Address by H.E. Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, at the opening of the 1st Ordinary Session of the Fourth Pan-African Parliament, Midrand, 05 October 2015

Your Excellency, President of the Pan African Parliament,
Honourable Roger Nkodo Dang,
Speakers of National Parliaments,
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Honourable Members of the Pan African Parliament,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am honoured to warmly welcome you to our country and would like to greet all of you on behalf of the South African Government and the people of South Africa. Let me take this opportunity to congratulate the President and the Vice Presidents of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) on their elections during the previous session.

Mr President,

I would like to assure you of our continued support to the PAP and we remain available for engagements on issues you may wish to raise with us at all times. This 1st Ordinary Session takes place on the backdrop of a successful 25th African Union (AU) Summit held in Johannesburg in June 2015. The Summit was held under the theme: “Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063.” 

I am delighted that you decided to convene, on the margins of this Session, the 2015 Women Conference under the June AU Summit theme. This is a clear demonstration of your resolve and commitment to work towards the realisation of the 25th AU Summit declaration on the theme. As you may be aware, the AU has made many declarations over the years but has been found wanting when it comes to implementation. Your commitment and dedication in this regard is commended.

We have recently participated in the United Nations’ adoption of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). African leadership heeded the call of the 25th AU Summit to participate in this process at the highest political level possible. This came at an opportune time when we celebrate 20 years of the Beijing Declaration and Plan of Action. This Declaration and Plan of Action remains a rallying roadmap towards the realisation of gender equality and women empowerment since its adoption by 189 UN Member States at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995.

We therefore believe that the continued implementation of our regional and continental mechanisms and protocols should be guided by the commitments of the Post-2015 SDGs, the Beijing Plan of Action, and aspirations espoused in Agenda 2063.

Mr President and Honourable Members,

We welcomed the adoption of the SDGs, being well aware of the task ahead to build on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) while ensuring environmental sustainability. Climate Change is Goal 13 of the SGDs which calls for “Taking Urgent Action to Combat Climate Change.” We are encouraged by the general consensus and endorsement by the UN that such action should be taken within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

It is heartening that you have dedicated time during the Session to debate climate change issues which are important to the continent and the global South under the theme “Climate Change and African Position.” It is in our collective interest to build momentum in preparation for COP 21/CMP11 scheduled for December 2015 in Paris.

Our livelihoods are to a greater extent dependent on the environment surroundings we live in. The importance of preserving the planet cannot be over-emphasised.

In this context, we should recall that the Durban Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP17/CMP7) decisions and outcomes set us on the path towards a legally binding instrument. We will therefore participate in the Paris process with a clear determination to pursue the adoption of a fair and ambitious legally binding instrument.

This is not the first time the PAP convenes forums to deliberate and strengthen African positions in issues of continental importance. It has done so previously while in cooperation with other AU organs, AU Member States individually and collectively, development partners, civil society organisations, business and academia.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In this regard, the aspirations of the African Agenda 2063 I briefly referred to above, requires strengthened coordination between the AU Commission Departments and Committees of other organs of the AU. I would like to urge the new Bureau to consolidate the mechanism and efforts undertaken by the previous leadership to ensure alignment between the PAP committees and the AU Commission departments.

The PAP’s oversight role is important in the pursuit of peace and security, promotion of democracy and good governance, as well as fostering economic growth and prosperity in Africa. You are an integral part towards the realisation of a vision of the AU forbearers. 

It is common knowledge that the Organ has a broader scope of work which transverse and compliments other AU organs’ functions. This is evidenced by the variety of activities that you have undertaken throughout the eleven years of existence. These include Fact Finding Missions, Regional Parliamentary Meetings and Elections Observer Missions, among others.

Mr President,

I am well aware that the PAP mandate has been limiting your endeavours to deliver concrete and tangible results in certain areas. However, this august body must be commended for its achievement thus far. We are mindful of the fact that eleven years on, the PAP has not achieved its ultimate goal of becoming the continent’s legislative body. This organ continues to function as a consultative and an advisory body.

We should however be encouraged by the 2014 AU Mid-Year Summit’s adoption of the reviewed PAP protocol. The reviewed protocol will enhance the PAP’s mandate once it enters into force.  South Africa undertakes to embark on a national process which will enable us to ratify this protocol and would like to encourage other AU Member States to do the same. This is the only way we can accelerate the entry into force of the protocol thereby demonstrating our commitment to transform the PAP. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

The AU requires stronger organs in order to achieve its continental political and economic integration agenda.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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