Thank you to the Open Diplomacy Institute and the Normandy World Peace Forum for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts on inclusion in the framework of the 2021 ‘Parliamentarians for Peace’.
To me, inclusion is about bringing in everyone and not leaving anyone behind. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030 have captured this principle well, particularly in recognising the historical circumstances that have led to the layered discrimination and exclusion of individuals and groups of people. This simply means recognising that even though vaccination is open to all citizens, it does not mean that everyone will and can be vaccinated. For instance, the disabled, the elderly, or the sick who are not mobile may be excluded, and therefore need extra efforts to get the vaccines to them. Similarly, having vaccines available globally does not mean every country will have equal access.
Inclusion also means understanding and acting on the interdependence between being free from poverty and being able to live a life of peace, having equality, participation and living standards that are sustainable. Neither can we equate that once these SDGs are met, world peace and prosperity are assured. Inclusive efforts must be treated as work in progress and will need constant re-adjustment to take into consideration the ever-changing relational and diverse circumstances which may result in emerging exclusion efforts.
I do believe that peoples’ opportunities and access to participation in decision-making processes that affect their lived realities is the crux to the measurement of whether we have included or excluded people, especially what is usually termed as “the other” i.e., the marginalised, the weak and the discriminated. Allowing migrants with work permits to have access to health services, but excluding those who are undocumented only shows a lack of connectedness between policies and ground realities.
As Members of Parliament, we are definitely in positions to deconstruct social exclusion barriers that are prejudiced by age, sex, gender, cast, religion, race, class, ethnicity, disability, undocumented migrants, refugees, indigenous, economic status and other social backgrounds. Through policies, laws and strategic actions, elected representatives can make a difference in breaking down discriminatory attitudes and behaviours that have driven divisions among peoples and nations. Importantly, such actions must always be complemented with peoples’ participation, otherwise, policymakers will lose the plot of being in touch with peoples’ lived realities. Institutions such as the family, the market, the community and the State can play a role in breaking the web of discrimination and through collective efforts, discrimination and inequality can end.
As a believer in women's rights and a Member of Parliament, I am passionate and concerned about the continued discrimination and exclusion of women from decision-making processes. Prevalent patriarchal perceptions have normalised violence against women, economic disparities, and other forms of discrimination. Institutionalising and educating gender consciousness at all levels of the decision-making process is no longer an option. It is vital and urgent to end exclusion.
As a women’s rights activist and politician, Maria Chin Abdullah has worked for women’s rights for over 30 years, playing a key role in advocating for gender equality. She has been a Member of Parliament of Malaysia since 2018. She is the Deputy Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group, Malaysia for Sustainable Development Goals (APPGM-SDGs) and a member of the Parliamentary Caucus on Reform and Governance.