the theme ‘No Excuses to 2015’
Participants further recalled the resolutions of Abuja conference which took place in Abuja in March 2015 that transformed the African Network of Parliamentarians on MDGs to African Network of Parliamentarians on sustainable development; and that the SDGs will become signposts for advancing and measuring commitments to human, social and economic development.
They noted that the attainment of the targets of the SDGs would advance the focus on achievement in reducing poverty, hunger, inequality and diseases, and noted the need for greater parliamentary cooperation and engagement in framework and agenda setting for the achievement of SDGs.
As African Parliaments and Parliamentarians, the participants affirmed the mandate given to them by the people of Africa and majority poor citizens to represent them and be their voices in local, national, regional and global affairs.
They further affirmed that as parliamentarians, they have a role to play in ensuring the achievement of the SDGs and prioritising relevant policies and legislations in their respective parliaments.
They resolved to champion the fight against corruption and ensure that there is accountability and transparency in the utilisation of resources allocated, and to facilitate the emergence of legislative and policy frameworks for implementation of the SDGs and ensure national parliamentary briefings and parliamentary motions on SDGs.
The participants also resolved to build parliamentary knowledge on SDGs and provide tools for parliamentary engagement; and also to strengthen alliances and create synergies between continental, regional and national parliaments in SDGs programmes.
On the issue of socio-economic inequalities, the participants affirmed that human rights, human dignity and equity remain at the core of social and economic development in Africa, with the need to ensure strategies and actions to tackle inequality in Africa and the role of stakeholders, parliaments, civil society and private sector.
The participants urged African governments to ensure the incorporation of social inclusion, welfare, economic and social rights in economic development planning and in measuring the impact of economic policies.
They also sought the inclusion of more women in their work and to better address the work on SDGs, with adequate capacity building for parliamentarians on the new development agenda.
The participants also recognised that gender equality ha a catalytic effect on the achievement of inclusive and progressive human development and good governance, and that there is need to harness between gender equality and sustainable development.
Governance and Accountability
The participants called on governments in collaboration with their parliaments, both at national and regional levels, to urgently pursue acceleration policies and programmes and strategies in order to ensure that lessons learnt on MDGs can build to achievement on SDGS in Africa.
They expressed belief that the plight of the poor, marginalised and vulnerable should be the basis and remain the centrality of any emerging development framework for the achievement of the SDGs.
The participants expressed conviction that institutionalising good and accountable governance remains a major requirement for people-centred development and must be embraced in all development initiatives; and stressed the need for parliamentarians to champion the fight against corruption in various institutions.
Peace, Justice and Inclusivity
The participants called upon governments and parliamentarians to link development and peace initiatives as a pre-requisite for peace, and they urged governments and parliaments to develop strategies to ensure good governance that will promote functioning democracies.
They called upon political leaders to engage in activities that would enhance peace and reduce political and ethnic tensions. They also expressed belief in prioritising and addressing the issue of marginalisation and exclusion of people; that fighting terrorism and violent extremism should be an agenda for all to focus on. They also expressed belief in justice for all, access to justice and independence of the judiciary.
On the issue of governance architecture, the participants called upon parliaments and governments to create an enabling environment for citizen engagement including advocacy with governments to embrace participation.
They expressed belief in citizen empowerment, building capacity and confidence of citizens to engage in various development initiatives and decision-making processes; and also in supporting citizen feedback mechanism both on and offline to contribute to monitoring and accountability of various programmes to ensure achievements.
The participants expressed commitment to urgently work together with their respective parliaments to increase their roles in advocacy, law-making, resource allocation and oversight on the SDGs; and to enhance their role on oversight and representation and bind the executive on their responsibility through quality debate and motions in parliament.
The parliamentarians also committed themselves to urgently prioritise policy and budget support for the implementation of the SDGs and other global and regional bodies on poverty eradication, education, gender equality, health and environment; and to work within their parliaments and their governments to engage effectively in developing programmes and setting the agenda for the implementation of the SDGs.
They pledged to combat the challenges on corruption in most countries in Africa and resolved to work with other key stakeholders and development frameworks of engagement with different groups for achievements of the SDGs.
The committed to the resolve that parliament should have capacity to generate and analyse their own data; and that parliamentarians should be leaders by example and set the pace for transformative leadership.
“The participants called on governments in collaboration with their parliaments, both at national and regional levels, to urgently pursue acceleration policies and programmes and strategies in order to ensure that lessons learnt on MDGs can build to achievement on SDGS in Africa”