16 April 1998

Press Release


Report on Africa Introduced by Kofi Annan to Council; Full Debate on Recommendations, Actions To Be Held on 24 April

Secretary-General Kofi Annan this morning challenged Africa to rely upon political rather than military responses to its problems, as he introduced to the Security Council his report on the sources of conflict in the region and how best they could be addressed in order to build a strong and durable peace.

He stressed that Africa must also summon the political will to take good governance seriously by ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law, strengthening democratization and promoting transparency and capability in public administration. He urged African States to enact and adhere to the various reforms needed to promote economic growth, noting that long-term success could only be achieved if African governments implemented sound economic policies.

The Secretary-General's report was requested by the Council at a ministerial meeting it convened on 25 September 1997 to consider the need for a concerted international effort to promote peace and security in Africa. A full debate by the Council on the Secretary-General's report is scheduled for 24 April.

Also in his introduction of the report, the Secretary-General said political will was also needed from the international community, adding that it should intervene where it could have an impact and invest where resources were needed.

Key recommendations of the report include those concerning arms and arms trafficking, sanctions, refugees, structural adjustment, development assistance, debt and trade, the Security Council and international business and practices.

Following the Secretary-General's introduction, Council President Hisashi Owada (Japan), said the Council had requested the report because of its grave concern over the number and intensity of armed conflicts in Africa. The report provided the Council with ample basis for its discussions on how to contribute to the peace, stability and prosperity of the African continent.

The meeting, which was called to order at 10:43 a.m., was adjourned at 11:03 a.m.

* Press Releases SC/6499 of 6 April and SC/6500 of 9 April should have indicated 3869th and 3870th Meetings respectively.

Council Work Programme

The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in Africa. It had before it a report of the Secretary-General on the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in that continent (document A/52/871-S/1998/318). (For further information, see Press Release SG/2045-AFR/50-SC/6501 of 15 April.)

The report was submitted in response to the Council's request made at a meeting at the level of Foreign Ministers last September to consider the need for a concerted effort to promote peace and security in Africa. The Council requested the Secretary-General to submit a report on the sources of conflict, ways to prevent and address those conflicts and how to lay the foundation for durable peace and economic growth following their resolution.

Recommendations in the six-part report include the following:

On arms and arms trafficking:

-- United Nations Member States should pass laws enabling prosecution in national courts of violations of Security Council arms embargoes.

-- The Security Council should urgently consider how the United Nations might help compile, track and publicize information on arms trafficking.

-- African governments should reduce purchases of arms and munitions to 1.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), and maintain zero-growth on defence budgets for the next decade.

On sanctions:

-- Economic sanctions are too often a blunt instrument, and should be better targeted, for example, by freezing the assets of decision makers, their organizations and their families and through restrictions on travel.

-- Combatants should be held financially liable to their victims under international law, where civilians have been deliberately targeted; international legal machinery should be developed to help find and seize the assets of the transgressors.

On refugees:

-- An international mechanism should be established to help host governments maintain the security and neutrality of refugee camps. Such camps should be located away from borders; combatants should be separated from genuine refugees.

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On structural adjustment:

-- The Bretton Woods institutions should consider providing "peace-friendly" structural adjustment programmes.

-- Conditionalities must not be antithetical to a peace process; donors should not cut off funds from a weak government making good-faith, popularly supported efforts to implement peace agreements.

On development assistance:

-- Aid should be restructured to focus on high-impact areas (rural water supply, basic education, primary health) and to reduce dependency.

-- Donors should strive to ensure that at least 50 per cent of their aid to Africa is spent in Africa.

-- New sources of funding are required from donor countries.

On debt and trade:

-- The scope of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries initiative of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund should be greatly expanded, since only four African countries have so far met its conditions.

-- All creditors should convert into grants all remaining official bilateral debt of the poorest African countries.

-- Creditors should consider clearing the entire debt stock of the poorest African countries, as requested by the OAU.

-- The next summit of the Group of 8 industrialized countries should consider eliminating trade barriers to African products.

On the Security Council

-- The Security Council should meet every two years at ministerial level to assess efforts undertaken and actions needed to support peace and development in Africa.

-- The Council should consider convening, within five years, a summit-level session for the same purpose.

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On international business practices:

-- Countries implementing the Convention Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions should set a timetable for early enactment of national legislation.

-- The Organization of African UnitY (OAU) should draw up by the year 2000 an African convention on the conduct of public officials and the transparency of public administration.

Secretary-General's Statement

Introducing his report, Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN said not all of Africa was in crisis; not all of Africa was facing conflict. Africa had begun to make significant economic and social progress in recent years. But by showing its concern for Africa's remaining conflicts, the Council had signalled its readiness to further that progress and make it last for all of Africa.

The report, he said, was guided, by a commitment to honesty and clarity in analysing and addressing the challenge of conflict in Africa. For too long, conflict in Africa had been seen as inevitable or intractable, or both. It was neither. Conflict in Africa, as everywhere, was caused by human action, and could be ended by human action. For the United Nations, there was no higher goal, no deeper commitment and no greater ambition than preventing armed conflict so that people everywhere could enjoy peace and prosperity. In Africa, as elsewhere, the United Nations increasingly was being required to respond to intra-State instability and conflict. In those conflicts, the main aim, to an alarming degree, was the destruction not of armies but of civilians and entire ethnic groups. Preventing such wars was no longer a question of defending States or protecting allies. It was a question of defending humanity itself.

Since 1970, Africa had had more than 30 wars fought on its territory, the vast majority of which had been intra-State in origin. Fourteen of Africa's 53 countries had been afflicted by armed conflicts in 1996. Those accounted for more than half of all war-related deaths worldwide, resulting in more than 8 million refugees, returnees and displaced persons. The consequences of those conflicts had seriously undermined Africa's efforts to ensure long-term stability, prosperity and peace for its peoples.

No one -- not the United Nations, not the international community, not Africa's leaders -- could escape responsibility for the persistence of those conflicts, he added. Colossal human tragedies had taken place in Africa over the last decade, tragedies that could and should have been prevented. Not

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enough had been done to address the causes of conflict, to ensure a lasting peace and to create the conditions for sustainable development.

Today in many parts of Africa, efforts to break with those past patterns were at last beginning to succeed, he said. He expressed the hope that the report would add momentum to Africa's renewed quest for peace and greater prosperity. The report strived to do so by offering an analysis of Africa's conflicts that did justice to their reality and sought answers in their sources and by proposing realistic and achievable recommendations which, over time, might reduce if not entirely end Africa's conflicts. It aimed to summon the political will of Africans and non-Africans alike to act when action so evidently was needed -- the will without which no level of assistance and no degree of hope could make the difference between war and peace in Africa. The sources of conflict in Africa were as varied and complex as the continent itself, he said, adding that he had sought to identify the kinds of actions that most effectively might address those conflicts and resolve them.

The significance of history and of factors external to Africa could not be denied, he said. However, there was a growing recognition among Africans that the continent must look beyond its colonial past for the sources and the solutions to its current conflicts. His proposals required, in some cases, new ways of thinking about conflict in Africa. In others, they required new ways of acting. Whether in peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance or post-conflict peace-building, genuine and sustainable progress depended on three critical factors: a clear understanding of the challenge; the political will to respond to that challenge; and the resources necessary to provide the adequate response.

Equally important was the understanding that peace and development remain inextricably linked -- one feeding on the other, enabling the other and securing the other, he continued. The renunciation of violence as a means of gaining and holding power was only the beginning; a renewed commitment to national development founded on sober, sound and uncorrupted economic policies must follow.

A number of African States had made good progress in recent years, but others continued to struggle, he said. Poor economic performance and inequitable development had resulted in a near-permanent economic crisis for some States, greatly exacerbating internal tensions and greatly diminishing the government's capacity to respond to those tensions. Good governance was now more than ever the condition for the success of both peace and development. It was no coincidence that Africa's renaissance had come at a time when new and more democratic forms of government had begun to emerge and take root.

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"What we have learned over the last decades is that with political will, rhetoric can truly be transformed into reality", he said. Without it, not even the noblest sentiments would have a chance of success. With sufficient political will on the part of Africa and on the part of the international community, peace and development in Africa could be given a new momentum. Africa was rich and fertile enough to provide a solid foundation for prosperity. Its people were proud and industrious enough to seize the

opportunities that might be presented. "I am confident that Africans will not be found wanting -- in stamina, in determination or in political will."

Africa was striving to make positive change, and in many places those efforts were beginning to bear fruit, he said. In the carnage and tragedy that afflicted some parts of Africa, the bright spots must not be forgotten or the achievements overlooked. What was needed was for those achievements to grow and multiply throughout Africa.

Three areas deserved particular attention, he said. First, Africa must demonstrate the political will to rely upon political rather than military responses to problems. Democratic channels for pursuing legitimate interests and expressing dissent must be protected, and political opposition respected and accommodated in constitutional forms.

Second, Africa must summon the political will to take good governance seriously, ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law, strengthening democratization and promoting transparency and capability in public administration. Unless good governance was prized, Africa would not break free of the threat and the reality of conflict which were so evident today.

Third, Africa must enact and adhere to the various reforms needed to promote economic growth, he said. Long-term success could only be achieved if African governments had the political will to enact sound economic policies, and to persevere in their implementation until a solid economic foundation had been established.

He said political will was also needed from the international community. Where the international community was committed to making a difference, it had proven that significant and rapid transformation could be achieved. With respect to Africa, the international community must now summon the will to intervene where it could have an impact, and invest where resources were needed. New sources of funding, better use of existing resources and the enactment of trade and debt relief measures that would enable Africa to generate and better reinvest its own resources were needed. Concrete steps must be taken.

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The persistence of poverty was impeding the full promise of peace for all of Africa's peoples, he said. Alleviating poverty must be the first aim of all efforts. Only then -- only when prosperity and opportunity become real -- would every citizen have a genuine and lasting stake in a peaceful future for Africa -- politically, economically and socially.

He said in his report he has set out to provide a clear and candid analysis of the sources of Africa's conflicts and why they persisted. He had recommended actions and goals to reduce conflict and in time help to build a strong and durable peace. He had urged Africans and non-Africans alike to summon the political will to rise to the challenge. The time was long past when one could claim ignorance about what was happening in Africa, or what was needed to achieve progress. The time was also past when the responsibility for producing change could be shifted on to other shoulders. It was responsibility that all must face. The United Nations welcomed that responsibility. It was hoped that the report will mark a new beginning in the relations between the United Nations and Africa.

Statement by Council President

HISASHI OWADA (Japan), President of the Security Council, said the Council had requested the Secretary-General to submit a report on Africa in view of its grave concern over the number and intensity of armed conflicts on the continent. The Council believed that such conflicts threatened regional peace, caused massive human dislocation and suffering, perpetuated instability and diverted resources from long-term development. It was impressed by the commitment and insight the Secretary-General had brought to his report. The recommendations made were concrete and comprehensive, and provided the Council with ample basis for its discussions on how to contribute to the peace, stability and prosperity of the African continent.

He requested Council members to study the report carefully and thoroughly, and then to convene in a formal session on 24 April to discuss it. He also invited other members and observers of the United Nations to participate in that discussion. The Council reaffirmed its intention to review promptly the recommendations of the Secretary-General with a view to taking steps consistent with its responsibilities, he added.

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