Building Blocks for Parliamentarians handling their Roles as Advocates for Human Rights, Equality and Justice.Read Now
This blog is the third in the series of Equality and Justice for All. It was necessary to do a "double -take" after realizing that it was necessary to set the scene more concretely. The role of parliamentarians will therefore be tackled in two instalments. This week's focus is on What are the building blocks required by Parliamentarians to undertake their roles as Advocates? Next week's will focus on How?
In an era where 192 Countries, including all Caribbean Community Member States have committed to achieving the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Parliaments as one of the key state institutions have critical roles to play. As the democratically elected representatives of the people, parliaments have the honorable task to ensure government by the people and for the people. Through their key legislation, representation and oversight functions, parliamentarians can actively engage in the development and implementation of laws, policies and practices that promote democracy and good governance. In this way they create the enabling environment for human capital development.
National , regional and international parliamentary groupings have been established to promote a variety of causes. Most prominent among these are Human rights, Equality and Justice. A sample of these groupings and their activities include:
In addition, a series of regional parliamentary groups have been pursuing a common set of goals to advance human rights-based population and development policies and programmes, including sexual and reproductive health and gender equality. They include:
The Inter-American Parliamentary Group on Population and Development (IAPG). This network includes Canada and the US, as countries that continue to strengthen their commitment to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights for their own people, and that have a special relationship to Latin America and the Caribbean as developing partners.
The Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD). This group specifically references the 2030 SDGs and the principle of 'leaving no one behind'.
The European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (EPF). This Forum brings together Parliamentarians committed to protecting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of the world’s most vulnerable.
The African Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (APF). This Forum strives to tackle issues regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights and to pave the way for a brighter future for Africa’s women and girls, where every individual has access to the healthcare, education, and the tools they need to take control of their own bodies and lives.
The causes identified with the international and regional parliamentary fora are the same as those identified with the aims of the Judiciary and Faith leaders in the Caribbean (see GOFAD Blogs June 14 and June 21, 2019). They are highlighted in Project Equality used in the sensitization sessions at the 2019 Annual Caribbean Judicial Conference and the PANCAP Justice for All Roadmap endorsed by Caribbean Faith Leaders in their 2017 Declaration and used to sensitize religious leaders on issues related to reducing stigma and discrimination.
In the case of parliamentarians, I refer to the situation I know best. It is PANCAP's sensitization sessions that revolve around the principles of Justice for All, but focus specifically on the implementation of the PANCAP Model Policy Anti-stigma and Discrimination legislation. This Model legislation approved by the Legal Advisory Committee, comprising the Attorneys General of CARICOM in 2012, has yet to be implemented in any CARICOM Country. Yet CARICOM Member States have ratified the principles of human rights, justice and equality enunciated in the Inter American Parliamentary Forum and the 2018 Commonwealth Conference.
The prospects for an accelerated response from Caribbean parliamentarians within the scope of the 2030 SDGs era, are mixed. Engagements under the PANCAP Justice for All programme have stimulated some movement starting with a Regional consultation of approximately 60 parliamentarians in May 2017 in Jamaica. Since then, there have been six national parliamentarian sensitization fora in Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago and four regional multi-stakeholder consultations. While the regional parliamentary consultations led to broad agreements for actions in-line with the legislative, representational and oversight roles of parliamentarians, the country specific sessions addressed policies for overcoming the challenges with reference to removing barriers to AIDS related stigma and discrimination and the multi-stakeholder engagements among parliamentarians, faith leaders, civil society representatives and key populations provided opportunities for reconciling differences in perspectives and fostering alliances toward the goals of ending the AIDS epidemic. Consequently, the trends have been toward positive outcomes based on providing technical assistance to parliamentarians to identify challenges, gaps and opportunities for enhancing their legislative, representational and oversight roles. These include enhancing knowledge of parliamentarians about the following:
TEST, TREAT and DEFEAT based on the UNAIDS scientific 90-90-90 targets which predicts that AIDS can be ended by 2030: if by 2020, 90 percent of people living with HIV are tested; if 90% of those tested are on treatment; and if 90% of those on treatment attain viral loads in the blood low enough as not to transmit the disease.
Elements of the PANCAP Model Policy Legislation: A 2018 survey revealed that only 25 percent of a random sample of regional parliamentarians were aware of its existence. Hence widespread distribution to all parliamentarians in the six target countries is expected to increase awareness and thereby help to expedite its implementation.
Specific activities related to Primary Parliamentary Roles: Based on legal assessments undertaken for each country several recommendations have emerged about what type of policies may be adopted and implemented by parliamentarians. Some examples provide a range of possibilities that will contribute toward ending AIDS:
PANCAP continues to engage and support parliamentarians through technical assistance to sustain their sensitization to critical issues; the organisational arrangements such as webinars, sharing information through its knowledge of health programmes and utilizing a variety of social media tools to increase awareness, share best practices and foster greater participation in activities aimed at supporting human rights and dignity for all.
We have hereby set the context for examining how parliamentarians are handling their roles as advocates for human rights, equality and justice, prerequisites for human capital development.