On May 24th and 25th, Belgrade hosted the parliamentarians from 11 countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, who came to the city to participate in a regional seminar about Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The event was jointly organized by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

The parliamentarians exchanged their experiences, with the aim to reinforce the implementation of the United Nations General Assembly Agenda for Sustainable Development. This Agenda foresees to, by 2030, eradicate poverty and hunger around the world, improve human health, assure quality education, achieve gender equality, allow decent work for all and economic growth, reduce inequality among people, and successfully counter the climate change that threatens the survival of planet life. These are only some of the declared Sustainable Development Goals.  

“Serbia is one of the countries in which the parliament is actively involved in the process of SDG implementation, and as such it can set an example to others,” said Gabriela Cuevas Barron, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. She underlined that a full agreement about the Agenda goals had been achieved, and concluded her speech by highlighting the important role of parliaments in the implementation process.

Karla Hershey, Resident Representative of the United Nations in Serbia, explained that the key role of parliaments is reflected in enacting laws and budgets, overseeing the work of the Government, and representing the voice of the people. “United Nations Development Program is one of Serbia’s first partners in parliamentary development. Since 2004, it has been supporting the National Assembly to become efficient, accountable and inclusive, at the same time working on increasing the citizens’ trust in the parliament and encourage their participation in the work of this institution. UNDP will continue to support the Government of the Republic of Serbia and the National Assembly, so that they can jointly contribute to the realization of SDGs.”

The National Assembly particularly underlined the importance of cooperation and support it receives from IPU and UNDP, which supported the drafting of the Second Global Parliamentary Report and the Self-Evaluation Manual for MPs. UNDP also particularly supported the work of the Focus Group for Monitoring of Implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda, supporting the development of a blog which will provide insight into the work of the Focus Group, as well as into the challenges that it deals with.

Slavica Đukić-Dejanović, the Minister competent for demography and population policy, stated that achieving the SDGs would primarily improve the lives of the poorest. In addition to causing hunger and malnutrition, poverty limits access to education and other basic services, increases risks of discrimination and exclusion, and reduces participation in decision-making processes. Economic development must include all people, in order to assure the creation of sustainable jobs and promotion of equality, concluded Dukić Dejanović.

During the two-days seminar, the parliamentarians also discussed about the improvement of healthcare, climate change, and the involvement of youth in political processes. It was mentioned at the conference that, starting from September 2018, sustainable development would become an optional subject in Serbian schools. 

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