2021 Arab Regional Parliamentary Forum on the 2030 Agenda - ESCWA
13-14 December 2021
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2021 Arab Regional Parliamentary Forum on the 2030 Agenda

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Arab Regional Parliamentary Forum on the 2030 Agenda: the role of parliaments in building back better for all

Parliaments are playing a critical role in the response to and recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. The 2021 Arab Regional Parliamentary Forum on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development offers a timely opportunity for regional dialogue and peer learning regarding the pandemic and for exploring possible solutions to common challenges.

The Forum considers the role of parliaments in ensuring that no one is left behind. It focuses on existing attempts to strengthen legislative frameworks to protect the rights of older persons, one of the region's most vulnerable groups facing intersectional challenges including health risks, poverty and exclusion.

Main discussion points:

  • Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the Arab region;
  • Parliaments’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic through lawmaking, oversight, representative, and budgeting functions;
  • Parliaments’ role in ensuring no one is left behind during crisis response and in efforts to build back better, with a particular focus on older persons;
  • Parliaments’ institutional responses that have enabled their continued functioning despite restrictions on mobility and newly imposed safety requirements.

The Forum is jointly organized by ESCWA and the Inter-Parliamentary Union in partnership with the Islamic Development Bank and the United Nations Development Programme. Key messages will feed into the Arab Forum for Sustainable Development for 2022. It builds on previous events targeting parliamentarians in the region:

2020 - Arab Regional Parliamentary Forum on the 2030 Agenda: The impact of COVID-19 on SDG implementation and the role of parliaments

2019 - Arab Regional Parliamentary Forum on the 2030 Agenda

2017 - Regional Seminar for Parliamentarians on 2030 Agenda

Outcome document

  • Link development agendas and national priorities with government programmes and public budgets and clarify the role of budgets in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Prepare contingency plans to confront future disasters and crises and manage them in an effective, consistent, and integrated manner.
  • Enhance the role of parliaments in setting the legislative agenda that responds to development priorities and needs of vulnerable groups, especially in times of crises.
  • Incorporate specific provisions for disaster response planning and management in national budgets.
  • Strengthen the role of parliamentarians in building societal awareness of national sustainable development priorities through direct and constant communication with their constituents.
  • Strengthening Parliament's relationship with supporting bodies such as statistical offices, audit bureaus, anti-corruption organizations and civil society to enhance transparency and follow-up.
  • Put in place flexible, adaptable rules of procedure as well as activate parliament's ability to form thematic parliamentary groups or temporary committees and provide them with appropriate powers to respond in times crises and disasters.
  • Preparing plans that ensure the continuation of the Parliament's work during crises, identifying the relevant mechanisms for their implementation.
  • Adopt direct communication directly with constituents and the most vulnerable groups during crises to ensure that their priorities are taken into consideration, and to avoid the impact of potential risks on these groups.
  • Consider the development of a model Arab law for risk and disaster management.
  • Identify mechanisms to present the Voluntary National Review of the 2030 Agenda to parliamentary committees and the general assembly.
  • Invest in digital transformation and information technology in Arab parliaments to increase their effectiveness, especially during crises.
  • Emphasize the importance of transparent data and information that is timely and disaggregated and ensure that it is made available by the executive to the parliament to allow it to conduct its functions. This implies the need for national digital transformation strategies.
  • The parliament has a key role in setting the legislative system for older people including retirement laws, social protection, family laws, protection from violence, social integration and others.
  • Developing a unified national database for older persons that allows for interoperability across ministries and  sectors, this would necessitate a digital transformation that acts as a lever for all aspects of sustainable development.

This session provided an overview of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the progress towards achieving the SDGs. It also presented some initial observations on Arab parliaments’ response to the COVID-19 crisis and placed the response in the context of achieving the SDGs and ensuring that no one is left behind.

In this session, participants discussed the extent to which Arab parliaments were able to contribute to an inclusive and sustainable response to the COVID-19 pandemic through their representative and law-making functions. Parliamentarians also shared their experiences in ensuring that the policies adopted represented their constituencies concerns and priorities, especially the most vulnerable amongst them, and discussed their role in ensuring a more inclusive policy making process and in contributing to raising awareness at the level of constituencies. The session offered an opportunity for collective reflection on how the parliaments response to the COVID-19 crisis contributed to progress towards achieving the SDGs.

This session focused on the experiences of Arab parliaments in overseeing the executive branch during the COVID-19 pandemic and its role in scrutinizing budgets. Participants identified some of the promising practices from the region as well as factors of success, the challenges faced, and lessons learnt to strengthen the role of parliament in implementing SDGs in view of possible crisis in the future.

This session addressed the role of parliaments in ensuring that the needs and specificities of older persons are duly considered, including in times of crises. As such, participants shared their parliaments’ efforts to address the needs of older persons in their different functions. This session also constituted an opportunity to present the regional draft law for older persons that could guide the efforts of countries to further protect the rights of older persons, particularly in times of crisis.

This session provided a platform for participants from Arab parliaments’ to present the administrative measures adopted during the pandemic, such as reforms to rules of procedure, teleworking, electronic voting, and other measures that aimed to enable its members and staff to carry on their functions as efficiently as possible. Discussions focussed on the challenges faced and participants reflected on the lessons learnt from parliamentary work during the crisis.

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