Friday, March 27, 2009

Climate Change and Security Discussions in Africa

On March 25 to 26, parliamentarians and experts from across West Africa examined crucial questions of climate change and its impact on agriculture and food security at a regional parliamentary seminar in Dakar. AWEPA, the Association of European Parliamentarians for Africa, organized this ‘Regional Parliamentary Seminar on Climate Change and Food Security’ in co-operation with the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank, the National Assembly of Senegal and the African Parliamentarian’s Forum for NEPAD.

‘Climate change and the related issues of food security are huge challenges for us all,’ comments Pär Granstedt, Secretary General of AWEPA. “We fully recognize that industrialized countries are the main contributors to the crisis, while less developed regions, especially Africa, seem destined to suffer most. This regional seminar will take the dialogue among parliamentarians one step further and energize parliamentary action to deal with the issues and face up to the problems”.

An important topic of debate is how to use new technology, such a genetically modified food, to enhance agricultural production as well as better ensure food security. The overwhelming view of genetic modification in Africa is skepticism due to past failures of such technologies. While the United States openly promotes genetic modification, Europe remains adverse to the importation of such products and enforces the labeling of all foodstuffs that have been genetically modified. This leads many African countries to avoid potentially beneficial GM foods, for fear of losing access to the EU market.

Parliamentarians from nine West African countries, experts and NGOs, both European and African, will hopefully return to their home countries with more knowledge and tools to boost parliamentary action at national and regional levels as well as internationally. African nations have not been critically involved in climate change discussions up to now, partly because of capacity constraints. In the coming year, countries throughout Africa will need to work to find their own voice, beyond what large developing countries like China have to say.

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