The First Meeting of South Asia Parliamentarian Platform for Children concluded discussing to priorities and Safeguard Children’s Rights in the Region
UNICEF South Asia, in coordination with the Parliament of Nepal, organized the first South Asia Parliamentarian Platform for Children in Kathmandu on March 2. The meeting took place for two days.
In South Asia – home to 1.7 billion people and 621 million children under 18 – despite economic growth and consequent improvements in realizing the rights of children, massive disparities still exist preventing children from living in dignity, reaching their full potential and making choices about their futures.
“It is time for us to question ourselves on how much we have been able to do to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor children. I am confident that these two days will not only help develop our relations but also help us firm up our commitment in drawing up a work plan on critical issues related to children,” said Ranju Kumari Jha, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee of Women, Children, Senior Citizens and Social Welfare, Parliament of Nepal.
Every child, especially the most vulnerable, deserves a fair chance in life – a chance to complete a quality healthcare, education and contribute fully to a peaceful and prosperous future for themselves and their communities.
“At UNICEF, we realize that when parliaments speak on behalf of children their voices resonate. Parliaments throughout the world including in South Asia have the power to create lasting changes for children. They can allocate resources from national budgets, establish strong policy directions, as well as formulate and enforce laws that protect children. It is therefore essential that UNICEF engage strategically with parliamentarians in moving forward the agenda for children,” said a press release issued by UNICEF.
“It is time for us to question ourselves on how much we have been able to do to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor children. I am confident that these two days will not only help develop our relations but also help us firm up our commitment in drawing up a work plan on critical issues related to children,” said Honorable Ranju Kumari Jha, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee of Women, Children, Senior Citizens and Social Welfare, Parliament of Nepal, during her opening remarks at the meeting.
“This meeting provides a forum to agree to establish a ‘South Asia parliamentarian’s network’, where we can share and learn from one another. Influencing programs, policies and budgets in favor of the most marginalized and excluded children have the potential to help break intergenerational cycles of poverty and deprivation. I am confident that together we will find ways to translate our commitment to child rights into results, for EVERY child in South Asia,” said Jean Gough, Regional Director of UNICEF SOUTH ASIA.
This regional meeting is a milestone in bringing together lawmakers from all eight countries in South Asia to priorities, promote, and safeguard children’s rights. It is also an opportunity to plug in the critical role that parliamentarians can play in tackling key development challenges affecting children in the region in the larger framework of the Sustainable Development Goals. Moreover, the meeting’s goal is to establish a regional parliamentarian platform to ensure broad support and commitment in building sustainable public systems that work for children.
“Afghanistan is very close to eradicating polio. There were 20 cases in 2015, 13 in 2016 but this year it is only 2. The challenge is that we cannot eradicate polio from Afghanistan unless it is eradicated from Pakistan and vice versa,” said Dr. Mujeeburahman Chamkani, Chairman of the Health Committee, Afghanistan.
Members of Parliament from Bangladesh Jebunnesa Afroz said, “In Bangladesh, 40 per cent of the total population are children. Since they are not eligible for voting, they are dependent on people's representative for their rights and security. Thus we, the parliamentarians, have greater roles to play and we need to be extremely proactive now, more than ever for the wellbeing of our children.”
“This meeting is very timely as it brings together eight countries with different situations but same child-related concerns like health, education, child protection, etc. We look forward to sharing our experiences and learning from the best practices of other countries. At the same time, take good ideas and discussions from the meeting for consideration back home – in our efforts to further improve child rights,” said Mingbo Dukpa, Member of Parliament, Bhutan.
India also has made a major success. “A platform of this kind is our opportunity to understand, learn from each other, about the role that we as parliamentarians can play in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for children. Since the SDGs have an equity-based approach, ensuring no one is left behind, our work as legislators is to make sure that all children have access to services and that no child is left behind,” Vandana Chavan, Member of Parliament, India.
MPs argue that there need to change the laws. “We must make laws to give them (children) better food, medicine and education. With this, we can have a prosperous future and a good generation of youth who will make a better world for all of us,” Ali Nizar, Member of Parliament, Maldives.
“One issue which really touches my heart is chronic malnutrition because almost one out of two children in Pakistan is stunted. There is a political will at the federal- and the provincial-level. Our Vision 2025 is addressing this issue and is in line with the Sustainable Development Goal. We will benefit from the leanings and experiences from this meeting and this will result in something good for children in Pakistan.” Ramesh Singh Arora, Member of Parliament, Pakistan.
Sri Lanka has its own experiences. “Even though our indicators are really good, we still have issues like child marriage, school drop-outs and migration affecting children. Therefore we, as parliamentarians, have formed a caucus to address the issues of children in Sri Lanka. We hope that this meeting will be a platform to share our experiences and learn from each other. We are committed to optimizing the survival, growth and development of all children across our country,” said Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle, Member of Parliament, Sri Lanka.