Councillor Cyril George recently returned from the 59th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Conference in Johannesburg, which took place from 28 August – 6 September 2013.
Councillor George, the first Councillor from our newly elected Council to attend a CPA conference, commented that the Conference presented him with vast knowledge on how some political systems are carried out in other Commonwealth countries and allowed him to meet and discuss with Ministers from other countries how their ministerial systems work. Councillor George said that attending the Conference provided him with a valuable opportunity to represent St Helena while at the same time enhance his knowledge and skills in his role as a Councillor.
Plenary sessions involving small branches commenced at the beginning of the Conference. Several delegates gave presentations following which the floor was opened for questions. Opportunities were also given to allow attendees to speak with presenters on a one-to-one basis after formal sessions came to a close.
Workshops held included topics on:
•Land Access and Ownership, Progress and Challenges Experienced by Rural Communities in Accessing Land. What could be the Role and Intervention of Parliamentarians?
•Should there be Parliamentary Intervention in the Informal Economy and Entrepreneurship Sectors?
•The Challenges of Attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015; and
•Inequitable Resource-Sharing: A Threat to Democratic Governance
A total of seven workshops were run simultaneously. Councillor George said:
“I decided to dedicate my time to three workshops from which I felt I could gain the most knowledge and experience as time constraints in the programme unfortunately could not allow me to attend them all. Workshops that I attended involved Agriculture, Land Access and the Millennium Development Goals. As I am the Chairman of the Environmental and Natural Resources Committee it was of use to learn how other countries operate, how they differ and how they are similar in terms of the systems we use. Discussion with delegates provided me with an understanding of what we are successfully doing on St Helena along with possible ideas for improvement.
“During the workshop on agriculture, discussions were based on large holdings and their sub-division into numerous small units that may lead to a drop in productivity and loss of export markets, whilst at the same time with effective support, smallholders can become successful in the agricultural economy.
“The workshop on land access was based on the need for Parliamentarians to increase their outreach activities among poor rural communities. The most in need of land are landless and poor communities which included vulnerable groups such as female headed households. In this regard the responsible departments should provide the necessary expertise. We are fortunate on St Helena not to have these problems as there is a well established Lands Section within SHG who control all Crown land.
“The final work shop I attended was the challenges of attaining the Millennium Development Goals. From the discussions it was highlighted that some Commonwealth countries are finding it very difficult to meet the millennium goals due to their resources and financial constraints. We are fortunate that we are able to monitor the goals and hopefully achieve them by 2015.”
While overseas Councillor George also spent some time in the UK where he was able to visit the office of the UK SHG Representative and meet with FCO Officers, Martin Longden, Head of Falklands & Southern Oceans Department and Hannah Chadwick, Desk Officer for St Helena and Ascension.
In South Africa Councillor George also visited the office of John Scipio, Enterprise St Helena’s Project Administration Manager, witnessing discussions with potential investors and tourists.
Councillor George commented:
“I would encourage Councillors to attend similar conferences as it provides the opportunity to network with the many delegates from different Commonwealth countries. This in itself adds to one’s confidence, knowledge and experience and gives us an excellent opportunity to raise the Island’s profile especially during this period of immense change.”
2 October 2013