Session Three of the ILC 2020 organized by UPF of Africa and UPF of Europe and the Middle East was “Perspectives from Current and Former Parliamentarians,” the webinar of the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP).
The webinar, which was held on September 11, 2020, was titled “Opportunity and Hope at a Time of Global Crisis: Africa, Continent of the Future.”
Ms. Heather Wokusch, Author, Educator, Public Speaker, Austria
Heather Wokusch is a virtual-learning expert, international educator and author, psychotherapist and organizational-development consultant. She is the founder of MESPERO, an Impact Tech project promoting emotional wellbeing and mental health among disadvantaged populations.
The moderator of the session was Ms. Heather Wokusch from Austria, an author, educator and public speaker.
The speakers were:
H.E. Delfim Santiago das Neves from São Tomé and Príncipe, the president of the National Assembly
Hon. Hilik Bar from Israel, a former deputy speaker of the Knesset
H.E. Ousseini Tinni from Niger, president of the National Assembly
Hon. Gadzhimurad Omarov from Russia, a member of the State Duma
Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga from Uganda, the speaker of the Parliament
Mr. Peter Haider from Austria, the coordinator for IAPP of Europe and the Middle East
H.E. Delfim Santiago das Neves, President, National Assembly, São Tomé and Príncipe
Delfim Santiago das Neves graduated in international business from the University of the South in Santa Catarina, Brazil. H.E. Delfim Santiago das Neves has been the President of the National Assembly, Republic of Sao Tome and Principe since November 2018. Previously, he held several high positions of responsibility in the administration. He is a peacebuilder and pacifist very involved in the economic development of his country. He has contributed, by his pragmatism and his ideas, to the renewal of São Tomé and Príncipe, through the political networks and to the associations of civil society to which he belongs.
H.E. Delfim Santiago das Neves, president of the National Assembly of São Tomé and Príncipe, observed that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the economies of many countries, and Africa has not been spared: It was time for concerted efforts to fight it. He stressed that the African continent should fight for the prosperity of its people while observing democratic and social justice. He noted that UPF, at the moment, had created opportunities for nurturing dialogue among all stakeholders to build peace. He stressed that education was a critical ingredient in shaping a civil and democratic society.
Hon. Hilik Bar, Former Deputy Speaker, the Knesset, Israel
Until 2019, Hon. Hilik Bar served as a Member of the Knesset and the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, and was formerly Secretary General of the Israeli Labor Party. He is the founder and chair of the Knesset caucus for resolving the Arab-Israeli. He has taken part in advocacy and coexistence missions around the world, in the course of which he met with US Presidents, the Pope and many other world leaders in the western the Arab world. He lives in Jerusalem and holds a MA in political science and international relations from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Hon. Hilik Bar, a former deputy speaker of the Knesset in Israel, noted that it is necessary for all to promote peace. He said that he was passionate about Africa and its people, having had experience with the people of Uganda. His association with an organization that empowers Africa was a testimony to his passion. It was important to empower Africa to have oneness, he said, since Africa was central to the world and a third of the young people will live in it by 2050.
He further observed that since Africa was home to the fastest-growing economy, the international community needs to act now to come up with sustainable solutions to empower it. People in Africa move from rural areas in search of better services, but a lot of potential in business through mutual partnership rather than charity is a priority. This could be done by enhancing positive awareness about such opportunities, he said.
H.E. Tinni Ousseini, President of the National Assembly, Niger
H.E. Ousseini Tinni is a graduate of the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce et d'Administration des Entreprises in Marseille (France). He has extensive experience in management, administration, economics and transport. From 2000 to date, he has held several important positions in the Nigerien administration. He was administrator of the Nigerian Hydrocarbon Company, Director of Cabinet of the Minister of Transport, Secretary General of the Ministry of National Competitiveness and the fight against the high cost of living. He has been the president of the National Assembly of Niger since March 2016.
H.E. Ousseini Tinni, president of the National Assembly of Niger, observed that the topic was a paradox, and though COVID is a pandemic, he was seeing opportunities and hope. He noted that countries in West Africa had their economies shrunken, and it was high time that the fight against the pandemic was intensified within the framework of equality and justice. African countries need to mobilize funding through a form of Marshall Plan, he said, and parliaments must fulfill their oversight roles to ensure that policies take into account social issues and harmonize legislations that promote trade. Lawmaking must be participatory to gain ownership among the citizens and to take into account environmental issues as well as fostering messages of peace and human values.
Hon. Gadzhimurad Zairbekovich Omarov, Member of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation
Hon. Gadzhimurad Zairbekovich Omarov is a Member of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. He is also Deputy Head of the faction “The Just Russia” – a parliamentary political party. As a Russian politician, he was a member of the 3rd convocation of the State Duma (2000-2003), and is now a member of the present, 7th convocation. Mr. Omarov is a member of the European Association of Muslims. Previously, he was the leader of the regional branch of "The Just Russia" in the Republic of Dagestan (2012—2015). He is currently a member of the Central Auditing Commission of “The Just Russia”.
Hon. Gadzhimurad Omarov, a member of the State Duma of Russia, noted that Russia was first in culture change and that Africa needed more assistance in the backdrop of COVID-19, more so in areas such as education. He observed that Africa needed peace and that investing in Africa would help build stability. He thanked all of those who united to provide the necessary assistance to the Lebanese following the recent deadly explosion in Beirut.
Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, Speaker of the Parliament, Uganda
Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga is a Ugandan lawyer and politician who has been Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda since 19 May 2011. She is the first woman to be elected Speaker. She is also the current Member of Parliament (MP) for the Kamuli District Women's Constituency, Busoga sub-region, a position she has held since 1989. From 1996 to 1998, Rebecca Kadaga was the Ugandan Minister of State for Regional Cooperation. She then served as Minister of State for Communication and Aviation from 1998 to 1999 and as Minister for Parliamentary Affairs from 1999 to 2000.
Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, the speaker of the Parliament of Uganda, observed that Africa has maintained resilience to the COVID-19 pandemic, contrary to expectations. Research may be done to unravel the source of resilience. She noted that containment measures such as lockdowns affected the economy and loss of livelihood. There have been, however, opportunities occasioned by regular sanitization and wearing of masks. The local industries that produced these essential goods thrived, and there is no longer any need to import them. Lockdowns and curfews also made families stay together for longer hours, though they affected social functions such as weddings.
The Ugandan Parliament established a Parliamentary Task Force to quickly look at the possible impacts of the lockdown. The task force came up with proposals to address various sectors of the economy. It changed its procedures to adapt to the changes brought about by the pandemic and passed the necessary legislation to enable the government to handle the situation. Parliaments should fulfill their oversight roles to see that resources are used effectively, she said.
Hon. Kadaga said that research and innovation need to be reviewed, both to address the use of Africa’s vast resources and also to prepare African countries to handle any future crises when they arise. Parliaments will play an active role to see these are realized.
Mr. Peter Haider, Coordinator, IAPP Europe & Middle East
Peter Haider has been President of the Universal Peace Federation in Austria since 2005. He initiated already in 1984 the "Forum Religion und Weltgestaltung" as a platform for interreligious encounters in evening discussions and symposia in Vienna. Since 2009, he has organized with UPF Austria several NGO conferences in the UN in Vienna. He is also the coordinator of IAPP for Europe and the Middle East and in Austria, where IAPP was inaugurated in 2017 with a conference on the topic "Perspectives for Sustainable Peace in Europe: The UN Vision, the Role of Parliamentarians and Civil Society".
Mr. Peter Haider, the coordinator of IAPP for Europe and the Middle East, noted that UPF works closely with parliamentarians, since they deal with issues from the grass-roots to the national level. Parliamentarians identify the root causes of problems, and because problems are endemic, they need to build hope among the citizens. IAPP and other political leaders must portray moral character, and leaders must be united for the sake of peace.
The question-and-answer session produced the following comments from the speakers:
Africa has a lot of potential, and there is the need to unify and empower Africa through diverse expertise.
Connecting people through innovative ways.
The number of people starving in Africa has doubled; hence there is the need to unite to save the people.
Invest in Africa so as to add value.
Africa needs to have its own agenda on the basis of its needs and to end political power, set agendas with deadlines, and provide education for a qualified work force.
After a crisis there will be innovations. Africa should be analyzed in the post-COVID era.
Africa is behind in education, innovations, etc.
International aid organizations should prioritize Africa.