Addis Ababa, Friday November 13th, 2020 (ECA) - African parliamentarians have a critical role to play in enhancing the continent’s resilience against health emergencies like the novel coronavirus through enacting effective policies to support economies and the general populace.
This was said Friday by the Economic Commission for Africa’s Macroeconomics and Governance Division Acting Director, Bartholomew Armah, during a webinar jointly organized with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) on the theme; "The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the implementation of sustainable development goals in Africa: What role for parliaments?”.
He said with the twin health and economic crises facing the continent, parliaments can be powerful agents of change, especially working to ensure African nations have the ability to implement the sustainable development goals.
“With 27 of the world’s 28 poorest countries being African, the SDGs matter most for the African continent. The call of the Decade of Action by the UN Secretary General to significantly accelerate action to deliver the SDGs by 2030 is therefore more urgent than ever. By working together in solidarity and leveraging regionalism, we can get back on track,” said Mr. Armah.
He said parliamentarians play a central and integral lead role in this endeavour by ensuring that stimulus packages that will be adopted are kept people-centred; that national and regional plans advanced for the SDGs are budgeted for and that resources are allocated; governments are held accountable for their international commitments; and countries are put on sustainable pathways for recovery, leaving no one behind.
“It is by ratifying international agreements, translating the SDGs into action-oriented national programmes that respond to country-specific development priorities, monitoring their implementation and ensuring government is accountable to the people for national progress on the SDGs, that parliaments can drive the change that is needed,” said Mr. Armah.
In the absence of trillion-dollar stimulus packages as it attempts to build back better from COVID-19, Africa should look for innovative alternatives, said Mr. Armah. This includes leveraging the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) as Africa’s stimulus vehicle that will consolidate a $2.5 trillion-dollar market that could generate around 5.6 million jobs; bring down borrowing; boost intra-Africa Trade and exports; capitalize on deeper and stronger intra-Africa cross-border ties and trade relations
Prioritizing a green recovery pathway; resilient energy and infrastructure; climate smart food production; nature-based solutions and green value chains so that Africa can respond quickly and build long term resilience is also crucial, he added.
He said the ECA stands ready to provide its support to the IPU and Africa’s member States. “We remain committed to rebuilding a stronger, inclusive and more resilient Africa,” said Mr. Armah.
For his part, IPU Secretary General, Martin Chungong, said parliaments must ensure that recovery strategies integrate the SDGs.
“There is a need for consensus and all the communities must be taken into account so as not to leave anyone behind. Parliamentarians must be at the heart of this transformation,” he said, adding MPs have a role to hold governments accountable for how resources are spent.
“The legislative oversight and budget responsibilities make them key players in improving health coverage, combating inequalities and building peaceful, just and inclusive societies,” said Mr. Chungong.
He added that structural responses to COVID-19, based on the SDGs framework, were badly needed as well as effective and efficient parliamentary oversight.
“SDGs provide a roadmap to help countries improve preparedness, respond to COVID-19 and implement recovery plans that deliver social and environmental sustainability,” the IPU SG said.
Namibia’s Peter Katjavivi said despite COVID-19 and recent droughts, Namibia was committed to developing a resilient mechanism for SDGs’ implementation. He said domestic resources as well as global partnerships were essential.
For her part, Zimbabwe’s Senator Veronica Tsitsi Muzenda said the southern African nation’s parliament was an SDGs-alert institution with a "Special SDGs Thematic Committee” working to ensure the government has in place measures to successfully implement the goals.
The ECA’s African Centre for Statistics Director, Oliver Chinganya, said COVID-19 has exposed the vulnerabilities and structural inequalities of African economies, adding parliamentarians can help ensure that adequate budgets and policies are in place to build forward better.
Urgent action, Mr. Chinganya said, is needed to deliver on both Agenda 2030 and Agenda2063.
Lawmakers from over 17 African countries attended the meeting and focused their discussions on their role as parliamentarians in SDGs implementation amidst COVID-19.
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