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Statement by the Co-President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, Hon. Joyce Laboso at the opening of the 25th session of the ACP-EU JPA, 17 June 2013

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Hon. Louis Michel, Co-President of the JPA
Hon. Joe Costello, Irish Minister for Development and Trade, President-in-Office of the EU Council
Co-Secretaries-General of the JPA
Members of the JPA
Distinguished invited guests
 
It is an honour and a privilege for me personally, as well as for the Government, National Assembly and people of the Republic of Kenya to address this Assembly. This being the first time that I am addressing the JPA, I would like to thank my colleagues in the ACP PA for giving me the opportunity preside over the JPA on their behalf, taking over from my fellow countryman Mr. Musikari Kombo, whom I had the good fortune to accompany to all meetings of the JPA during his time as Co-President.  I am therefore no stranger to the JPA.
 
Mr. Kombo was not successful in his contest for a Senate seat during the General elections held on 4 March 2013.  I wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the faithful and dedicated service that he rendered to this Assembly during the one and half years that he served as Co-President. We wish him all the best in his future endeavours, and given his vast experience in business, politics and community service, there will be other ways for him to continue contributing to the development of Kenya.  
 
I will endeavour to complete the remaining term of his mandate with the same zeal, dedication and responsibility that he demonstrated during his time.  
 
I also wish to take this opportunity to congratulate the new Secretary-General of the ACP Group, H.E. Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni on his appointment. May you enjoy the same success, and even more, that your predecessor had during his tenure.  In the same vein I wish the former Secretary-General, Dr. Chambas success in his new role as the UN and African Union Joint Special Envoy to Darfur.
 
Co-President,
Allow me to say a few words on the Kenyan General elections because they were part of a continuing trend Africa for the peaceful change of government through elections. We all recall the violence that erupted in an otherwise peaceful and stable country after the 2007 General elections. We learnt some harsh lessons following those elections, the most important of which was the need to restructure our Constitutional arrangements to make our democracy more participatory and accountable by, among others, creating lower level county governments and reducing the powers of the President.
 
Therefore, on 4 March 2013 Kenya went to the polls under a new Constitution adopted by Referendum in 2010 to elect the President, Senators, County Governors, County Assembly Representatives, County Women MPs and Members of Parliament for the 290 electoral constituencies. These were therefore extremely complex elections with enormous logistical and organisational issues for the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission and the political parties involved. Despite all such challenges, turn out on voting day was exceptional at over 80%. The elections attracted more than 20,000 accredited domestic and international observers, among them the AU, the EU and the Carter Foundation. The EU observer mission delivered its verdict of free, fair and transparent elections two weeks ago.
 
Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta emerged victorious in the first round, and Mr. Raila Odinga, the former Prime Minister and a presidential candidate, challenged the results in the Kenyan Supreme Court. The Supreme Court officially upheld the preliminary results and stated that the election was free and fair, and that Mr. Kenyatta had been duly elected in a "free, fair, transparent, and credible" manner.
 
Mr. Odinga’s calm acceptance of the Court ruling, re-affirming his belief in Constitutionalism, reflected his status as a Statesman, as well as the renewed commitment by all Kenyans to respect the rule of law and peacefully settle political and electoral disputes.  
 
Co-President,
I have chosen to briefly highlight the above issues because they offer a glimpse of what is achievable elsewhere in the African continent, and in the wider ACP when there is political will to address the root causes of political instability and other development challenges, and not merely peppering over deep seated problems with attractive but unsustainable quick-fix solutions. I wish to submit that this is the approach we need to take even in the discussions on the Post 2015 Development Framework as well, which I think is a theme that is relevant to all the debates on the agenda of our session.
 
Threats posed by military coups
 
Co-President,
I am pleased that we shall devote some time during this session to address issues concerning democracy during our debate on events in the Central African Republic, Guinea and Mali, as well as the report of the Committee on Political Affairs on the threats to democracy posed by military coups. 
 
Defending democracy and fighting military coups require deep institutional changes.  Greater inequality makes the use of the military in non-democratic regimes more likely, and also makes it more difficult for democracies to prevent military coups.  
 
If we are to entrench democracy, we must also address issues of inequality, exclusion and marginalization. If this is not done, festering discontent, which often manifests itself in spontaneous mass protest movements, may make civilian governments ineffective to the extent that military coups become a pretext for restoring law and order. However, we should never condone military governments under any pretext; we should be resolute in insisting on democratic means as the only acceptable way for settling political differences.
 
Violence against women and children
 
Co-President,
We shall also debate the issue of violence against women and children, which is linked to MDG 3. This problem is especially acute in times of conflict and where democratic structures are weak. Although violence is a threat to everyone, women and children are particularly susceptible to victimization because they often have fewer rights or lack appropriate means of protection. 
 
The situation of women in times of war is even more precarious; rape is often used as a weapon of war, and the physical and mental abuse of this cruel treatment often persists long after the cessation of hostilities. 
 
Preventing violence against women and children should therefore focus on preventing violence before it starts as well as preventing recurrence, preventing adverse effects and should take into account the context of the violence, such as war, family, school, community, national, or regional settings, in order to determine the best ways of dealing with it.
 
 
Food and nutrition security
 
Co-President,
In debating the issue of food and nutrition security, we should recognise that every person on earth - man, woman and child - has the right to have access to adequate food. However, there are several issues that are linked with this objective, such as ensuring food and nutrition security of small scale rural producers and poor urban consumers, as well as the important role of agricultural trade, land use and road infrastructure. 
 
An emerging issue of late in ACP States is land grabbing by local and foreign operators for export production at the expense of local food needs. The UN special rapporteur on the right to food has stated that large-scale land acquisitions and leases destroy the livelihoods and food security of thousands of communities, and that access to land essential for the right to food.
 
Given that the food production in many ACP States is undertaken by small farmers, we should be wary of policies or programmes that could tie poor farmers into buying increasingly expensive seeds, lead to corporate monopolies in seed selling, and escalate the loss of precious genetic diversity in seeds. 
 
Human resources for health
 
Co-President,
With regard to the debate on human resources for health, the debate shall focus on one of the neglected aspects of health intervention. Perhaps the major weakness of most health policies is their failure to adequately address issues of human resources, and yet this is the most critical component of a health delivery system. An appropriately trained, skilled and well-motivated workforce is a critical component required for the efficient delivery of health services.
 
Natural resources to promote development
 
Co-President,
MDG 8 speaks to the need to develop a global partnership for development. In the context of the Post-2015 Development Framework, a global development partnership needs to address in a very fundamental way the unsatisfactory and in some cases tragic exploitation of the natural resources of ACP States to the detriment of ACP nationals.  
 
Rising global demand for natural resources has focused disproportionate attention to those extractive industries that can meet the needs of resource-hungry export markets, with very little thought given to the needs of exporting countries and communities earning their livelihoods in the vicinity of extractive industry operations. 
 
 
While such industries provide a potentially strong source of development finance, if utilised well, they may bring about other possible social and environmental costs, many of which play out at community levels. Without properly structured institutions for law and order, property rights and well-articulated development objectives, mineral resource endowment has often turned out to be a poisoned chalice, especially in underdeveloped areas where there are poor, deprived or marginalized communities, leading to conflicts and loss of life. 
Some of the international operators based in Europe and other developed countries have engaged in very questionable activities in pursuit of ACP natural resources, be it fishing fleets, or mining, logging, and oil companies.
 
Co-President,
In order to realise maximum benefits from natural resources, greater participation of people in decision-making and resource management should be taken into account. Further, there is need for accountability and transparency mechanisms to help countries to ensure environmental considerations in natural resources exploitation and the proper and efficient utilisation of the attendant fiscal revenues.
 
 
Co-President,
The above issues are just a snapshot of what the international community can do to alleviate suffering, protect the weak, demand accountability from those in authority and promote the participation of all in the issues that affect us all as humanity. The question is not whether we can do it; because we do have the collective ability and wealth of experience to do it. The real question is whether we are willing to invest our considerable material and human capital to do. 
 
May this be the attitude that we bring to our debates and resolutions to demonstrate our commitment to poverty eradication and sustainable development.
I thank you for your kind attention.
 
 
***
 


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