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We are the first generation which can end extreme poverty in our lifetime. But we cannot get there without parliamentarians.- Dr. Jim Yong Kim

Strengthening regional parliaments towards achieving the MDGs: An overview of programme progress

May 22, 2015

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As AWEPA’s programme on Strengthening Regional Parliaments towards Achieving the Millennium Development Goals enters its last year and we approach the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals, it is a good moment to take a closer look at AWEPA’s work in this field, and reflect on its progress so far.

How are regional parliaments faring in the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)? What recent developments have there been? And what are the main outcomes of the programme to date?

Assessing progress in Africa

The MDG 2014 Report Assessing progress in Africa toward the Millennium Development Goals presents a varied picture of the progress made. Overall, Africa has accelerated progress on the MDGs, despite unfavourable initial conditions.

There have been positive developments in Africa across many of the different goals: Poverty rates have continued to decline, despite the adverse effects of the recent food, fuel, financial and Eurozone crises (MDG 1); most countries are on track to meet the primary enrolment target (MDG 2); Strong gender parity in primary education and women’s representation in parliament has been achieved (MDG 3); there has been good progress on maternal mortality (and child mortality); and the rising trend in HIV and AIDS has been reversed (MDG 6).

This progress has been driven not only by rapid growth rates, but also as a result of the improved governance environment. In fact, the strengthening of institutions and accountability mechanisms, including parliaments, has undoubtedly had its part to play.

AWEPA’s MDG programme, launched in 2011, aims to enhance the performance of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) and the four Regional Parliamentary Bodies (RPBs) in Africa with respect to legislation and oversight of MDG-related actions on the continent.

Under the programme, the PAP and RPBs have become increasingly engaged in several areas, from poverty reduction to food security and agricultural investment, gender empowerment, health, maternal mortality and HIV/AIDS.

As a direct result, MPs working at the continental and regional levels have adopted resolutions, recommendations, declarations and proposed bills, including at the national level. Regional MPs are also increasingly capacitated to address these challenges, from the environmental and climate challenges in the area of Lake Chad, to the equitable distribution of proceeds from agriculture and natural resources, peace and security as well as the mobilisation and oversight of resources for development.

Particularly remarkable for regional parliaments in 2014 was the granting of enhanced powers by Heads of State and Government to the Pan African Parliament and to the ECOWAS Parliament to become legislative organs of the AU and ECOWAS respectively.

Consistently with previous years, support under the MDG programme in 2014 focused primarily on issues relating to poverty reduction and food security (MDG 1) and sustainability (MDG 7). Activities with PAP, SADC-PF, and CEMAC-P and jointly all partners aimed at strengthening parliamentary capacity to tackle issues such as poverty and food security, agricultural investment and large-scale land investment and water resource management. Some interventions focused on women empowerment and maternal health (MDG 3 and 5). Other interventions focused on broader matters, affecting the whole MDG agenda, such as Peace, Security & Development and Migration & Development. Several activities focused on the capacity strengthening of parliaments in the transition towards the post-2015 development agenda (MDG 8).

One particular challenge in 2014 was represented by the Ebola crisis. During most of 2014, West Africa and its institutions – such as the ECOWAS Parliament – were severely affected by a rapidly deteriorating health crisis with the rampant spread of Ebola throughout three of its poorest countries (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone). While these countries bore the worst of it, the crisis itself had repercussions throughout the region, Africa and worldwide.

The report points out not only country and regional disparities in MDG process, but also what can put at risk progress made. These include high unemployment, income inequality, climate change and the declining of development assistance.

The way forward

Overall the MDG programme is on track with its activity plan and objectives, testimony of how AWEPA has continued to strengthen its partnership with the PAP and the RPBs over the years. Its implementation has resulted in a series of lessons learned for both AWEPA and its partners. In this final year of the programme, AWEPA will endeavour to take these learnings into account in order to strengthen its own programmatic approach and implementation modalities as its transitions to the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals and its next programming phase.

As we move towards the post-2015 development agenda, AWEPA and its MDG Programme are as such already responding to the Common African Position’s overarching goal to eradicate poverty by making growth inclusive and people-centred, enhancing African productive capacities to sustainably manage and leverage their natural resources in an environment of peace and security.