Brussels, Belgium – On 8-9 October 2015, AWEPA held an international Parliamentary Seminar on “Peace, Security and Sustainable Development”, with a special focus on the role of African and European Parliaments in tackling the Root Causes and Consequences of Violent Extremism and Terrorism. The seminar was organised in the framework of the AWEPA Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Programme, and was hosted by the Belgian Senate in Brussels.
The theme for the high level seminar was chosen in light of growing international attention to the role of peace and security in the post-2015 development agenda. Moreover, “Peace, Security and Sustainable Development” represent a particular priority for Africa’s development. This theme echoes the African Union ‘Common African Position on Agenda 2030’ underlining the importance of peace and security in Africa and in the world, and the inextricable links between development and peace, security and stability.
The two-day Parliamentary Seminar was opened by the President of the Belgian Senate Hon. Christine Defraigne, who recognised it as an occasion of friendship between Europe and Africa and highlighted that parliamentary interaction is a win-win process.
AWEPA President and Minister of State Ms. Miet Smet then addressed the participants in the opening ceremony stating that: “our ability to achieve peaceful and secure societies is intrinsically connected to the strength of our democratic institutions. I think we can all see that the role for parliaments is clear: Only with parliaments that are at once “capable” and “at the service of their people” can we have peaceful and inclusive societies”.
Rt. Hon. Ike Ekweremadu, Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, brought to the participants a message of goodwill. “Today, I am happy that AWEPA is not resting on its oars. Peace, security, and sustainable development are like three peas in a pod – they are inseparable. Therefore, it is only logical to state that the entrenchment of peace and security are natural precursors to any meaningful development or sustenance of it”, he noted.
The High Level Seminar continued with a keynote address from H.E. Macharia Kamau, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Kenya to the United Nations and Co-Chair of the UN General Assembly Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
H.E. Kamau stressed that the seminar came at a time of great social upheaval in the world, while a sharp rise in violent extremism and terrorism has been witnessed for over 20 years. Thus, it represented a great opportunity to remind ourselves that the SDGs focus on the interplay between people, planet, the pursuit of prosperity and the building of peace in a free and participatory world. According to H.E. Kamau: “This is why SDGs are universal (…); simply said, all countries must grow and prosper together or they will fail and fail the planet on which we live, together. No society, country of region is an independent island. We all belong in one world, with one interconnected ecological and climatic system.”
Responding to the keynote speech, the Secretary General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Mr. Martin Chungong defined the AWEPA seminar as critical to the role that parliaments will play in the implementation of the SDGs. “Parliaments should be a reflection of the political divisions in society. It is important for the SDGs that governments and parliaments act as partners and not as opponents. Parliaments must adopt the legislation, approve the budgets and hold the government to account to reach the global goals”, he added.
The first Session of the seminar focused on the root causes of violent extremism and terrorism with strong presentations from both Professor Rik Coolsaet from Ghent University and Dr. Anneli Botha, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Security Studies of South Africa, followed by a panel debate on the consequences of violent extremism and terrorism in the second session.
The panelists were Mr. Yves Leterme, Secretary General of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), Rt. Hon. Ike Ekweremadu, Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Estelle Flore Angangou, President of the Network of Women Parliamentarians of Central Africa (RFPAC), and Ms. Magda de Meyer, Head of the Belgian AWEPA Section.
Following the panel discussion, participants split into working groups to debate the role of parliamentarians in four distinct areas relating to the topic of peace, security and sustainable development. These were:
Each working group drafted a series of recommendations based on intense and fruitful discussions. These recommendations were reported back to the plenary on Friday 9 October and followed by deliberations on a joint EU-AU Partnership to tackle terrorism in session 3 of the seminar, led by Hon. Bodil Valero, Member of European Parliament and Head of the AWEPA Section European Parliament; Mr. Gilles de Kerchove, European Union Counter-Terrorism Coordinator; and H.E. Ambassador Francisco Madeira, African Union Special Representative for Counter-terrorism Cooperation and Director of the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT).
The closing session of the seminar saw a number of insightful presentations to round off proceedings by H.E. Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Affairs for Belgium; Hon. Agnes Mundia Limbo, Chair of the Committee on Democratisation, Governance and Human Rights for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum; Belgian Senator Hon. Sabine de Bethune; and Ms. Smet.
The seminar came to a close with the unanimous adoption of a Declaration on Peace, Security and Sustainable Development, which integrates the recommendations deriving from the working group session. The parliamentarians committed to pursuing these recommendations in their respective countries and regions, sharing the Declaration with their parliaments for debate and working together in order to tackle the root causes and consequences of terrorism and violent extremism, and support the attainment of peace, security and sustainable development.
Copyright: Guy Goosens/Belgian Senate.