- The fundamental right of Africa’s people to food security, not only as a human right but as the basis of democracy was one of the conclusions of the 25th anniversary conference of Association of European Parliamentarians for Africa (AWEPA), which ended Saturday in Cape Town. The conference was attended by representatives of 38 regional and national parliaments in Africa and Europe.
“Democracy cannot survive on empty stomachs” said Swedish Member of Parliament Marie Weibull Kornias in the closing session.
A key recommendation from the conference was that Africa’s parliaments should pass budgets with a minimum of 15 percent allocation for health and minimum 10 percent allocation for agriculture and rural development, as called for by the African Union Heads of State and Government.
This was emphasised by Graça Machel, Chair of AWEPA’s Eminent Advisory Board, who said that Africa’s parliaments “must be assertive in ensuring that promises made by their governments are kept.” “As we request our friends in the North to keep their promises, we want our governments to do the same,” she said. “This is the only way that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) can be achieved.”
African parliamentarians at the meeting also agreed that parliaments should pass a legal framework and promote policies to facilitate the achievement of the MDGs.
The conference also called on European parliaments “to demand ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions at the December 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen.” They should support increased funding for adaptation in line with Africa’s position on climate change.
“We have called for an instructive North-South dialogue on climate change with special focus on Africa,” said AWEPA’s President, Dr Jan Nico Scholten.” “Since we launched the African-European Dialogue on Climate Change in Nairobi last year, we have linked up with other parliamentary networks to drive this message home.”
In a session on women’s participation in parliamentary democracy, chaired by AWEPA’s Vice President and former Belgian minister, Miet Smet, and addressed by Dr Farida Ilimi, Chair of the Women’s Caucus of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), the problems encountered by women in positions of power were discussed. The session stressed the importance of women’s rights and the social position of African women.
Parliaments, the meeting agreed, should have minimum representation of at least 30 percent women. Mary Mugenyi, Vice-President of Pan-African Parliament, said that “women in Africa are making strides - but the percentages of women in African parliaments, with some notable exceptions, are still far too low.”
Other recommendations called for African parliaments “to be sufficiently resourced to provide effective oversight of government actions and to remain in contact with the poorest people who mainly live in rural areas.”
The two day conference included the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between AWEPA and AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa) described by AWEPA Secretary General Pär Granstedt as a “new and powerful initiative to strengthen the role of agricultural committees in parliaments, which represent the needs and concerns of Africa’s farmers at constituency level”.
At AWEPA’s conference dinner on Friday night, President Dr Jan Nico Scholten presented AWEPA’s Human Dignity Award to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, the award being received on his behalf by Graça Machel.
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