124th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)

16 APRIL 2011 | PANAMA CITY

Parliamentarians urged to make women’s and children’s health a priority

APRIL 2011 - IPU 124th Meeting - Round table

Parliamentarians from around the world at the 124th IPU Assembly were told they could make an important difference in the health of women and children –this message from both the Executive Director of UN Women, Ms Michelle Bachelet and PMNCH Director, Dr Carole Presern. PMNCH also held a roundtable in which parliamentarians discussed their role in ensuring accountability in key MNCH health initiatives including the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, with an update on the Initiative – the Countdown to 2015 in Maternal, Newborn and Child Survival—from Dr Andres de Francisco.

Rountable: Parliamentarians Taking the Lead on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health

The Round-Table Parliamentarians Taking the Lead on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health was organised in collaboration with the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) and the Every Woman Every Child (EWEC) campaign. It was co-chaired by Dr. Carole Presern, Director PMNCH and Mr. Martin Chungong, Director, Program for the Promotion of Democracy at the IPU. Panelists included Hon. Mrs. Rebecca Kadaga, Deputy Speaker, Parliament of Uganda and Dr. Andres de Francisco on behalf of the Countdown 2015. Dr Presern also made a presentation on behalf of EWEC.

The Round-Table received a briefing from the Countdown to 2015 on country progress in reducing child mortality and improving maternal health, with many parliamentarians indicating not having previously received the data. Recent events in the response of the international community to the issue of maternal and child health were shared. Specifically, parliamentarians were briefed on the Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health launched by the UN Secretary General last September and the subsequent Commission on Information and Accountability on Women’s and Children’s Health.

The Round-Table discussed the role of parliaments and the approaches employed to promote maternal and child health. Parliaments highlighted their efforts in the areas of legislative reform, budget setting and monitoring, advocacy and oversight. Key issues and challenges to be addressed included the issue of empowerment of parliamentarians, especially with respect to budget setting. Sustainability of initiatives being undertaken and the need for increased donor support were noted. At the same time issues of effectiveness and accountability and the obligations of parliaments in this regard were highlighted. Issues relating to sustainability included the importance of partnerships, making inter-sectoral linkages, integration (local, national to global) and ensuring inter-linkages between the MDGs. The importance of adopting a rights framework in the work of maternal and child health was also discussed.

In order to further promote the work of parliaments on maternal and child health, IPU (with its partners) was requested to:

  • Facilitate discussions to raise awareness among parliamentarians on why investing in MNCH is important;
  • Undertake activities to equip and empower parliamentarians with the skills to improve the effectiveness of their oversight and budgetary functions;
  • More actively create opportunities for shared learning and exchange of experiences;
  • Pursue institutional mechanisms for making the issue of maternal and child health a regular topic during the proceedings of the IPU.

PMNCH Director speaks to IPU Plenary

Dr Carole Presern, Director PMNCH, addresses IPU 124th Assembly

PMNCH Director Dr Presern spoke to the IPU Assembly Plenary of the importance of “political will” and of parliamentarians’ work in saving mother’s and children’s lives. She pointed out that during 2010, there had been considerable momentum and commitments raised to help achieve the maternal and child Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), 4 and 5 and she cited several commitments to global and national MNCH initiatives, including: Canada’s G8 Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health; the 2009 African leaders’ Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality; the US Global Health Initiative, and commitment of $ US 40 billion to the UN Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health; and to national work in countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh and China.

“None of this would have been possible without parliamentarians, and strong political will. In short, there is political will such as we have never seen before on MNCH,” said Dr Presern. “And this political will must be followed up. Parliamentarians are best placed to do this, to see those dollars, and rand and bhat and rupees are spent where they will be most effective.”