04/12/2001
Press Release
GA/9989



Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Plenary

74th Meeting (AM)


GENERAL ASSEMBLY DECIDES TO CONSIDER FURTHER MEASURES


FOR IMPLEMENTATION, MONITORING OF INITIATIVES ON AFRICA


Concluding Consideration of Conflict, Durable Peace, Sustainable Development

In Africa, Speakers Stress Importance of New, Positive Structures in Continent


Without a vote, the General Assembly this morning adopted an orally amended resolution on the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa as it concluded its consideration of that item.


By the terms of the resolution, the Assembly decided to suspend the activities of the Open-ended Ad Hoc Working Group on the Causes of Conflict and the Promotion of Durable Peace and Sustainable Development in Africa during its fifty-sixth session, in order to consider further measures for the implementation and monitoring of initiatives in Africa.  It also invited the Working Group to  re-examine its mandate during the fifty-seventh session, including the scope and nature of its work.


The Assembly also decided to continue to monitor the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the Secretary-General on the item (document A/56/371).


By the terms of the text, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to designate the already established interdepartmental/inter-agency task force as the permanent focal point within the Secretariat mandated to monitor the implementation of the recommendations contained in his report, and to strengthen the task force with the necessary human, managerial and administrative resources to effectively carry out this task.


The representative of Sierra Leone noted with sadness that there were17 ongoing conflicts in Africa, most of them mirroring long-festering ethnic, religious or linguistic differences, oppression of minorities, or the suppression of human rights.  When issues like continuous illicit arms flows, rampant illegal exploitation of strategic natural resources, and nefarious terrorist activities became the antithesis of efforts towards conflict prevention and durable peace, he wondered what next was to be done.


The representative of Morocco said that in many conflicts in Africa, the United Nations had ascertained the extent to which the exploitation of natural resources in areas outside the control of governments was feeding civil wars and armed insurgencies.  Until now the international community had tended to deal with Africa country by country, whereas transnational traffickers operated on a broad


scale.  The nationals of third countries must not be allowed to benefit from the chaos or anarchy in certain regions of Africa for purely mercenary purposes.


Argentina’s representative said there should be mechanisms for controlling some of the elements that led to conflict in Africa, such as the proliferation and trafficking of arms, which also involved conflicts over resources such as diamonds.  To devise such mechanisms the Security Council needed information.  Where information was lacking, as it had been in Sierra Leone, United Nations staff were in danger.  In the past two years, many positive advances had been made, in part because of regional groups such as the Economic Organization of West African States (ECOWAS).  The Council’s task would benefit from greater coordination with the Assembly and with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), as well as with regional groups.


The representative of Colombia echoed other speakers in saying that efforts to create a favourable environment for peace must be ensured by the countries themselves.  They must shoulder the responsibility for their own destiny, as all countries had done once they were freed from European colonialism.  He was pleased with the partnership approach of the United Nations, and supported its efforts  to respond in a more efficient and coordinated fashion.  He hoped the possibility of convening a special General Assembly session on solidarity and partnership for the continent would become a reality.


The representatives of Mozambique, Uruguay, Eritrea, Russian Federation, Malaysia, Chile, Japan and Nigeria also spoke, as did the Permanent Observer of the Holy See.


The Assembly will meet again tomorrow, Wednesday, at 10 a.m., to mark the closing of the International Year of Volunteers under its agenda item “social development, including questions relating to the world social situation and to youth, ageing, disabled persons and the family”.


Background


The General Assembly met this morning to continue its consideration of the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa, including the report of the open-ended ad hoc working group on the issue (document A/56/45) and the report of the Secretary-General (document A/56/371).  It was also expected to take action on draft resolution A/56/L.28, submitted by Tanzania.


(For background information see Press Release GA/9988 of 3 December.)


Statements


JOSE NICOLAS RIVAS (Colombia) said that United Nations efforts for Africa in the areas of education, prevention of conflicts and post-conflict peace-building had led to positive but insufficient results.  That was the main conclusion of the working group.  It was discouraging that the work had not been approached with the appropriate dynamism that was needed for the continent.


Continuing, he said that the regional approach to prevention as well as post-conflict peace-building in Africa must be seen as a complement to global efforts.  Its success depended on the main protagonists defining the region and the development of positive relations among the actors.  The regional approach must include respect for sovereignty, with each country guiding external actors to the conflict.  For an initial period of three years, the regional strategy should focus on prevention and peace-building of countries emerging from conflict.


Efforts to create a favourable environment for peace must be ensured by the countries themselves, he said.  They must shoulder the responsibility for their own destiny, as all countries had done once they were freed from European colonialism.  He was pleased with the partnership approach of the United Nations, and supported its efforts  to respond in a more efficient and coordinated fashion. He hoped the possibility of convening a special General Assembly session on solidarity and partnership for the continent would become a reality.


OSVALDO NARCISO MARSICO (Argentina) said he agreed that there was an essential connection between peace and development, which made prevention a priority.  Prevention was more than the averting of armed conflict, however.  That part of prevention was primarily the responsibility of the Security Council.  The full concept of prevention put the emphasis on making the most of human potential.  To generate enough political will to prevent many armed conflicts in Africa, there should be mechanisms for controlling some of the elements that led to conflict, such as the proliferation and trafficking of arms, which also involved conflicts over resources such as diamonds.


To devise such mechanisms, he said, the Council needed information.  Where information was lacking, as it had been in Sierra Leone, United Nations staff was in danger.  In the past two years, many positive advances had been made, in part because of regional groups such as the Economic Organization of West African States (ECOWAS).  Security Council missions were also useful instruments.  Still, there were many concerns, such as the fact that the tribunal for Sierra Leone had not been able to function because of lack of funds.  The Council’s task would be benefited by greater coordination with the Assembly and with the Economic and Social Council, as well as with regional groups.

Further possibilities of cooperation should be explored, he said, to address today’s contradictions.  Globalization with its unprecedented wealth coexisted with extreme poverty.  Meanwhile, assistance was consistently on the wane.  Numerous steps could be taken to alleviate that condition, such as liberalizing trade to allow greater participation of African countries in the world economy.  Also to be considered were burdens such as environmental standards, which sent the wrong signals to African countries trying to get into the new market.


He said his country had always supported Africa.  It had supported decolonization and fought apartheid.  It had participated in peacekeeping in countries such as Mozambique, and in South Africa’s elections.  It had participated in missions such as the one currently operating in Eritrea and Ethiopia, and presently had a presence in the Western Sahara and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Its participation in the White Helmets was also well known. 


CARLOS DOS SANTOS (Mozambique) highlighted the strong nexus between peace and development.  He said that long-term conflict prevention demanded commitment that went beyond short-term military support.  Hopefully, the approach put forth by the Secretary-General in his recent report, advancing a comprehensive and integrated approach to conflict prevention, poverty eradication and development, would help meet the special needs of many African countries.  At the same time, strategies for the prevention of conflicts should seek to address their root causes.  The external debt of heavily indebted poor countries must be cancelled, levels of official development assistance and foreign direct investment must be increased, and market access to products from developing countries must be allowed.


States and the international community at large should vigorously engage in the promotion of a culture of peace and greater cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations, he said.  They should also assist reconstruction efforts and strengthen measures to eradicate the illicit small arms trade.  The United Nations must also increase its support to Africa's own peace development initiatives.  At the subregional level, and as a way to tackle the root causes of conflicts, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) had committed to efforts to eradicate poverty, combat HIV/AIDS and better respond to challenges posed by globalization.


He urged the United Nations, the international community and international financial and economic institutions to support African development initiatives, especially the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).  That partnership sought to set an agenda for the renewal of the continent, based on national and regional priorities and development plans prepared through a participatory process.  Built on the wealth of experience accumulated thus far by Africa and its partners, it foresaw a new framework of interaction with the rest of the world, including industrialized countries and multilateral organizations.  African leaders and their people were fully conscious of their primary responsibility in promoting peace and stability.  What they required was adequate and timely assistance.


MOHAMED BENNOUNA (Morocco) said that in spite of Africa’s enormous potential in terms of natural and human resources, the continent remained a continent ravaged by conflicts of increasing complexity, jeopardizing its stability and its economic and social development.  There was no doubt that a global and integrated approach to Africa’s problems would be the best solution, and the best way to concretize that approach was through the United Nations system.  Such a structure should have as its aim the implementation of the recommendations of the Secretary-General’s report.


In many conflicts in Africa, from Sierra Leone to Angola, the United Nations had ascertained the extent to which the exploitation of natural resources in areas outside the control of central governments was feeding civil wars and armed insurgencies.  In that regard, he believed that the coordination of international efforts through the United Nations would be appropriate.  Until now the international community had tended to deal with Africa country by country, whereas transnational traffickers operated on a broad scale.  The nationals of third countries must not be allowed to benefit from the chaos or anarchy in certain regions of Africa for purely mercenary purposes.


His country was convinced that in order to achieve durable peace and economic growth, Africa should not only be able to depend upon the moral and financial commitment of African governments, but on the creation of a favourable environment for investment, the restructuring of international aid, the reduction of the debt problem and the opening of international markets.  A concerted effort on the part of the international community was essential.


ALBERTO GUANI (Uruguay) said that his country had participated in some

20 United Nations peacekeeping operations in Africa, particularly in Angola, Western Sahara, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and most recently, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Uruguay was motivated by a sense of humanity and solidarity with the continent, along with an unswerving respect for human rights.


The report of the Secretary-General on applying recommendations related to the causes of conflict in Africa appealed to the international community to support work of Africa on reforms in public management and sustainable development.  It focused on conflict prevention and post-conflict peace-building and on education as key factors in development.  It was hoped this would ensure new clashes would not occur that could prolong a conflict for years, leaving huge losses to human lives and hampering prosperity.


On the fight against HIV/AIDS, he said he was pleased that the Secretary-General had met personally with multinational pharmaceutical companies to discuss ways they could focus appropriate attention on individuals living with the disease, and make treatment more accessible.  The cost of medication to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa had marginalized those countries further, since they could not access treatment with their currencies on the same levels as more prosperous countries.


AMARE TEKLE (Eritrea) said many scholars on Africa claimed that conflict was inevitable on the continent, and that colonialism had imposed a peace now absent.  Developments over the past 10 years refuted such fallacies.  The NEPAD showed that Africans might be burdened by poverty, deprivation and disease, but they definitely rejected the “criminalization of the State” or the “instrumentalization of disorder” in favour of a new developmental and participatory State.  That was true even if conflicts continued to hamper more orderly transitions to democratic governance and development.


He said the legacy of colonialism had been the primary source of conflict on the continent.  Ethnic and territorial conflicts had been complicated by States acting as regional policemen.  However, colonialism could no longer be blamed.  There were enough legal instruments and procedures at the regional and international levels to solve problems.  The real roots of the predicament were embedded in the lack of human security.  Broadly, such security would be defined as good governance and access to equitably distributed resources.  When lack of security was backed by violations of international law at the international level, the roots of Africa’s predicaments were accounted for.


Good governance emphasized not only representative but participatory democracy, he said.  Democracy, in turn, encompassed the developmental and political promotion of equality, both of condition and of opportunity.  Only with that kind of democracy at the grass-roots level could a human-centred development programme be built around a just social order which addressed the material and spiritual needs of populations.  In that regard, it was notable that despite the end of the cold war, some of the most “democratic” States still supported the most undemocratic governments.


He said rich countries must make an earnest effort to help Africa meet the challenges of globalization by helping turn it into a positive force for development.  That way, Africa could help reduce the world’s disparities.  It could help build justice and an equitable global economic relationship.  Addressing issues related to official development assistance and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) would do that, along with the highly appreciated measures already taken for debt relief.  African countries would then accelerate economic reform programmes and ensure a friendly environment for investments as they prevented the flight of capital.  Regional and subregional organizations would help, as would efforts of the United Nations in forms such as “preventive” measures and early-warning systems.


ANDREY E. GRANOVSKY (Russian Federation) said the strengthening of peace and security in Africa was a vital component in creating a stable world order.  His delegation shared the view of the Secretary-General that there was a direct link between peace and development, and he was convinced that if the vicious cycle of Africa’s poverty and conflicts were not broken, Africa would not be allowed to venture on to the path of sustainable development.  His delegation noted the increased efforts on the part of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to prevent and settle conflict situations, and their readiness to play a key role in solution to such problems.  The OAU summit in Lusaka was an important step forward for the integration process in Africa and had given new impetus to regional cooperation.


The authority of the United Nations should support the efforts on the part of African countries.  The Russian Federation was pleased to note the increased cooperation between the United Nations and the OAU and various sub-regional organizations.  Aid for development was important.  The United Nations must be concerned with more just distribution of resources, more effective administration of justice and measures to strengthen management institutions and ensure provision for the rule of law.  The United Nations also needed to help implement special measures to eradicate poverty, reduce foreign debt, and transfer technology.


He said the Russian Federation had great respect for its traditional friendship with Africa.  His country was taking steps in its foreign policy with the African continent, and working on ways of increasing its practical contribution to peace-building there.  His delegation remained convinced that the way to stabilize the situation in Africa was through the integration of the continent into the world economy.


ZAINUDDIN YAHYA (Malaysia) said that it was disheartening that Africa continued to become a theatre of wars and a home for poverty and diseases.  Conflicts, floods and low commodity prices still held back Africa’s economic growth.  There could be no peace without development.  Africa’s ability to rise out of chronic poverty could be attained only with continued international assistance.  Without it, many would remain entangled in the vicious cycle of poverty and violence.  The debt burden was the greatest threat to Africa’s survival, and should be reduced to more manageable levels.


One of the contributing elements to violent conflict in Africa, he went on, was the rapid accumulation, illicit sale and indiscriminate use of small arms.  It was important that bilateral and sub-regional security arrangements were strengthened to promote self-restraint in military expenditures and the acquisition of weapons in the region.  His delegation believed the issue of small arms proliferation should be viewed from a holistic perspective of arms control and disarmament, post-conflict peace building, conflict prevention and socio economic development.  Adequate resources must be provided to ensure that the implementation of practical disarmament measures -- including weapons collection projects and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes -- was not hampered.


Both domestic and foreign investment in Africa needed to be substantially increased if the region was to accelerate growth to the level of the 7 to 8 per cent required to reduce poverty by half by 2015.  While recognizing that political stability was a crucial factor in attracting foreign direct investment, it was disappointing that such investment inflows into Africa had declined from

$10.5 billion in 1999 to $9.1 billion in 2000.  Such a situation, coupled with the consistent decline in the volume of official development assistance, made it impossible for Africa to embark upon serious development programmes.  It was also important to improve market access for all goods from African countries into the international markets, through the reduction and elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers by the international community.


IBRAHIM M. KAMARA (Sierra Leone) said it was sad to note that currently, there were 17 on-going conflicts in Africa, most of them mirroring long-festering ethnic, religious or linguistic differences, socio-economic inequalities, oppression of minorities, or the suppression of human rights.  The conflicts had been aggravated by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, particularly in his country, where the conflict was pursued with cynical abandon by external forces.  The establishment of a United Nations inter-agency task force for West Africa and the dispatch of a mission to the region in March were steps forward in developing a real approach to conflict prevention and durable peace.  But when issues like continuous illicit arms flows, rampant illegal exploitation of strategic natural resources and nefarious terrorist activities became the antithesis of those efforts, he wondered what next was to be done.


Africa was the most technologically disadvantaged region in the world, a situation which had not been helped by years of war and civil strife.  It was therefore imperative for African countries to focus on conflict prevention and post-conflict peace-building as well as education.  The promotion of a culture of peace remained the best option of social cohesion and national reconciliation.  Peacekeeping remained a most desirable objective.  He said his country hosted the largest-ever assembled peacekeeping force of the United Nations, and he saluted the peacekeepers in the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone for their selfless sacrifices to save his country from slipping into oblivion.  He supported the call for capacity building in peacekeeping operations.


He said the ever-pervasive issue of poverty and the debt burden continued to plague Africa’s economic development.  Post-conflict readjustment in African societies remained a nightmare for governments and people.  The current fall in official development assistance and foreign direct investment, therefore, had not helped the restructuring of the global economic order.  He appealed to the international community to live up to its commitment to assist the developing world.


CRISTIÁN MAQUIEIRA (Chile) said stable and durable peace in Africa, which would not only benefit that continent but the world as a whole, was one of the major imperatives of the international community today.  Africa’s problems should be discussed not only in the Security Council.  An integral approach should be strengthened and applied.  He said he welcomed the initiatives of African governments themselves to promote human rights, good governance and the right of law.


The consequences of poverty were major factors instigating most conflicts in Africa, he said.  Four out of 10 Africans lived in poverty.  According to the United Nations Report on Human Development, half of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lived on less than $1 a day.  A sustained and constant increase in gross domestic product (GDP) was needed, as were free trade and a progressive alliance with more prosperous nations.  He appealed to the international community to ensure that agreed-upon rates of official development assistance (ODA) for African nations were met.


The Secretary-General’s report focused on education as well as conflict prevention and post-conflict peace-building.  It also noted actions that were needed to speed up the implementation of the Secretary-General’s recommendations, and outlined a follow-up to that process.  It recognized efforts made by the United Nations, the international community and African countries themselves to speed up development.  Despite those efforts, achievements were still modest compared to the challenges that remained.


Conditions in the school systems and the worsening quality of education were severe impediments.  HIV/AIDS and other diseases had devastated the continent, leading to millions of deaths, poverty and a sense of hopelessness.  The continent needed to focus on prevention, education, using available resources and access to medication.  The recent World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement was an important step forward in that regard.


            YOSHIYUKI MOTOMURA (Japan) said the role of the OAU in conflict prevention and economic development could not be overstated.  Both the OAU and NEPAD played extremely important roles.  The declaration in July on establishing the African Union would advance the cause of peace and prosperity by integrating the African continent both politically and economically.


He said the African Union presaged a pan-African parliament, a central bank, a monetary fund, an investment bank and a court of justice.  It would retain elements of the OAU, such as having a conference of heads of State as the top decision-making body, with the foreign ministers forming an executive council.  With such extensive tasks ahead, the African Union would need the cooperation and support of the international community, especially the developed world.


His country had been supporting the OAU Peace Fund, he said.  Japan's contribution had been used to establish the Situation Room of the African conflict management centre, as well as for conflict-prevention field missions.  Japan had also been promoting the Tokyo Initiative for Central African Development (TICAD) process since 1993.  The participation of Asian countries in the process had broadened the support base for African development while promoting South-South cooperation.  The Ministerial Meeting for TICAD had been held in Tokyo on 3 and   4 December.  It had adopted a statement welcoming NEPAD and had referred to three issues of particular importance.  Those were to strengthen the foundation for development by promoting peace and good government, to invest in people, and to reduce poverty through economic growth.


OLUSEGUN AKINSANYA (Nigeria) said that most conflict-prevention measures today were on a large scale, involving expensive civilian and military crisis-management operations normally undertaken after the outbreak of violent conflicts.  In the face of limited financial and human resources, the focus should be on conflict-prevention measures.  There was a need, therefore, to develop the culture of prevention through preventive investment, instead of intervention in conflicts after many lives were already lost and property destroyed.


A major cause of political instability and a major source of intra- and inter-State conflicts in Africa was the prevalence of small and light weapons in conflict areas.  It was Nigeria’s considered view that restriction of access to those arms and weapons would advance the cause of peace; hence Nigeria’s active participation in the recently concluded United Nations conference on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.


As the Secretary-General had clearly indicated in his report, the capacity of African countries to address the challenges of socio-economic development, peace and security would be enhanced only if there was urgent mobilization of domestic and international resources for Africa’s development.  At present, African countries were ill placed to do so because of a number of factors, including the heavy external debt burden, the lack of access to the markets of industrialized countries for their products and weak institutional capacities.  A situation where between 20 and 60 per cent of export earnings were spent on servicing external debt was not conducive to economic growth and sustainable development.


RENATO MARTINO, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said armed conflicts continued to plague the African continent, which needed to be integrated into the world economy.  Development was the new word for peace.  There could be no equity without justice and there could be no durable development without durable peace.  The people of Africa must build their own future by assuring fundamental freedoms through good governance.  Africa was seeking reconciliation among its various elements at the local, State and continental levels, because without reconciliation there could be no durable peace.


The roots of violence lay in economic inequality and despair, he said.  Injustice was another cause of violence.  Populations isolated from the world’s goods, and without access to them, were likely to opt for violence as a means of expression since they had no stake to protect.  In a context where globalization was the by-word and marginalization and exclusion were rampant, the Holy See was pleased that the United Nations had chosen to highlight Africa’s challenges.


Further, he said, the Pope had been pleased with the parliaments of States that had chosen to take initiatives for debt reduction.  Governments should rapidly finalize those decisions.  The Pope had been concerned, however, that quicker action was not being taken on behalf of the world’s poorest people by multilateral organizations.  Those with decision-making authority should make speedier decisions on issues affecting numerous countries.  The initiative of the international financial institutions to fight poverty was answering an imperative that immediate steps be taken to improve the condition of the poor.  However, countries should remember that money resulting from debt reduction should be turned to issues that affected the lives of poor people. 


Could anyone ignore the Pope’s appeal when he questioned how poverty could exist in the modern world? he asked.  Or when the Pope pointed out other impoverishment in other people’s lives, those who were old or sick or abandoned?  A new initiative of connectedness among all people must emerge on behalf of the marginalized, especially those in Africa.  Justice and peace must prevail.


Action on Draft


The Assembly then took up the draft resolution on the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa (document A/56/L.28), as orally revised.


DUMISANI SHADRACK KUMALO (South Africa), Assembly Vice-President presiding over the meeting, said the following States had joined as co-sponsors:  Algeria, Angola, Austria, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Denmark, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Ireland, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Togo, Tunisia, United Kingdom, Zimbabwe, Italy, Luxembourg and Tanzania.


The resolution was adopted without a vote.


MUHAMMAD YUSUF (Tanzania) said Côte d’Ivoire had become an additional sponsor.  It was gratifying to receive so much support for Africa’s desire to end the conflicts afflicting it.


Mr. KUMALO said Congo, Lesotho and Egypt were also co-sponsors.  “It’s an African initiative.  Like an African party, all are welcome to join”, he added.


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