Parliamentarians open informal forum to promote SDGs

Nov 14, 2016

Kathmandu

Nepal’s parliamentarians have launched an informal forum to promote and implement the agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

A follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals, which concluded in 2015, the SDGs comprise long-term development objectives agreed upon by all 193 member-states of the United Nations with specific targets to be achieved by 2030.

The Secretary General of the Legislature Parliament, Manohar Prasad Bhattarai, had put forth the concept of an informal forum—to be later formalized by the parliament—at a gathering of chief whips and whips of major political parties held in Godavari on Saturday, 11 November.

“Many parliaments around the world have now created mechanisms to mainstream the SDG agenda in their national development discourse and we, as a signatory, cannot be an exception to this,” he said. He also stressed that this ambitious set of goals would need the active engagement of parliamentarians at different levels, including in the formulation of plans and policies, and their implementation and monitoring.

Along the same lines, an in-depth analysis of global ambitions, Nepal’s current situation and the need to overcome development anomalies was also presented by Dr. Yub Raj Khatiwada, UNDP’s Asia Pacific SDG Champion, at the programme. Among other issues, he provoked those in attendance to weigh the trade-offs between the market-driven bid for merit against the demand for inclusion in development, and to understand the contradictions embedded in such discussions. “We tend to spend heavily on developing infrastructure, while at the same time wishing to protect the environment; the world overall is going through a recession of sorts and turning more and more inwards, while countries like ours are in need of ever greater funding,” he explained.

Dr. Khatiwada went on to assert that as lawmakers and agents of transformation, parliamentarians need to be well-versed in the complex dynamic of development if any progress is to be expected in achieving the SDGs. “The SDGs represent a paradigm shift because they do not measure development in quantitative terms like the MDGs did, but focus rather on quality-based outcomes,” he said. “Without understanding this, lawmakers risk being misguided by ad-hoc priorities that are most often determined by electoral processes and political interest.”

Dr. Khatiwada additionally spoke about the transformational approach to SDG implementation, key considerations in adapting the goals, monitoring mechanisms, financing of SDGs at the global, regional and South-South level, Nepal-specific initiatives related to the SDGs and ways to bring these to fruition.

Reflecting on the programme, Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal, Chief Whip of the CPN-UML, said, “The interaction has not only pushed us to contemplate our national priorities on a deeper level but also to become aware of the strategies and approaches required to implement them.”

Deepak Kuikel, a Member of Parliament representing Nepali Congress, also agreed that the session had been very productive in reinforcing his understanding of development approaches. “To achieve the SDGs, we have to think separately about rural development and industrial development, and the private sector needs to be heavily engaged,” he said.

For Aindra Man Nemwang, Chief Whip of CPN-ML, what he took away from the interaction was the knowledge that “asking for grants from developed countries is not begging, but a legitimate right of developing countries like Nepal as compensation for all the damage the former have caused in exploiting nature for the industrial development.”

All participants also stressed that UNDP should organize more sensitization workshops for MPs to help them fully grasp the substance of the SDGs.

Chief Whip of the CPN-Maoist Centre, Tek Bahadur Basnet, remarked that continuous orientation would be necessary for parliamentarians to take these goals on board if “informed decisions” were to be made. Adding to that, Parshu Ram Tamang, the Chief Whip of RPP-Nepal, said, “First-rank political leaders need to be sensitized on these goals as well.”

Agreed upon after three years of consistent negotiation and intense consultations, the SDGs are a set of 17 ‘aspirations” for the planet, its people and their prosperity that seeks to usher in more sustainable economic and social development by ending poverty and hunger; protecting rights and equality; and prompting urgent action to combat climate change, among other targets.

Through its Parliament Support Project (PSP), UNDP in Nepal has been supporting the parliament to mainstream SDGs, in addition to helping strengthen its key law-making and oversight roles.