Thursday, October 29, 2009

Address by H.E the Former President Mr.Festus G. Mogae, at the 25th anniversary conference of the Association for European Parliamentarians for Africa

source: Republic of Botswana (23/10/09): TAUTONA TIMES no 26 of 2009
The Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
“Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline with Delivery”



1. I am honoured and humbled by this opportunity to address an AWEPA meeting for the second time in Cape Town. The first occasion was to celebrate not only the transformation of South Africa into the vibrant rainbow nation it is today, but also to mark the modification of the name of the organization from Association for West European Parliamentarians against Apartheid into Association of West European Parliamentarians for Africa.

2. I have had occasion to address AWEPA meetings, in several European cities over the years, alongside many fellow Africans present at this meeting. It is all the more gratifying therefore, to address you Mr. Scholten, one more time in Cape Town and this time to celebrate 25 years, and to honor an African icon, who continues to be the conscience of our region, non other than the indomitable Bishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

3. Allow me therefore to thank AWEPA for the role it has played and continues to play in promoting Africa in Europe. The Association is not only promoting principles of good governance in the Continent but also enhancing the capacity of Parliamentary democracy through the training of MPs and Parliamentary staff.

4. Consequently, I would like to report the emergence of a great parliamentary institution in South and Eastern Africa, namely the SADC Parliamentary Forum. Consisting of both ruling and opposition party Members of Parliament, it has proved to be the most objective and impartial elections observer in the region. It is forthright and fearless in its pronouncements, unlike governmental observer delegations who are sometimes cautioned by their governments not to rock the boat. So next time there is uncertainty regarding the outcome of an election in Southern Africa, attach the greatest weight to the report of the SADC Parliamentary Forum.

5. We also recall with gratitude the crucial lobbying role that European Parliamentarians, who are pioneers of AWEPA, played in the struggle to eliminate apartheid and racial oppression in Southern Africa. We are happy that even though AWEPA was formed to fight apartheid, you did not discontinue supporting Africa after the fall of apartheid.

6. You have turned your attention to promoting democracy, peace, human rights and democratic governance in Africa. At the same time you did not abandon your political objective of maintaining an effective lobby to keep Africa on the political agenda in Europe and to improve European-African relations.

7. It is therefore fitting that you decided to celebrate your 25th Anniversary in Southern Africa and particularly South Africa, because European Parliamentarians, as I have already said, played a role in the fight against apartheid.

8. The overall theme of your conference – Promoting Parliamentary Democracy, is in keeping with your political objective of reducing poverty and protecting human rights by supporting the well functioning of parliaments in Africa and keeping Africa on the political agenda in Europe.

9. Distinguished delegates, I note with satisfaction AWEPA’s focus on promoting the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in Africa, poverty reduction, women and children’s rights, HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and peace and security. All these are major challenges facing Africa.

10. The topic before us is Parliamentary Contributions to Achieving the Millennium Development Goals. We are left with only six years before 2015 - the year that was set as the target date for achieving most of the Millennium Development Goals. Progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals suffered a shock in September last year, when the world was hit by an economic and financial crisis. This came at a time when the world is grappling with the worsening effects of climate change.

11. We have seen increases in food and fuel prices. The global economic crisis and effects of climate change will not only slow progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, but will also raise the cost for countries of implementing their programmes to meet the set targets. Faced with these challenges what can Parliaments do to contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals?

12. Distinguished delegates, Parliaments form the cornerstone of the democratic process and are the instruments which have enabled democratic countries to be at the forefront of enhancing democracy and good governance.

13. As a democratic institution Parliament plays a vital role in enhancing the accountability of the executive to the people. The electorate increasingly looks upon Parliament as an institution that has an important responsibility in the efficient and timely delivery of services to the people. In this respect some parliaments have developed the competence and expertise to constructively engage the electorate by offering them the opportunity to express their points of view through Committees. In Botswana they have started a programme called ‘taking Parliament to the people’ where the Speaker addresses meetings in villages explaining the role of Parliament and Parliamentarians. This responsiveness and willingness to listen to the voice of the people to promote dialogue and build consensus is one of the great strengths of the parliamentary system.

14. For Parliament to be effective and contribute meaningfully to the achievement of the MDGs, it is important that its role of legislation, oversight and representation is understood by all. As representatives of the people, Parliamentarians are better placed to play the important role of enacting good laws that can lead to the achievement of the MDGs. They are crucial players in highlighting the challenges facing the people and facilitating the passing of laws that address the needs of the people.

15. Parliaments as the repositories of the will of the people have a duty and responsibility to respond and do something about the challenges facing the people they represent. Parliaments approve development plans, budgets, programmes, projects and allocate resources on the basis of national priorities. This gives them the power to influence the development process, allocation of resources and ensure that the MDGs are clearly targeted in development plans, budgets allocations and programmes. It is Parliament that can argue for the review of all strategies, policies, laws and programmes to ensure that they are consistent with the implementation of the Millennium Declaration. They can ensure that appropriate policies and programmes are adopted to facilitate efforts to reduce poverty, provide universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, and combat HIV and AIDS, Malaria and tuberculosis. It is also their duty to constantly monitor the delivery of service as promised by the executive or government.

16. One other area which African Parliaments should take seriously is the danger posed by climate change. Although contributing very little to the greenhouse gas emissions, Africa will feel the most devastating effects of the worsening climate change and this will aggravate the already high poverty levels in the continent. It is going to be a daunting task for Africa to halve extreme poverty levels by 2015 from the 1990 levels as it is faced with challenges such as the effects of climate change and diseases.

17. Distinguished delegates, let me conclude by emphasizing that it is important for Parliamentarians to help keep African governments focused on all the eight Millennium Development Goals. In this way they can play an effective role in enhancing the accountability of the executive and also act as change agents of the people they represent. I Thank You for Your Attention.

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