Parliamentarians, Key Champions for Adolescents

Dr. Elizabeth Mason, IAP Member, encouraged parliamentarians to take a close look at the transformative power of accountability for achieving adolescents’ health and well-being during a dialogue convened by the Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly (IPU), held in Geneva on 26 March 2018, entitled  “Ensuring accountability and oversight for adolescent health”.
Geneva, 10 May 2018

Dr. Elizabeth Mason, IAP Member and Dr. Venkatraman Chandra-Mouli, WHO Scientist

Following remarks by Dr. Habibe Millat, the Chair of the IPU Advisory Group on Health, and by Dr. Chandra-Mouli of WHO, who set the stage with an overview of achievements,  gaps and opportunities in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals; Dr. Mason presented the IAP recommendations and key findings from its 2017 report, Transformative Accountability for Adolescents, alongside the IAP’s accountability framework – review, monitor, act and remedy – emphasizing the critical oversight role of parliaments.

Stressing the importance of whole-of-government approaches, Dr. Mason highlighted the importance of holding Ministries of Education to account for ensuring schools are of quality, accessible, safe, equitable and affordable – and for eliminating all forms of discrimination. She also stressed the role of parliaments in ensuring adolescents are not left behind as universal health coverage rolls out. They should be recognized as a separate group, with specific needs; and all adolescents should have free access to essential goods and services, at the point of service.  She also called for regulation of the private sector to ensure policy-making is “ahead of the game, or at least, up with the game, to protect adolescents from harms and legislate to stop on-line abuse”.

Participants at the 138th Assembly of the IPU

A dynamic exchange followed, with parliamentarians sharing various experiences and initiatives from their own countries.  Stressing the importance of adolescents for the development of any country, the representative from India referred to the challenges of malnutrition, anaemia, sexual abuse and mental health issues affecting adolescents. He pointed to the responsibility of parliaments to ensure adequate regulatory frameworks to protect adolescents’ health. A speaker from Uganda acknowledged that adolescents have slipped out of focus, highlighting efforts to involve adolescents in parliamentary debates and decision-making in their own right.  A parliamentarian from Serbia shared challenges faced by the Roma population on issues of early marriage and mental health. In her concluding remarks, Dr. Mason stated: “Adolescents know what they want and need, but not necessarily how to get what they need”. That is why support for effective independent oversight institutions that can protect and promote their human rights and health is so crucial.