Secretary of State for International Development opens CPA conference

The UK Secretary of State for International Development,  Rt Hon. Andrew Mitchell MP, has warned that the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa is fast turning to “catastrophe” and called for urgent, unified aid from the Commonwealth and European Union

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 31st Small Branches Conference of the CPA in London, Mr Mitchell said that he had noted that some European nations had called for a UN Food and Agriculture Organization meeting in Rome: “We don’t want meetings to discuss drought and starvation. We want action from everyone,”

“We want nations to put their shoulders to the wheel, together. The Commonwealth can be very proud of the action it has taken already but I hope that all its members will speak with one voice of a determination not to preside over millions of children dying of hunger. For me, allowing one child to die of starvation is sacrilege.”

Mr Mitchell, who has just returned from Dadaab in Kenya, the largest refugee camp in the world, described harrowing scenes as thousands of women carrying tiny babies arrived close to death from neighbouring Somalia. More than 300,000 people have now fled to the camp as the worst drought in six decades continues to ravage the Horn of Africa.

“Some had been walking for 30 days and what was so unusual is the silence. They were traumatized by their experience, their feet lacerated and bloodied,” he said.

“And I had to reflect that they were the lucky ones who had made it to a place where they and their children could be fed. Those who remain inside Somalia are in grave danger of dying. If our communities cannot stop what is an international disaster from turning to catastrophe then why are we here.”

The CPA Small Branches Conference has been held every year since 1981 to encourage discussion and networking between parliamentarians who work in the 30 jurisdictions which represent less than half a million people.

The conference chair, Ted Staffen, speaker of the Yukon General Assembly welcomed several executive colleagues during the opening, including Dr Wiliam Shija, Secretary General of the CPA, Rt Hon. John Bercow MP, Speaker of the UK House of Commons and the current CPA chairman and Malaysian MP, YB Dato’Seri Shafie Bin Hj Apdal.

The MPs share and debate political issues that are unique to their own nations and over the weekend will address:

• New ways to counter threats to the stability of smaller democracies, including piracy, drug trafficking and terrorism.
• The role of women as agents of change in small societies
• Programs to strengthen democratic institutions including youth leadership training and parliamentary reform.