Lawmakers have a critical role to play in translating an ambitious new strategy for Africa’s development into concrete initiatives that will improve the lives of the continent’s people, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today in a message to African parliamentarians meeting in Cotonou, Benin. “As their representatives, you must craft laws that respond to their needs and aspirations; you must show your commitment to democracy, good governance and effective public administration; and you must serve as an institutional bridge between the state and civil society,” the Secretary-General said in his message, which was delivered by Zephirin Diabre, Associate Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), to the gathering of officials discussing the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). “Indeed, increased participation by Africans in the decisions affecting their lives will be a key factor in the success of NEPAD and the development of the continent,” he stressed. While NEPAD was first and foremost a partnership between African leaders and their peoples, and between States within Africa, the Secretary-General noted that it also envisaged a new partnership between Africa and the international community – especially the highly industrialized countries. That new relationship would be based on “mutual respect and interdependence, as well as transparency and accountability, including peer review and performance monitoring among both African countries and international partners,” he said, pledging the UN system’s strong commitment to providing the fullest possible support to this endeavour.