The First Meeting of South Asia Parliamentarian Platform for Children
(March 6, 2017, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Four members of Parliament from Sri Lanka have joined fellow lawmakers from across South Asia in the first meeting of ‘The South Asia Parliamentarian Platform for Children’, to agree ways to prioritise and safeguard children’s rights in a region that is home to over 1.7 billion people including 621 million children under the age of 18”, the Communication Division of the UNICEF in Colombo said in a press communique.
The press communique further reads as follow;
The two day event, which took place on the 2 and 3 March, was organised by UNICEF South Asia in coordination with the Parliament of Nepal, and took place in Kathmandu.
Despite economic growth and consequent improvements in realizing the rights of children, massive disparities still exist preventing children from living in dignity, reaching their full potential and making choices about their futures. Sri Lanka, home to 8 million children under 18, has some of the region’s best health indicators, almost universal primary schooling, with nearly 90% of the population having access to safe drinking water. However violence against children, including physical abuse in the home remains a concern. And whilst the rate of extreme poverty has declining (by 16% between 2002 and 2012) child poverty rates remain higher with pockets of extremely high vulnerability across the nation.
“Even though our indicators are really good, we still have issues like child marriage, school drop-outs and migration affecting children” said the Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle, Member of Parliament for Sri Lanka and Chairperson, Sri Lanka Parliamentary Caucus for Children who was attending the Parliamentarian Platform, adding, “therefore we, as parliamentarians, have formed a Caucus to address the issues of children in Sri Lanka. We hope that this meeting will be a platform to share our experiences and learn from each other. We are committed to optimizing the survival, growth and development of all children across our country.”
UNICEF works to ensure that every child, especially the most vulnerable, deserve a fair chance in life – a chance to access quality healthcare, enjoy a quality education and to contribute fully to a peaceful and prosperous future for themselves and their communities. By bringing together parliaments from across the South Asia region to speak on behalf of children, UNICEF hopes to create lasting changes for children. Parliamentarians have the power to allocate resources from national budgets, establish strong policy directions, as well as formulate and enforce laws that protect children. They are therefore critical in moving forward the agenda for children.
“This meeting provides a forum to agree to establish a ‘South Asia parliamentarian’s network’, where we can share and learn from one another. Influencing programmes, policies and budgets in favour of the most marginalized and excluded children has the potential to help break intergenerational cycles of poverty and deprivation “ said Jean Gough, Regional Director of UNICEF South Asia, adding “I am confident that together we will find ways to translate our commitment to child rights into results, for EVERY child in South Asia.”
This regional meeting is a milestone in bringing together lawmakers from all eight countries in South Asia to prioritise, promote, and safeguard children’s rights. It is also an opportunity to plug in the critical role that parliamentarians can play in tackling key development challenges affecting children in the region in the larger framework of the Sustainable Development Goals. Moreover, the meeting’s goal is to establish a regional parliamentarian platform to ensure broad support and commitment in building sustainable public systems that work for children.
“Children remain at the heart of a country’s development and future economic growth. We need to invest more in policy reform and budgetary allocation in order to address the remaining disparities that prevent every child, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized, from reaching their full potential” added the Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle MP.
Attendees from Sri Lanka included Dr. Sudarshini Fernadopulle MP, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Caucus for Children and State Minister of City Planning & Water Supply, Thusitha Wijemanne – Chairperson, Parliament Sectoral Oversight Committee on Gender and Equity and Vice-Chair, Parliamentary Caucus for Children, Mr. Nalinda Jayatissa Vice-Chair Parliamentary Caucus for Children and Mrs. Kushani Rohanadeera, Assistant Secretary General of Parliament and Secretariat to the Parliamentary Caucus for Children.