Islamabad (June 1st, 2021): The SDGs Secretariat of the National Assembly of Pakistan hosted a Panel Discussion Session on “Impact of COVID-19 on the Implementation of SDGs in the Region.” The Breakout Session of the Second General Conference of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Economic Cooperation Organization (PAECO) was chaired by Hon. Mr. Riaz Fatyana, MNA / Convener National Parliamentary Taskforce on SDGs and was Co-Chaired by Key Members of the Taskforce. The aim of the session was to promote Parliamentary partnerships for regional integration and to accelerate working on global agenda in times of the ongoing pandemic.
The session included three thematic discussion sessions, namely; The Race for COVID-19 Vaccination, which was chaired by Hon. Dr. Nausheen Hamid, Parliamentary Secretary for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination / Convener Sub-Group on SDG 3. Open Data for a More Effective Covid-19 Response and SDGs Implementation, which was chaired by Hon. Dr. Aisha Ghous Pasha, MNA / Convener Sub-Group on SDGs Scorecard Development; and What can Parliaments do to Achieve SDGs, which was chaired by Hon. Dr. Nafisa Shah, MNA / Member National Parliamentary Taskforce on SDGs.
The Session was attended by Parliamentary Delegates from; Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran (Virtual), Kazakhstan (Virtual), and Turkey.
Speaking on the occasion, Hon. Mr. Riaz Fatyana said, “In light of the on-going novel pandemic, the Parliamentary functioning and business has suffered to a great extent but it is essential to remember that Parliamentarians are at the forefront of the fight to prevent, slow the spread, ensure SOPs and mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on society and our economy. To successfully carry out our responsibilities, legislators must engage with those we represent by understanding and moderating public concerns by ensuring delivery of resources to those, in need across regions.”
He further remarked, “Parliamentarians are close to the people from their respective communities and are mostly aware of their needs, culture and the environmental aspects, and could include those needs in a meaningful way in legislation. But sadly, our interactions with our constituents have limited down due to COVID’s social distancing policy and lockdowns. We are concerned that it might reflect on the upcoming general elections.”
Dr. Nausheen Hamid, Parliamentary Secretary for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, Convener Sub-Group on SDG 3, highlighted key steps the government has taken so far to respond to the pandemic including the development of an in-house vaccine. She further highlighted that “there is a lot of negative propaganda about the risks of the vaccine. The myths and misinformation is causing unacceptability towards getting vaccinated.” She assured the panel that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks.
During the discussion, Mr. Abdul Aziz Hakimi, Member of the Wolesi Jirga of Afghanistan shared the Afghani experience of COVID-19 with the participants and urged them to develop a regular distribution mechanism for Vaccine in the region.
Mr. Tahir Mirkishili, Chair of the Committee on Economic Policy, Industries and Enterprising Shared Azerbaijani Vaccination Experience against COVID-19 and iterated the need to scale up production and sharing it across region.
Hon. Dr. Aisha Ghous Pasha, MNA in her keynote talked about the significance of financial and digital inclusion for rural populations and to develop a comprehensive strategy to sustain the industrial opportunities created by the pandemic. Moreover she said, “Resource constrained countries need policy prioritization in the times of COVID-19.” She also mentioned that the developed countries should have a larger heart in not just vaccination sharing but also in promoting SDGs, which is also in-line with SDG 17.”
Hon. Nafisa Shah talked about the role of Parliaments in implementing the 17 global goals. She said, “SDGs must be the priority for every state to uplift the local population. Parliaments have to approve budgets and they have the power to shape the global agenda into national vision. They must play a central role. People centric policies must be formed to ensure that no one is left behind.”
Hon. MP Bulent Kusoglu from Turkey said “Parliaments should take lead to address the issue of public debts that got aggravated during this Pandemic.”
Hon. MNA Ms. Mehnaz Akber Aziz, Convener Special Sub-Group for Child Rights of the SDGs Taskforce, in her closing remarks urged the ECO parliaments to work together in Harmony as there was a huge appetite for regional cooperation and support.
The Session Chair and Convener National Parliamentary Taskforce on SDGs Hon. Mr. Riaz Fatyana in the end, proposed a PAECO Committee on SDGs and it was agreed that the same maybe taken up at the Executive Council meeting of the next general PAECO Conference.
The participating delegates offered vote of thanks to the Chair and thanked for the exceptional hospitality by Pakistan.