The 37th Africa Region Conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) is underway in Accra with the focus on the fight against HIV/AIDS to safeguard resources being decimated by the pandemic for development
The 10-day conference, kicked off on July 28, 2006 with preparatory meetings of the members of the Sub-Committee on Constitutional Review and pre-conference tour of delegates to Ghana's countryside.
The formal opening of the conference on the theme: “Health and Vitality Development-Parliament at the Forefront of the Global Fight against HIV/AIDS and Poverty," by Vice President Aliu Mahama was followed by the first plenary session.
The delegates would use the four plenary sessions to deliberate on: "The 50-50 Women Representation in Decision-Making Bodies: Is CPA Africa Ready?" "Parliamentary Supremacy and Judicial Independence" and "Multi-Partyism and Separation of Powers on the Right Track?"
Vice President Alhaji Mahama observed that the silent but deadly advance of HIV/AIDS was undermining the substantial debt relief initiatives the Continent was enjoying. He said the over 70 per cent of the 40 million people estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS worldwide were in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Vice President Aliu Mahama said the pandemic was likely to throw Africa right back into the throes of poverty when positive advances on debt relief seemed to signal the light at the end of the tunnel.
“It is my hope that parliamentarians will take up the challenge and spearhead initiatives that will enlighten the people they serve. Parliamentarians ought to be equally dedicated to the success of National Strategic Plans aimed at stemming the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the reduction of poverty.
Vice President Alhaji Mahama called for workplace programmes, education, advocacy and counselling to minimise the scourge on People Living with HIV/AIDS.
On the numerous conflicts in Africa, Vice President Aliu Mahama said Parliament was the best medium for inter-party dialogue to end armed violence that arose from diverse identities, needs and cultures.
"I urge political parties and groupings to avoid the pursuit of narrow interests in order to give peace a genuine chance to flourish so as to support economic and social development,” he said.
Ghana's Speaker of Parliament, Mr Ebenezer Begyina Sekyi Hughes, said although it was gratifying that the CPA had brought peace and stability in a number of troubled spots on the Continent leading to democratic rule, there was the need for the delegates to help Somalia, Cote d'Ivoire and the Darfur Region of Sudan to choose the same path.
"It is the expectation of the good people of our Continent that this meeting of the CPA... would not just be observed as another milestone gathering of members of the CPA characterised by flowery speeches, but one at which we should engineer solutions to the political, social and economic woes of the Continent."
Mr Hughes, who is also the Vice Chairman of the CPA, Africa, expressed the hope that the conference would promote affirmative action to facilitate the 50-50 women representation in decision-making-bodies.
He said Ghana occupied a special place in the Commonwealth, as one of the first African countries to be privileged to become a member of the Commonwealth.
Mr Hashim Abdul Halim, Chairman of CPA, Africa, in a speech read on his behalf charged the delegates to help to promote good health in Africa to facilitate wealth creation.
Mr Abraham Ossei-Aidoo, Chairman of the CPA Organising Committee, said a successful fight against HIV/AIDS would make resources available for development and to deepen democracy in Africa.