Graça Machel

Ask yourself what you can do to make a difference. And then take that action.- Graça Machel

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Message from the President of AWEPA, Ms. Miet Smet

11 April 2014

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March has been an active month where, alongside our other events in Africa, a very successful Parliamentary Dialogue took place in the Greek parliament along with an AWEPA Executive Committee meeting and a meeting of AWEPA’s Political Coordinators (PC) and Senior Parliamentary Advisors (SPA).

Ms. Miet Smet, President of AWEPA and Minister of State (Belgium), together with Hon. Tragakis, First Deputy Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament.

Ms. Miet Smet, President of AWEPA and Minister of State (Belgium), together with Hon. Tragakis, First Deputy Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament.

AWEPA Governing Council member and contact person for the Greek Section, Mr. Theodossis Georgiou and his team, together with the AWEPA team, did a brilliant job in organising the event. Before it started I had a very interesting meeting with Hon. Ioannis Tragakis, First Deputy Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament and Chairman of the Committee for European Affairs. He also gave an insightful overview of the Greek priorities in relation to Africa and noted that, despite the economic recession, Greece is presently number 13 in the list of EU countries providing development cooperation funds.

During the Dialogue, interventions were made by the Presidents of the Committee on National Defence and Foreign Affairs, Hon. Mr. Kostas Tsiaras, and the Committee on Equality, Youth and Human Rights, Hon. Katerina Papakosta. These introductions were followed by a discussion around two themes of pertinence both to Greece and to all present. AWEPA Vice President Mr. Henk Jan Ormel gave an informative and capturing presentation posing the question: What Role for Parliaments in Agriculture? He was followed by Hon. Kostas Tzavaras, Member of the Standing Committee on Public Administration, Public Order and Justice for Greece who spoke on migration and the role of parliaments.

What was touched in Greece on the theme of migration will be further examined this year at AWEPA. In consultation with the Chair of our Eminent Advisory Board, Ms. Graça Machel, whom I had the honour of meeting last autumn, with the President of the Pan-African Parliament Hon. Bethel Amadi, and with our Governing Council, AWEPA will focus on managing migration and the key role of parliamentarians in its upcoming 30th anniversary event to be held in Midrand, South Africa, in October 2014. The event will culminate with the African-European Parliamentary Dialogue on ‘Managing Migration – Cornerstone of African-European Post-2015 Development Relations’, which will be hosted together with the Pan-African Parliament. During the dialogue, AWEPA will aim at amplifying the voice of parliamentarians in the ongoing global discussions as they relate to the challenges associated to migration.

Indeed, migration is increasingly the focus of human rights discussions and affects every region of the world, as today more people than ever are living abroad. According to the United Nations, in 2013, 232 million people (or 3.2 per cent of the world’s population) were international migrants, compared with 154 million in 1990 [Source].

Symptomatic of its significance in the context of African-European relations, migration was on the agenda of the recently-held 4th Africa-EU Summit. Around 60 leaders from the two continents, the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission, the President of the African Union and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission signed the final Declaration of the Summit, in which it was stated that “migration, mobility and employment are key issues for us all. The serious social and human impact of irregular migration should be effectively tackled in a comprehensive way, including by addressing its root causes and among other means by ensuring an effective and concerted return policy between countries of origin, transit and destination” [Source].

The AWEPA Executive Committee also met in Athens. They paid some attention to this 30 year event and its importance. Alongside the conference, Midrand will host meetings of the AWEPA Partnership Council, Governing Council and Executive Committee. During the Governing Council meeting, the five-yearly elections of the Presidency of AWEPA and its Executive Committee will be held.

They also discussed developments of AWEPA Mozambique, which is establishing itself as an independent entity with a new and clearly defined relationship with AWEPA Headquarters. Together we reviewed the budget and finance related issues such as insurances and risk management. As our Director Partner Relations, Ms. Jessica Longwe was able to be with us, we took the opportunity for her to give an update on developments in AWEPA’s South African programmes. This was followed by an informative update from Hon. Prof. Tadeusz Iwiński on the situation in the Ukraine.

I also had the pleasure to chair the second ever meeting with some of AWEPA’s Political Coordinators and Senior Parliamentary Advisors, where we held an open and productive discussion on their role in AWEPA today. It proved to be a very fruitful meeting with new ideas being generated for ways forward. Within this discussion was also an issue raised on the balance between politicians and professionals. The meeting also reviewed the fact that requirements of donors, partners and delegates alongside the finances available, need constant and thorough consideration.

The importance of good governance was stressed as was good communication at all levels; between politicians and our donors, between peer politicians within Europe and with our African partners and between the politicians and staff. It was noted that a lot of information can be found on the AWEPA website (www.awepa.org), or social media (FacebookTwitterYouTube and LinkedIn).

Looking ahead to the coming month, I am pleased that AWEPA is cooperating with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Mexican Parliament to organize a parliamentary meeting on the 14th of April, bringing a 10-Member parliamentary delegation to the first High-Level Meeting (HLM) of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (GPEDC) to take place on 15 – 16 April, also in the capital of Mexico. In 2008, AWEPA led the first parliamentary delegation to the Third High-Level Forum in Accra in order to give voice to the parliamentary perspective in making development more effective. Three years ago, on the eve of the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4) held in Busan, AWEPA pooled with IPU and the National Assembly of South Korea to organise a Parliamentary Forum. This event promises to be another milestone.