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Statement by the Secretary General at the 10th Regional Meeting of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly, 17 July 2013, Abuja - NIGERIA

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Hon. David Bonaventure Alechenu Mark, President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria;
Hon. Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji Waziri Aminu Tambuwal;
Co-President of the Joint ACP-EU Parliamentary Assembly, the Honourable Mrs. Joyce Laboso;
Honourable Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament;
Honourable Members, Your Excellencies, Distinguished invited guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, 
On behalf of the ACP Secretariat, and, indeed, on my own behalf, allow me to welcome you to the beautiful city of Abuja for the 10th Regional Meeting of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly. I consider it a privilege to be able to address this important regional meeting. Nigeria and my country Ghana share a common heritage. Our leaders have always cooperated in the domains of economic development, diplomacy and regional peacekeeping. Nigeria is also the economic locomotive of West Africa. A stable and prosperous Nigeria is essential to the wellbeing and progress of our region. 
Your Excellencies,
I wish to take this opportunity to thank the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for offering to host this meeting, and for all the excellent facilities and courtesies that have been provided to ensure an the efficient conduct of this meeting.
Together with the host country, the ACP Secretariat has done its best to ensure that the meeting is held in the best possible environment and that all arrangements for the comfort and convenience of Members are, indeed, in place. 
You may recall that the last such meeting for the West African Region was held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in October 2009. Some of the parliamentarians who attended that memorable meeting and are present with us here today include our indefatigable Honourable Assarid of Mali; the Honourable Guelaye of Mauritania; and the Honourable Tapsoba of Burkina Faso. Honourable Sirs, we greet you and we salute you for being such stalwart pillars of parliamentary democracy in our emergent West Africa.
Mr. President, Honourable Members,
I see that you have some very interesting subjects for discussion at this Regional Meeting.  As much as possible, the topics were intended to reflect issues and challenges that are directly pertinent to the economic and social development of the West African region. 
The Secretariat had endeavored as much as possible to ensure that you have knowledgeable and respected experts to speak to the various items on the agenda. For the first time, we have tried to source most of the speakers from within the host country for pragmatic reasons. They are, however, experts that are well versed in the regional issues. We shall have institutional representatives from the ECOWAS Commission and the World Bank on some items on which they are best suited to speak. Given the nature of some of the items, such as terrorism and piracy, we thought that the host country would be best placed to address the issue. 
Mr. President,
At the risk of pre-empting your debates, allow me to say a word or two on regional integration. I am of the view that regional economic communities are key to unlocking the developmental potential of our people. For instance, there is less trade between African countries compared with trade between Africa and the rest of the world. I think the same is true of the Pacific and the Caribbean. It therefore goes without saying that regional economic communities have to be platform to accelerate the integration of Africa into the global economy. We have to continue to do our utmost to remove some of the bottlenecks that militate against the full integration of our national economies even as we prepare our economies to brave the pressures and challenges of global competition.
Mr. President,
Today, our world is being affected by great shocks, shocks that require urgent response and action. These global issues – climate change, migration, natural disasters, the food, commodity, financial and energy crises – have worldwide impact requiring global collective action.  Like never before, we need political will, good leadership, effective action and dynamic change with a sense of urgency.  The time has come to construct a multi-dimensional, multi-stakeholder and all-inclusive approach to these global challenges. Let us bring results and delivery through change and improved policies, and create hope and opportunities for our nearly one billion people in the ACP family of nations.
As we deliberate on the several agenda items on the Agenda of this regional meeting let us not forget that the ultimate goal of all our endeavors is sustainable development.
Central to all these issues is the role of parliaments. This is an issue that I believe in very strongly as a former Member of Parliament myself. As you know, in the last decade or so, Parliamentarians have come to be viewed not just as legislative agents for their respective Governments’ policy proposals, but as development agents in their own rights. Economic success needs to be founded on effective national institutions such as Parliaments, which make it possible for those who have been given responsibility to be accountable for their actions. 
Mr. President,
This calls indeed for strengthening of the rule of law, meaning, essentially, rules and regulations that are consistent, non discriminatory, well understood and easily applied. This is the reason why there must always be checks and balances on those who make decisions to ensure that they govern in the best interest of society – and for the greatest good of the greatest number. Where Parliaments are weak, any policy devised or undertaken is likely to be equally weak and ineffectual. 
Madame President, Honourable Members, 
You are the voices of the people, and collectively, we can ensure that change is possible to improve the lives of so many across our continent. 
I therefore urge you to participate actively in the discussions that you will have with your European counterparts. For them, as much as for the rest of us, regional meetings afford an opportunity to listen to first-hand accounts of the challenges we face and of the efforts of our policy makers in addressing those challenges. The format of regional meetings allows for frank and open exchanges because, unlike in the JPA, there are no advance Declarations or Resolutions to defend or argue about. There are no votes either; the outcome of the meeting, which will be the Abuja Communique, will be adopted by consensus and will reflect those issues and recommendations that will be discussed on the floor.  
I therefore appeal to you to be forthright in projecting the national and regional issues that need the urgent attention of national and international stakeholders.
Thank you for your kind attention and I wish you a successful meeting.

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