Love is where the budget is

Inter-ministerial debate and cooperation – the role of the legislator.

By Dr Simon Batchelor.

The Climate Parliament working with Wilton Park are able to convene high level events for parliamentarians and legislators.  By engaging with elected leaders, the MECS agenda can be discussed, communicated and taken home by those interested to their parliaments and legislature.  As legislators they guide the country and so have the authority to ask Ministries to consider different approaches.  This is particularly helpful for the MECS agenda because it concerns inter-ministerial dialogue. 

It has been speculated that one of the reasons that there has been so little investment in the enduring problem of cooking with biomass, is that it is a combination of women’s, agricultural land use & forestry and social inclusiveness issues.  Indeed, some argue it is also a major health and educational issue (the absence of girls from school among other aspects). 

The national planning of energy access falls under the Ministry of Energy or the equivalent, while the issues of gender equality for example and the well being of women (may) fall under a Ministry responsible for “Gender and Women’s Affairs”.  Accordingly, when the African Union calls together Ministers to agree on the African Common Position for the 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women there were no representatives for energy planning in the room.

This is one example which is repeated at international and national levels – where the technical infrastructure of energy access is often discussed and planned without due consideration of gender, social, land use issues.  And gender issues, social protection, public services and sustainable land use to free up women’s time are discussed and planned without due integration with energy infrastructure issues (the grid and off-grid electricity supply).

Inclusive growth and macroeconomic stability are key enablers for addressing gender equality, and therefore it is a challenge to get inter-ministerial committees and planning mechanisms to bring the traditional domains of male dominated technology and infrastructure into the same room as those who are primarily concerned with inclusiveness.  It has been suggested that perhaps the treasury, the purse of the government, has been out of step with individual ministries such as local government or even agriculture, such that it is a common political experience that silo thinking in government prevents wholistic change.

Indeed one of the MPs in the room used the phrase “Love is where the budget is”.  This was picked up as a common statement by many in the room and became a rallying call for action!

So a key outcome of the meeting is that some participants will return to their country and convene an inter-ministerial debate about modern energy cooking services.