JIS News

Twenty Parliamentarians, representing 10 Caribbean countries and territories, have formed a network to promote population and reproductive health and rights, as well as gender issues.
The network was formed on November 25, in Paramaribo, Suriname, at the end of a two-day Meeting of Caribbean Parliamentarians, on Population and Development, organised by the Inter American Parliamentary Group (IAPG) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which was held from November 24-25.
The Parliamentarians acknowledged that there are barriers, including cultural, legislative, economic and in some instances, geographical, to achieving the internationally agreed targets for poverty reduction throughout the region, and pledged to lead the way in creating the political will to eliminate these barriers. They also agreed that they would play an active role in ensuring that the region is represented in the Global Movement of Parliamentarians and at the International Parliamentarian conferences on the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action.
As a first step, the group elected Deborah Mencias McMillan, from Belize, as Co-ordinator of the network; Malaka Parker, from Antigua and Barbuda, as Secretary, and Volda Lawrence, from Guyana, as their representative to the Board of the IAPG.
Convener of the meeting, veteran and highly respected Caribbean Parliamentarian, Dame Billie Miller, encouraged the parliamentarians to do all within their powers to enlist other parliamentarians as advocates for population and development issues. “These may not be the sexiest or most vote catching issues” she told them, but “they are the most compelling, as they impact every aspect of the development process.”
“Every human being has inherent worth and a right to reach his or her full potential,” said UNFPA Director, Sub-Regional Office for the Caribbean, Harold Robinson. “But this will not happen without addressing the issues of sexual and reproductive health, including family planning and maternal mortality, education and gender equality,” he said.
“As parliamentarians, you know the challenges your constituents face and are therefore in a unique position to influence legislation, to provide the legal framework to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, promote programmes that benefit your constituents, in terms of protecting their health and wellbeing, and to act as custodians of the ICPD Programme of Action and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” Mr. Robinson said.
While recognising that there is still a long way to go, some of the parliamentarians said that with the establishment of the network, the countries of the region are one step closer to achieving the MDGs.
No Jamaican parliamentarian was present at this meeting, as they remained in the island to vote on the Capital Punishment Bill, in the House of Representatives, on November 25.

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