The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has called on members of the Commonwealth Parliament to ensure that the fundamental principles and values that form the basis of the Commonwealth Charter are thoroughly pursued to reflect in building just, inclusive, and prosperous societies for the peoples within the Commonwealth.
Consistent with this, President Akufo-Addo explained that the values of good governance, rule of law, protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms, promotion of international peace and security, as well as protection of the environment, must translate into “tangible and measurable outcomes to guarantee human security.”
Speaking at the opening of the 66th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in Accra, on Wednesday, 4th October, 2023, under the theme, “Commonwealth Charter, 10 Years On: Values and Principles for Parliament to Uphold”, the President Akufo-Addo charged Commonwealth legislators to identify the conference as a “unique opportunity to reflect on the progress made in upholding the values and principles projected in the Commonwealth Charter since its adoption a decade ago.”
In the face of the hurdles strewn across the democratic journeys of member states in the course of the last ten years, he said, these challenges “do not just put to test our commitment to the principles of the Commonwealth Charter, but also call into question the effective application of these principles in responding to the needs and aspirations of citizens.”
Proceeding on the necessity of ensuring that the concept of democracy becomes truly meaningful to the citizenry, he stressed that “it is important to remind ourselves that part of the legitimacy of democracy lies in its capacity to produce tangible developmental outcomes, such as good healthcare, quality education and affordable housing, and to create opportunities for individuals to explore, develop and realise their God-given potentials.
Recognising the burgeoning threats towards realising these goals like terrorism and violent extremism in the face of recent attacks in neighbouring countries like Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, he called for a co-ordinated effort by all nations and stakeholders like Parliaments in combating terrorism through the enactment, of strong legislations that curtail cross-border movement of illegal firearms, and impose heavy sanctions on offenders.
On the environment, he stated with worry the “undeniable truth” that the planet is undergoing unprecedented environmental degradation in the wake of climate change, and explained how issues of “environmental pollution, desertification, deforestation, global warming, flooding and other forms of degradation, and their adverse consequences, continue to pose imminent threats to the very survival of the human race.”
Describing it as phenomenal, he commended global advocacy towards transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, and nuclear power, and urged member countries to invest in renewable energy infrastructure, provide incentives for clean energy production, and set renewable energy targets to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change, and also make our economies competitive.
He advocated for international cooperation through knowledge-sharing on appropriate technology and best practices amongst countries in support of various initiatives to strengthen global efforts for sustainable future environment.
“Protecting the environment is not an option, it is an ethical imperative, which requires a profound shift in our collective mind-set and behaviour. We must act swiftly, decisively, and inclusively, leaving no one behind in our pursuit of a sustainable and harmonious world that would cater for today and posterity”, he added.
Speaking on what he described as “hegemonic acts” by bigger nations that seek to subject the will of smaller nations to those of their bigger and stronger neighbours, President Akufo-Addo, amidst resounding applause in recognition of unanimous condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, called on all, “to promote peace between the two nations, and find an end to the conflict on the basis of acceptable, established principles of international law” adding that, “it is in everybody’s interest that this is done.”
He asked for the reversal of unconstitutional changes in government across Africa and urged, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Commonwealth itself, to “join ECOWAS and the African Union in demanding the immediate, unconditional release from unjustifiable detention of the democratically elected President of the Republic of Niger, His Excellency Mohammed Bazoum.”
Whilst calling on the Commonwealth to add its voice to the need for “reform of the institutions of global governance, particularly the United Nations and its Security Council, to make them more representative and reflective of contemporary realities,” he also reminded them on the “agreement of the European nations, who sponsored the barbaric and inhuman Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, to the payment of reparations to the descendants of the victims of this horrific experience, especially as the slave owners, unlike the slaves, were compensated when the trade was abolished.”
He was hopeful that the conference, will provide a solid platform for reflection on past achievements, engage in thoughtful discussions about present challenges, and chart a course towards realising the hopes and aspirations of citizens under the noble goals of the Charter.