The inauguration today of the African Union's (AU) Pan African Parliament marks the implementation of a long-held commitment by African leaders to establish a continental body representative of the peoples of Africa, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said.
"Through the Pan African Parliament, the authentic voice of the peoples of Africa at long last will have a more direct influence on policy and action in the Union, " Mr. Annan said in a message delivered on his behalf by UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tuliameni Kalomoh.
With President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique presiding, the inauguration of the Parliament took place at the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Conference Centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was followed today by the Parliament's first session, which is set to run until 20 March.
According to the AU, its Member States were each to have submitted names of the five elected Members of the Pan African Parliament, at least one of whom would have to be a woman.
"With the inaugural meeting of this important body, the Union marks yet another significant milestone in its quest to strengthen democratic institutions, implement NEPAD (the New Partnership for Africa's Development), and promote unity and stability in Africa," Mr. Annan said.
The UN has worked intensively with the AU to design effective concepts and strategies to enhance the operational effectiveness of the Union's institutions, he added.
"We will continue to do so as the Union takes specific steps to translate into reality its vision of greater integration, development and peace."