Arusha, Tanzania – Following the exchange workshop on the “Institutional Strengthening of International Parliamentary Bodies and their Role in Development”, held on 10-11 February 2015, by the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa Parliament (CEMAC) and AWEPA, in cooperation with the Network of African Parliamentarians (NAP), Hon. John Corrie, President of the ACP/EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly shares his reflections:
As the Rapporteur for the creation of regions in the ACP countries between 1996 and 2000 in the European Parliament, I was delighted to be asked to attend to speak and Chair at the Regional EALA meeting in Arusha, Tanzania on the institutional strengthening of international parliamentary bodies and their role in development.
The Conference was run by the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) and AWEPA with guests from Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa Parliament (CEMAC) in Central Africa and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in West Africa. CEMAC were particularly interested in the way in which ECOWAS and EALA run their parliaments, and the workshop also wanted to look at the role and interaction of parliamentary institutions at the national, regional and continental levels. Most of these regions base their model on the European Union and the European Parliament.
The workshop was opened by the Hon. Daniel Kidega, who is the newly appointed Speaker of the EALA Parliament. He stressed the important role of regional parliaments in today’s globalised world, and said they must aim to fight inequality, end poverty and face up to the problems of impunity and corruption. In his view, their work is to engage parliamentarians towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the betterment of all the people in Africa.
In his remarks, the Speaker of CEMAC, Hon. Vincent Mavooungou Bouyou stressed the extreme importance of moving forward from co-operation to integration within the region, and with nearby regions as only in this way would they have the strength of negotiation.
The stage was then set for a fascinating and interesting two days of work, and it was clear by the number of questions following each speaker that the audience were making full use of their participation in this conference. I feel there could have been much more time allocated to question and discussion, and less on set speeches because of the intense interest and involvement of the participants who fully attended the workshop for the two days.
It is clear to me that much work still needs to be done. Regional Parliaments need to be legislative bodies with directly elected members from each of the nations within the region, elected in proportion to the population of each nation state. Like the European Parliament, the regional parliament requires legislative powers which supersede nationalpowers to give it the voice it requires within the new global world. Its aim must be to break down barriers of trade and immigration, and allow for a free flow of people and trade without border controls and customs. Only in this way can inter-state trade be enhanced.
The success of this workshop is due to the constant work being done between AWEPA and EALA on building their regions, and is an excellent example of the work which needs to be done throughout the African continent. There are new initiatives for the African countries, and they need all the outside help which can be given – not only financially, but also in knowledge, and there is no better way of doing this than imparting it through Members of Parliament from Europe working through AWEPA to pass on their knowledge and experience.