The General Assembly this morning authorized $115.4 million gross ($113.9 million net) for the period 1 to 31 December for the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR), the United Nations Confidence Restoration Operation in Croatia (UNCRO), the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP) and the United Nations Peace Forces headquarters.
The Assembly made that authorization on the recommendation of its Fifth (Administrative and Budgetary) Committee, acting without a vote. In another action taken without a vote on the Fifth Committee's recommendation, the Assembly authorized $10.6 million gross ($10.4 million net) for the period 1 to 15 December for the United Nations Mission in Haiti. Both decisions were taken on exceptional bases.
Also this morning, the Assembly began its consideration of the implementation of the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s, hearing from numerous speakers who stressed that despite the commitments made under that agreement, the continent's economic situation had continued to deteriorate overall. Many participants called for urgent measures to relieve Africa's heavy external debt burden, to increase its access to markets, to help African countries to diversify their commodities and to support local savings structures.
"It cannot be denied that Africa needs the rest of the world, but my delegation wonders more and more whether the world really needs Africa", the representative of Niger said. The representative of Ethiopia, speaking on behalf of the Organization for African Unity, said the continuous marginalization of Africa from the globalization of the world economy dictated that the partnership of Africa and the international community must now be strengthened to implement the objectives of the New Agenda.
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"Acquiescing to the `donor fatigue' argument floated to mask the lack of political will on the part of the donor community is the same as giving up on cancer research and treatment because cancer continues to kill", said the representative of Kenya. The representative of Algeria added that the African countries had shown that they were willing to be credible partners and active agents in the vast undertaking of lifting up their continent. They were entitled to expect from developed countries an equal determination to fulfil their side of partnership contract for new development.
The representative of Cameroon said that if the Member States did not want the mid-term review of the New Agenda to be simply another opportunity to bewail the agenda, the international community must implement its Agenda commitments. He welcomed the establishment of a budget line for the development of Africa, but said additional efforts should be made to ensure that those resources would be commensurate with the challenges and reflect the priority that the United Nations had given to Africa.
Other statements were made by the representatives of Spain, (on behalf of the European Union), Togo, India, United Republic of Tanzania, Mauritania, Benin and Zimbabwe.
At the outset of the meeting, the Assembly President, Diogo Freitas do Amaral (Portugal), announced that he had appointed Kenya and Nepal to serve three-year terms on the Committee on Conferences, beginning on 1 January 1996.
The General Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. today to continue its consideration of implementation of the New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s, including a draft resolution on that matter. It is also expected to take action on three draft resolutions on the situation in the Middle East.
The Assembly met this morning to consider the implementation of the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s and the appointment of members of the Committee on Conferences. It is also expected to take up three draft resolutions on the situation in the Middle East concerning, respectively, the peace process, Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan, as well as a draft resolution on the implementation of the New Agenda for Africa. In addition, it will act on two reports of the Fifth Committee on financing peace-keeping operations. (For background information on the drafts, see Press Release GA/9020 of 1 December.)
Committee on Conferences
Concerning the appointment of members to the Committee on Conferences, the Assembly has before it a note by the Secretary-General (document A/50/106) which states that since the terms of office of Austria, Fiji, Grenada, Jordan, Morocco, Niger and the United States on that 21-member body will expire at the end of this year, it will be necessary for the Assembly President to appoint seven members to fill the resulting vacancies. The members so appointed will serve three-year terms beginning on 1 January 1996.
Fifth Committee Reports
One report of the Fifth (Administrative and Budgetary) Committee concerns financing of the United Nations Protection Force, the United Nations Confidence Restoration Operation in Croatia, the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force and the United Nations Peace Forces headquarters (document A/50/796). According to the report, the Assembly would authorize $115.4 million gross ($113.9 million net) for the period 1 to 31 December 1995 for the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR), the United Nations Confidence Restoration Operation in Croatia (UNCRO), the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP) and the United Nations Peace Forces headquarters.
Another Fifth Committee report before the Assembly, concerning the United Nations Mission in Haiti (document A/50/705/Add.1), would have the Assembly authorize $10.6 million gross ($10.4 million net) for the period 1 to 15 December for that Mission. Both decisions would be taken on exceptional bases.
New Agenda for Development of Africa
For its consideration of the implementation of the New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s, the Assembly has before it two reports and a draft resolution.
By the terms of draft resolution A/50/L.40, the General Assembly would reaffirm the need for the effective implementation of the United Nations New
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Agenda for the Development for Africa in the 1990s and call upon the donor countries and all other parties to fulfil their aid commitments in that regard.
It would establish an ad hoc committee of the whole of the fiftieth session of the Assembly to prepare the mid-term review in 1996 of the implementation of the New Agenda. The Committee would convene an organizational session as soon as possible but by no later than 30 June 1996 to consider and adopt the necessary arrangements for the mid-term review.
The Assembly would also decide that the ad hoc committee of the whole should meet for a period of ten working days in September 1996 to prepare the mid-term review on the basis of a report of the Secretary-General and of relevant inputs from Governments, organizations and programmes of the United Nations system, in particular the Economic Commission for Africa, and the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
In that connection, the Secretary-General would be requested to include in his report to the ad hoc committee specific information on the projected total resource requirements needed for the full implementation of the New Agenda, the amount expected and proposals to address any resource gaps. The ad hoc committee of the whole would also submit to the fifty-first session of the Assembly its findings and propose concrete measures and recommendations for sustained economic growth and sustainable development in Africa beyond the 1990s.
The Secretary-General's report on financial intermediation systems and practices in Africa (document A/50/490), submitted in response to the Assembly's resolution 48/214 of 23 December 1993, categorizes the countries of Africa under "three broad stages of intermediation, primary, intermediate and advanced, and proposes future action, including support measures that the international community could provide to enable African countries to move to a more advanced stage of intermediation". Its recommendations are contained in section VI of the report.
Financial intermediation -- broadly defined as the raising of funds from savers and placing them with borrowers -- can encompass payment systems; the management of risk and liquidity systems, insurance and savings; the facilitation of monetary policy and the fostering of the private sector.
The Secretary-General writes that several African countries have been stabilized and have achieved visible progress as a result of financial sector reforms. A number are also implementing reforms to reverse earlier financial sector disintegration. The region's financial and real-sector performance has improved substantially, as measured in higher rates of gross domestic product, savings and investment, and lower levels of inflation, he notes.
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However, he adds, the financial systems are among the weakest sectors in African countries. "Thus, of the 41 countries, nearly 20 are still at the primary stage, 19 at the intermediate stage and only 2 may be said to be at the advanced stage. Governments should view the development of financial intermediation as their top priority."
As used in the report, the term `primary stage' indicates an intermediation system dominated by a large informal sector in which transactions are direct and personal. Currency is the main conduit for transactions, and the economy is characterized by a high ratio of currency to gross domestic product.
In the intermediate stage, contacts between lenders and borrowers become more impersonal, the report states. Interest rate policy relies less on direct regulation and more on such instruments as treasury bill auctions. In advanced stage intermediation, such financial assets as privately issued bonds and equities and different types of money and capital market instruments, proliferate.
The Secretary-General states that existing efforts to achieve financial reforms have focused on the formal financial sector, to the neglect of efforts to mobilize the vast savings potential of the informal sector, with its capacity to finance micro-enterprises. "Encouragement and development of the informal system, drawing upon the traditional customs and practices, and fostering its linkages with the formal finance system should be an integral part of future efforts to further financial intermediation in Africa."
Constraints on reform efforts have included the limited operational independence of most African central banks, and the fact that the restructuring and rehabilitation of banks and non-banks is still incomplete, he states. Efforts to restructure the real economic sector have been too small scale to prevent recurring financial distress. Many African countries also lack fully developed financial markets that could mobilize and allocate savings and permit efficient monetary policy. "Thus, Africa should view the deepening and diversification of financial markets as a top priority for policy makers."
In general, sustainable progress in the development of the intermediation structures of African countries will require restoration and maintenance of macroeconomic stability; the development of human capital and management systems; and the establishment of information channels, he states.
For the formal sector, the Secretary-General recommends that central banks should be equipped to perform as the monetary policemen of the economy. "Restoring central banks in Africa to their primacy in financial management is crucial, and the core of human resources and skills should be directed towards improving their management and operational capabilities." The postal savings systems, which are active in a number of African countries, should be reformed
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and developed into postal savings banks. Private savings associations, credit unions and cooperatives and other informal group savings institutes can be encouraged to form wider associations and to associate themselves more closely with the formal system, he points out.
Recommendations for the informal sector highlight harnessing its capacity to generate savings, credit and lending. National efforts should also seek to determine the overall magnitude and role of the informal sector. Such purely informal systems as moneylenders, merchants and traders and informal savings and credit associations should be left untouched, he adds.
Non-governmental organizations involved in financial intermediation should also be involved in policy initiatives, he notes. The international community can also provide financial and technical assistance in the development of rural deposit-mobilizing and micro-credit institutions.
The Secretary-General suggests actions may also be required to restore failed and weak commercial banks and other financial institutions, and adopt licensing and a regulatory frameworks. Other measures include establishment of a clearing-house, an interbank market and a primary market for treasury bills; liberal interest rates; and development of a stock exchange.
The Secretary-General's report on the efforts of African States to diversify their economies and reduce dependence on a few primary commodities (document A/50/520), concludes with the following observation: "One year after the adoption of resolution 49/142, the diversification facility is yet to start its operation. Special initial contributions by Member States would facilitate the commencement of the facility." To demonstrate their resolve, African countries should prepare national strategies for the diversification of their economies.
In a review of action taken, the Secretary-General writes that the United Nations invited the African Development Bank (AfDB) to elaborate criteria for identifying diversification projects. The Bank indicated the appropriateness of having the next replenishment meeting of its African Development Fund (ADF) raise the matter of special contributions from State participants to finance the preparatory phase of diversification projects. The Bank further reiterated the importance of establishing national diversification councils and welcomed private sector involvement.
Committee on Conferences
The Assembly began by taking up the issue of the appointment of members of the Committee on Conferences.
The President, DIOGO FREITAS DO AMARAL (Portugal), recalled that on 21 November, the following had been appointed to serve three-year terms on the Committee on Conferences: Austria, Jamaica, Jordan, Morocco and the United
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States. As of that time, one seat from among the African States and one seat from among the Asian States had remained vacant.
He then announced that following consultations with the Chairmen of the African and Asian Groups, he had appointed Kenya and Nepal as members of the Committee on Conferences to serve three-year terms beginning on 1 January 1996.
Fifth Committee Reports
The Assembly then took up the reports of its Fifth Committee. Acting without a vote, it adopted the decision on financing the United Nations Protection Force, the United Nations Confidence Restoration Operation in Croatia, the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force and the United Nations Peace Forces headquarters.
Next, the decision recommended by the Fifth Committee on financing the United Nations Mission in Haiti was adopted without a vote.
New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s
ADAMOU SEYDOU (Niger) said that while African financial systems were rudimentary, there was a well-developed informal system which was particularly effective in mobilizing savings and in meeting the needs of micro-businesses. Niger shared the Secretary-General's view that the informal system should be preserved and encouraged, and it hoped the General Assembly would adopt this recommendation.
"It cannot be denied that Africa needs the rest of the world, but my delegation wonders more and more whether the world really needs Africa," he said. He was concerned that the donor countries had not taken any initiative to establish the special contribution so that the African Development Bank could help small and medium-sized businesses. Resources for this important activity must be set aside. It might allow Africa to be less dependent on the outside and might clear the way for it to be more involved in the new World Trade Organization (WTO).
The current session was the time to begin reflecting and organizing the mid-term review of the New Agenda for the Development of Africa scheduled to take place during the next session. To this end, the General Assembly was supposed to take the necessary measures to create a special committee to undertake this review. The proposed draft resolution, which he hoped would be adopted by consensus, requested the creation of this committee as soon as possible so that it could review and adopt the practical methods for its work.
In conclusion, he said it was necessary to encourage and strengthen the savings structures of Africa to ensure that the small entrepreneurs and small
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producers be re-involved in the diversification of the African economy; and for all partners interested in the development of Africa to help it assume its full role in the international scene.
ARTURO LACLAUSTRA (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s (UNNADAF) translated the commitment of both African countries and the international community to enhance the partnership to promote sustainable development. Some positive developments had occurred in Africa, including the emergence of the new situation in southern Africa after the end of apartheid and the processes of reconciliation and democratization in Angola and Mozambique. However, problems continued, largely due to the unsustainable population growth.
Africa's share of the world trade remained below 1 per cent, he said. Its agricultural production did not meet the food requirements of the growing population. Primarily, the responsibility for the solution of the multi- faceted crisis rested with the African countries themselves. The European Union would continue to support those efforts. Sustainable development required greater political stability, through the existence of sound state structures, the establishment of democratic systems, transparency and accountability in public affairs and the promotion and respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Mutual commitments should be made between interested partners among donors and African countries to respectively devote an average 20 per cent of official development assistance (ODA) and 20 per cent of national budgets to basic social programmes, he said. Efforts also ought to be made towards greater integration of African economies at regional and international levels, to open market systems and to create a favourable environment for the private sector. The European Union reaffirmed its commitment to the 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and ODA target as soon as possible and would strive for the fulfilment of 0.15 per cent to 0.20 per cent of GDP to the least developed countries, the majority of which were in Africa. It also believed that donors who had met the 0.15 per cent should undertake to reach 0.20 per cent of the GDP by 2000 for the least developed countries.
KOSSIVI OSSEYI (Togo) said the industrialized countries had agreed to cooperate to reduce the extreme poverty into which Africa had sunk. The continent lacked adequate infrastructures, made poor use of its human resources and suffered from the huge debt burden and environmental degradation, among other problems. The United Nations system had undertaken valuable actions in support of African development. The adoption of the New Agenda for the Development of Africa had been the most important step taken by the United Nations. United Nations efforts must focus on allowing Africa to diversify its commodities and have greater access to markets.
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All were aware that Africans themselves were responsible for the development of their continent, he said. Substantial efforts had been made by a number of African countries and by the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Togo was convinced that economic decline was not inevitable. A State must base itself on the rule of law and must encourage foreign investment. Togo was working to create a favourable environment for the rapid expansion of the private sector. Partnership between the North and the South was critical. "Africans have understood the need to count on themselves. Nevertheless, all of their efforts will only be successful if they are exercised in a favourable environment." It was a matter of regret that the international community had not honoured its commitments under the New Agenda for Africa. Industrialized countries must work to meet international targets aimed at bringing Africa out of its state of poverty.
VISHVJIT PRITHVIJIT SINGH (India) said sub-Saharan Africa had witnessed almost two decades of negative and marginal economic growth rates. Rapid population growth together with the stress of environmental degradation led to the steady decline in per capita incomes. Domestic industry barely grew and the food production in Africa remained below what had been achieved in 1980s.
India had sought to assist in the economic endeavour in Africa in a number of ways. India's Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme had facilitated assistance in the form of execution of projects, extension of training facilities, deputation of experts, conducting feasibility studies, providing consultancy and organizing study visits. More than 20,000 nominees, most of them from Africa, had been trained under the Programme. India had also offered training facilities in banking, financial management, urban development, water resource management and small industries among other areas.
He said African countries needed support from external variables in the form of better terms of trade for commodities, diversification of production and trade, and enhanced foreign direct investment. Debt reduction and rescheduling measures were also important in that regard. The focus of attention, therefore, ought to be on specific steps towards fulfilling commitments towards Africa.
DAUDI N. MWAKAWAGO (United Republic of Tanzania) said that in spite of the commitments made under the New Agenda, conditions in most African countries had continued to deteriorate. African countries had undertaken structural adjustment measures, including his own country, which had carried out reforms aimed at laying the foundation for growth. The success of the reforms would largely depend on the support provided by the international community in areas such as favourable commodity prices, market access and debt relief. The need for diversification of commodities could not be overemphasized. International assistance in that area was essential. "Africa is the least developed of the continents. As we move towards the next millennium, there must be concerted efforts by the international community to
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help Africa make the giant leap necessary to be part of the development process, as contained in the United Nations New Agenda for Africa for the 1990s."
RAMTANE LAMAMRA (Algeria) said despite the wealth of Africa's soil and its subsoil, the selflessness and persistence of its human resources, its historic bonds to and geographic proximity to one of the world's greatest economic conglomerations, Africa nonetheless was the only region where social and economic conditions were continuously declining. That represented both an economic aberration and the unacceptable dashing of the hopes of hundreds of millions of citizens for a decent life and a less uncertain future.
However, he said, it had to be recognized that, despite their limited means, the African countries had made considerable efforts to overcome their problems. The African continent had implemented the largest number of structural improvement programs, and the majority of African countries had undertaken macroeconomic stabilization and budgetary deficit reduction -- despite consequent increases in social tensions. Foreign trade had been liberalized throughout the continent, and foreign investment was benefitting from an environment that had never been more favourable. Finally, regional and subregional cooperation had been significantly advanced through the strengthening of existing institutional mechanisms and the creation of new cooperative groups.
He asked if it were realistic to expect fundamental improvement in the situation so long as a solution had not been found to the continent's external debt problems, and so long as that debt continued to tap the dwindling resources of the continent. Similarly, could progress be expected so long as the prices of commodities, which made up 90 per cent of African exports, remained lackluster? Was it possible to overlook the somber perspective of the post-Uruguay Round, which led one to think that the African countries would be among the most severely penalized by the preferential system and the rising prices of food stuffs?
The remarkable efforts of the African countries were destined to be of limited effect if they were not accompanied by significant and varied support from the international community, he said. The African countries had shown that they were willing to be credible partners and active agents in the vast undertaking of lifting up their continent. Given that, they were entitled to expect from developed countries an equal determination to fulfil their side of a partnership contract for new development.
HAMOUD OULD ELY (Mauritania) said Africa continued to face many obstacles to its economic growth. The hopes raised by the international community for the economic recovery of the African States remained unrealized. Despite some progress in some African countries, the situation overall remained precarious, particularly because of the debt burden, low levels of foreign direct investment, and the fallout from the General Agreement on
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Tariffs and Trade (GATT) agreement. Those external constraints were compounded by internal factors such as drought and other natural disasters.
African leaders had committed themselves to undertaking reforms, he said. There had been a genuine political flowering on the continent, marked by the end of single-party rule and greater respect for human rights. Since the launching of the New Agenda in 1991, various initiatives had been undertaken. "The diagnosis has been made. Today, we have to find the necessary remedies." To be effective, such remedies must relieve the debt burden, promote commodity diversification and increase financial flows to African countries. During a time of globalization, it would be dangerous to marginalize Africa, which had great human and material resources for the continent and for the world.
FRANCIS K. MUTHAURA (Kenya) said that despite serious constraints, African countries had undertaken structural adjustment measures. Although some African countries had experienced growth, the economic crisis on that continent persisted. Economies in Africa continued to stagnate because of the debilitating debt burden, dwindling external financial flows, and poor terms of trade. The lack of external development policies and support measures was blocking implementation of the New Agenda. While African countries had fulfilled their part of the Agenda, the international community had not lived up to its commitments. "Acquiescing to the `donor fatigue' argument floated to mask the lack of political will on the part of the donor community is the same as giving up on cancer research and treatment because cancer continues to kill."
Bold, innovative measures by the multilateral institutions were needed to reduce the huge debt owed by African countries, he said. Such measures, coupled with increased flow of concessional financial resources, would boost investment and productivity on the continent. The international community should support Africa's efforts towards the development of the financial sector. In addition, the international community would benefit by supporting the economic diversification process in African countries. Commodities should be given added value through processing, marketing, distribution and transportation. That approach called for the transfer of technology to African countries.
JEAN KOE NTONGA (Cameroon) said that if the Member States wanted the mid-term review not to be one more academic exercise or another opportunity to bewail the New Agenda, a decisive step must now be taken. The international community must implement the commitments entered into under the New Agenda. There must be significant efforts to support the social and economic development efforts of the African countries. In particular, to promote the diversification of the commodities and the economies of African countries, a special contribution could be made by the African Development Bank to help small producers establish worthy projects.
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He also fully supported the proposals regarding the improvement of financial intermediation in Africa. It was the means to consolidate local savings structures and to link them with modern banks and financial institutions in such a way as to generate local resources at a time when official development assistance was dwindling at unprecedented rates. While welcoming the establishment of a budget line for the development of Africa, he said additional efforts should be made to ensure that those resources would be commensurate with the challenges and reflect the priority that the United Nations had given to Africa.
RENE VALERY MONGBE (Benin) said the fate of the New Agenda was faltering. Africa lived in fear of a real social explosion that would affect other countries, which were mere neighbours in the global neighbourhood. Problems such as drought, desertification and diseases like malaria, were a grave threat, but the situation was not apocalyptic. Africa had many resources and was potentially the richest continent, but it had been impoverished by a number of factors, including the inequity of the international economic environment.
The international community must meet its commitments under the New Agenda, he stressed. Almost halfway through, the New Agenda had only partially been applied. Only the Secretary-General had made efforts that were noteworthy, including the organization of meetings and the appointment of the Coordinator for Africa and the Least Developed Countries. He appealed to Member States, especially developed countries, to ensure the resumption of development in Africa. The development process in Africa would stagnate if the efforts of African countries continued to be burdened by external debt; if the flow of capital continued to diminish; if obstacles to markets persisted and if the terms of trade remained depressed. Any serious response to the problems must address those factors.
NGONI FRANCIS SENGWE (Zimbabwe) said given the impressive array of initiatives to help Africa, it was ironic that at the end of each of those programmes, the aggregate economic performance of Africa had been worse than at the beginning. The one explanation for the African predicament was that there was a wide gap between good intentions and concrete action. Zimbabwe believed that the world community could not afford to let the New Agenda turn into a repeat performance of the abortive United Nations Programme of Action for African Economic Recovery and Development. When the New Agenda had been adopted, it had incorporated an acknowledgement of the need for adequate resources flows. Next year, it would be necessary to analyze the mid-term resource requirements to meet the goals of the New Agenda.
He said there was an urgent need to find a durable solution to the debt problem. Grave concern arose over the fate of Africa's commodities, which lacked diversity, in today's integrated global economy. African countries were aware that they must develop their national capacities and mobilize domestic resources. Many had undertaken various forms of structural
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adjustment reforms at enormous social and political cost. Now, Africa needed more than empty expressions of solidarity; it required tangible support in the form of new and additional resources and the transfer of technology on concessional terms. "There is no doubt that there is no political will and commitment whatsoever to help Africa overcome its economic predicament." It was not asking too much to call on the international community to provide modest support for the great efforts of African countries.
MULUGETA ETEFFA (Ethiopia), speaking on behalf of the Organization for African Unity, said the continuous marginalization of Africa from the globalization of the world economy dictated that the partnership of Africa and the international community must now be strengthened to implement the objectives of the New Agenda. That required concerted action to ensure consistent and incremental flow of resources, effective participation of African countries in international trade, and a strategy that would resolve the continent's crushing debt problem. In this context, the highest priority was the implementation of the recommended level ($30 billion) of ODA for Africa along with the recommended annual increase of four per cent per year. It was also necessary to make every effort to increase levels of ODA in accord with the internationally agreed target of 0.7 per cent of GNP (0.15 of GNP for the Least Developed Countries).
The Secretary-General's recommendations regarding the debt problems -- contained in his report to the substantive session of the Economic and Social Council -- deserved close consideration, he said. To enhance Africa's participation in the new international trade regime, specific actions were required to promote the competitiveness of the African countries in the international market and to strengthen their capacity to cope with the immediate consequences of the Uruguay Round and benefit fully from the gains arising from trade liberalization. In view of the unsatisfactory implementation of the New Agenda, the mid-term review and appraisal of the agenda by the General Assembly should be an occasion for an in-depth assessment of the actions so far taken, as well as of the measures needed for sustainable growth and development in Africa beyond 1996.
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