Address by Hon’ble Speaker Smt. Sumitra Mahajan on BRICS Parliamentary Cooperation on the Implementation of Sustaninable Development Goals (SDGs) during the Meeting of BRICS Parliamentary Forum, Geneva, Switzerland [October 23, 2016]
Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I feel privileged to share with you my thoughts on BRICS Parliamentary Cooperation on the Implementation of SDGs in this forum. You would recall that the BRICS Women Parliamentarians' Forum had met earlier in August this year at Jaipur in India which facilitated a discussion on the strategies to be followed in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. This first-ever BRICS Women Parliamentarians Forum meeting was an enriching experience and it should become a regular feature in BRICS calendar of events. As the august assembly is well aware, the 8th BRICS Summit has just concluded in Goa last week. These momentous events have laid out a roadmap for the BRCIS countries to follow, in particular on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Jaipur Declaration that we had adopted in August proclaimed our resolve to work actively towards achieving the SDGs. We now have to work out action plans to keep up the momentum so generated. In other words, the Jaipur Declaration must be translated into an actionable programme by the Governments. As elected representatives, we must exert our collective influence on our Governments towards this end, and we must put in place mechanisms within our Parliaments to monitor the progress thereof.
I believe we can learn useful lessons and benefit from the best practices prevailing within the BRICS countries. Our culture, climate, ethnicity and geography are different, but we are united by a desire to extend cooperation as the fastest growing economies which have become a formidable force to reckon with. For instance, in India during the implementation of MDGs, we adopted the legislative route to put in place mechanisms and enabling conditions for achieving the goals. The Parliament passed the landmark legislation, The Right to Education Act for Children for ensuring that no child is left behind in education, or the Right to Information Act for citizens for ensuring open and transparent governance, or the Domestic Violence Act for ensuring that women enjoy full gender equity. It must be acknowledged that to ensure welfare for all, which is the underlying concept behind SDGs, legislative measures are imperative for inclusive delivery of benefits.
India has been striving towards developing basic infrastructure, literacy, healthcare and most important of all, eradication of poverty. Even before the adoption of SDGs, several schemes, policies and programmes have been formulated in India to meet the basic necessities of its growing population. Undoubtedly, there is a convergence of vision between the SDGs and India’s developmental planning. The need of the hour is to consolidate the gains in terms of sharing experience and exposure and move forward and show the way to the world what concerted action can do.
In addition to sharing of best practices, sharing of experiences and information on implementation of SDGs by parliamentarians would be the best way forward in our path to achieving SDGs. I suggest that we set up a Information Working Group comprising one or two representatives and senior officers from each of our Parliaments, which could meet periodically to share experiences and exchange ideas in the context of implementing the SDGs.
Distinguished Delegates, we all know that the SDGs have set certain priorities for all Governments to make the planet a better place to live in. The global community has to work in a mission mode, and show solidarity and cooperation to ensure that no one is left behind in the path of all round progress. This puts a great responsibility on us as parliamentarians, as it is our bounden duty to ensure that our Governments take concrete measures for realizing these lofty goals, which should not remain pious declarations on paper.
Today, the need to work in close collaboration is felt the world over as the problems faced by mankind are common at one end and contrasting at another end. The developing and least developed nations are grappling with basic issues, even though they have growing economies and working group populations, especially the youth in good numbers. On the other, the developed countries have stagnant economies and ageing populations. This uneven socio-economic scenario, combined with a varied demographic dividend, has brought us together so as to fulfill the needs of one another. Technological advancements in the past two decades have been phenomenal, thereby opening up arenas hitherto unheard off. It is quite common now to find youth migrating to different parts of the world in pursuit of higher education and employment opportunities. Therefore, the time is ripe to put inclusive growth plans into action to take the world forward.
I can confidently say that we, at BRICS, are already in the path of parliamentary coordination with back-to-back meetings on the implementation of SDGs. The success of the SDGs would depend largely on the success of BRICS countries as together they account for more than 43 percent of the world population. The BRICS grouping is marching ahead by establishing the New Development Bank to help infrastructure growth among developing economies and Contingency Reserve Arrangement as an additional safety net for BRICS member states.
We all share the view that the SDGs are the need of the hour and its success would change the world for the better, but at the same we also agree that the challenge lies in implementation. It is a huge effort calling for resources and resolve from all concerned.
One major challenge in the implementation of SDGs is finance and another is technology. One of the effective means of meeting the financial needs is by of involving the corporate sector, wherein corporate houses could participate in socio-economic development in various spheres in the form of corporate social responsibility. In our country, the Companies Act has been amended making corporate social responsibility mandatory. This has been a welcome step, but more vigorous action is required in this direction.
Science, technology and innovations are the driving forces of economic development, it is imperative to have effective international cooperation, enabling affordable technology transfer and capacity building measures to achieve the SDGs. Knowledge and innovation must be viewed as a collective human heritage than be concealed under layers of patent laws and intellectual property rights. We must come forward to share the results of research and development, knowledge and innovation with others, if we have to succeed in our endeavours.
The next challenge is promoting inclusive economic growth and effective delivery of public services so that the benefits reach all sections of society. There is an urgent need to plug in the loopholes and ensure effective implementation of policies by removing last mile hurdles in reaching out to all sections. Other challenges include improving the basic infrastructure, especially in rural areas, like roads, public transport, sanitation, education, healthcare, housing etc.
In order to create a conducive climate to overcome the impediments in the implementation of the SDGs, Parliaments and parliamentarians have an important role to play in achieving these goals. It needs reiteration that the policies, programmes and laws have to be realigned in tune with the SDGs. Parliamentary oversight of Government’s work and achievements is vital to ensure transparency, accountability, financial allocation, etc. Parliamentarians can take forward governmental policies to the people in coordination with civil society organizations, thereby making people aware of the SDGs and involving them in their implementation as stake-holders. I must share with you that during the last Session of Lok Sabha, we have had a very fruitful discussion under one of the procedural devices whereby members discussed at length the importance of SDGs and gave valuable inputs on how the targets could be achieved. We plan to make it regular feature and keep a day in every session exclusively for discussing SDGs.
Traditionally, women are care givers, nurturing home and their communities. If they are given greater responsibility in governance, it is good for better human development and to reach out to more people. We have launched a major programme, namely, ‘Save the girl child, educate the girl child’ to end discrimination of the girl. So, by educating her, reaching out to her, we will not only reach out to the family but also to the whole community. This would, in turn, ensure participation of more people in developmental works at the grass roots level.
I would like to re-emphasize that it is essential to discuss and debate, form a working group within the BRICS Parliamentary Forum, study specific developments within individual countries, identify best practices that others can follow, and work out common strategies. Proactive engagement and coordinated efforts among BRICS leaders, Ministers and Parliamentarians is the need of the hour.
I believe this is the way forward.