Op-ed: The role of Parliamentarians in realizing the Sustainable Development Goals in Viet Nam

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Parliamentarian SDG

On 22 May 2018, the United Nations General Assembly made the decision to designate 30 June as the International Day of Parliamentarism. On this occasion, we are reminded of the significant role of Parliaments in deciding countries' development paths and particularly in the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the central aim of "Leaving No One Behind."In September 2015, the world community agreed to 17 SDGs as the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The new development agenda aims to put all countries together on track towards a more prosperous, sustainable and equitable world. The SDGs build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals, while including new areas such as climate change, economic equality, innovation, sustainable consumption, and good governance necessary for the achievement of peaceful and inclusive societies. Promoting the rule of law at all levels, reducing corruption and bribery substantially and strengthening institutional capacity through ensuring effectiveness, accountability and transparency are high on the agenda of the SDGs.

The 2030 Agenda explicitly acknowledges the "essential role of national parliaments through their enactment of legislation and adoption of budgets and their role in ensuring accountability for the effective implementation of our commitments". Furthermore, Sustainable Development Goals 16's targets demonstrate that effective, accountable and inclusive institutions such as parliaments are crucial for the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Parliaments' engagement in the 2030 Agenda should support open and transparent mechanisms for countries to track their SDG progress and allow for national policy discussions in a formal political setting that will also include the private sector, civil society organizations (CSOs) and other stakeholders. There are three main entry points for a parliament's engagement: (i) the parliament's specific role in adopting a national legal framework that reflects and localizes the international commitments from the 2030 Agenda, including the establishment of new legislation that responds to critical development challenges, (ii) the parliament's oversight, which will allow it to hold the government accountable for effective policy implementation and national progress on the SDGs, as well as upholding international commitments; and (iii) the parliament's prerogative to analyze and scrutinize the national budget, ensuring that adequate funding is allocated for the achievement of the SDGs.

In this context, the publication "Parliaments and the Sustainable Development Goals: A self-assessment Toolkit", by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and UNDP, provides guidance on advancing the SDGs to both parliamentarians globally and to National Assembly members in Viet Nam. The contents of the toolkit are particularly both useful and practical as they help parliaments to self-benchmark their readiness to support the implementation of the SDGs. In particular, the toolkit looks into parliaments' capacity to make laws in support of the SDGs, financing of the SDGs, monitoring and providing oversight over SDG implementation, as well as ensuring that the SDGs serve the most vulnerable populations. The toolkit also aims to guide parliamentarians in their efforts to engage with the public on SDGs.

The National Assembly of Vietnam has been actively engaged as a key actor in the realization of the SDGs through thorough scrutiny of the Government's implementation of the National Action Plan on SDGs. Viet Nam will submit its first Voluntary National Review (VNR) and report progress on its SDG implementation at the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York in July 2018. While multi-dimensional poverty was reduced from 9.88% in 2015 to below 7% in 2017, Viet Nam still faces challenges in making the country's growth both more sustainable and inclusive of the many disadvantaged population groups. The National Assembly has a critical role in guiding the country's development path and the UN in Vietnam is committed to working with the National Assembly toward the attainment of a society by 2030 where no one is left behind.