Belmonte: Parliaments have vital role in eradicating global poverty

SPEAKER Feliciano Belmonte Jr. today re-affirmed the Philippine Congress’ commitment to end poverty guided by the UN Millennium Campaign and work with all parliaments to identify common development opportunities beyond 2015.

“Today’s Forum breaks new ground in bringing together Members of Parliament and civil society leaders of the Asia-Pacific to re-affirm our commitment to the Millennium Declaration—that most vital document from which the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were born,” the House leader said.

Belmonte welcomed delegates to the South-East, East and North East Asia and Pacific Parliamentarian Forum on MDGs Acceleration and Post- 2015 Development Agenda at the Crowne Plaza, Manila Galleria Tuesday morning.

Leading figures at the on-going Forum include:  Dr. Porapan Punyatabandarhu, Secretary General, Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development; Mr. Minar Pimple, Regional Director, UN Millennium Campaign; Ms. Luiza Carvalho, UN Resident Coordinator, Philippines; and Ms. Becky Malay, Co-Convenor, Civil Society Advisory Committee Philippines.

The Speaker said that the (Millennium) Declaration drew a consensus on ending poverty as the central purpose of international development, emphasizing shared values of solidarity, equality, dignity, and respect for nature – “values which hold true to this day as we move forward to accelerate our efforts in meeting our 2015 targets and address challenges beyond that date.”

Even as the United Nations monitoring reports indicate that developing nations will achieve many of the MDG targets, Belmonte said, “more efforts are needed to sustain these gains and reach those
still untouched by this progress.”

“As we work to accelerate MDG progress, there is a need to begin thinking about the post-2015 development agenda.  We need to realize how we in the region can strengthen our momentum amid emerging and new development challenges,” he said.

Parliaments should ensure that enabling legislation and policies to make progress towards the MDG targets are in place. “If parliaments do not take the lead in ensuring oversight of progress towards the MDGs, it is highly unlikely that any other national body will step in to fulfill this vital role,” he said.

“Across the Asia-Pacific there are wide disparities in MDG attainment.  Even in countries where there has been progress towards the MDGs, inequalities have persisted,” he noted.

In many respects, Belmonte said, the Asia-Pacific region has been leading the way in MDG achievements. He cited the region’s robust economic growth which, as a whole, has already surpassed the goal to reduce by half the proportion of people living in extreme poverty.

“Between 1990 and 2009, our region reduced the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 per day from 50% to 20% — or from 1.57 billion people to 871 million people,” the House leader noted.

Among others, Belmonte expressed concern about the progress on the MDGs being severely threatened under the weight of natural disasters, financial crisis, food and fuel insecurity, and climate change.  Food price increases also caused additional millions of people to go hungry.

The risk of injury and death from floods, landslides and high winds is higher among children, women and the elderly, especially for the poor.  Children suffer more from weather shocks because of lasting effects of malnourishment, and missing school, limit their economic prospects, he said.

“If we fail to prevent the worst outcomes of these global challenges, there is certainly much greater risk of political unrest, violence, and possible breakdown of democratic governance,” Belmonte warned.

Stressing the indispensable role of civil society, Belmonte said that civil society has been an effective advocate of various human development causes. “They have been instrumental in giving more attention to MDGs and at ensuring accountability at the national level.”

As parliamentarians, Belmonte underlined that “we have much in common, and much more to share with each other.

“Let us also not forget that we have the great power to effect transformation in our respective countries and in our region.  Let us therefore exercise wisdom in the use of that power,” the House leader concluded.

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