|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-third General Assembly
High-Level Plenary on Africa
3rd & 4th Meetings (AM, PM & Night)
WORLD LEADERS PLEDGE TO REINVIGORATE ‘GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP OF EQUALS’
TO END POVERTY, HUNGER, UNDERDEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA
High-Level Meeting on Africa’s Development Provides Opportunity
To Strengthen Commitment to ‘Change Course of History’, Secretary-General Says
Concerned by the deepening effects of the global food crisis and climate change on Africa’s ability to eradicate poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals, world leaders attending a high-level meeting of the General Assembly today recommitted themselves to strengthening a “global partnership of equals”, based on shared responsibility and determination to mobilize resources.
Adopting by consensus a political declaration on “Africa’s development needs: state of implementation of various commitments, challenges and the way forward”, the focus of the high-level event, Member States recognized that the way forward for Africa, where poverty was still widespread, but faster economic growth was opening new windows of opportunity, required coordinated, balanced and integrated actions at all levels to comprehensively address long-term development.
The day-long session, held on the eve of the Assembly’s annual general debate, featured four round table discussions co-chaired by African Presidents and other senior political officials from around the world. Throughout the day, interventions were made by some 20 Heads of State and 9 Heads of Government on issues ranging from debt relief for Africa’s least developed countries to the effects of climate change on the continent’s agricultural sector.
Notably, the declaration (document A/63/L.1) contained no new pledges, but aimed to reinvigorate existing commitments, such as those made in the Millennium Declaration, genesis of the Millennium Development Goals to dramatically slash hunger and poverty numbers worldwide by 2015; the 2002 Monterrey Consensus on development financing; and the 2002 Johannesburg Declaration on sustainable development. Reaffirming their belief in a prosperous future for Africa, the leaders confirmed their adherence to the “spirit of cooperation that defines the United Nations system and that is based on a partnership among equals.”
“We stress that eradicating poverty, particularly in Africa, is the greatest global challenge facing the world today,” said the declaration, which reaffirmed Member States’ commitment to address Africa’s special needs. While they welcomed African Government’s efforts to both mobilize domestic resources and attract private capital to achieve development goals, they were concerned that the goal of doubling aid to Africa by 2010 would not be reached. They called for fulfilling all official development assistance (ODA) commitments, including those by developed countries, to increase their share to 0.7 per cent of gross national income by 2015.
Further to the declaration, delegates called for increasing Africa’s share of international trade through regional integration, greater integration into the global economy, and fulfilment of the pledge to create an open and non-discriminatory trading system. Well-functioning national and international financial systems should have the capacity to help support economic growth.
On climate change, States underlined the need to address both adaptation and mitigation, and to support speedy transfer of technology to ensure low-carbon-intensive economic development. There was also an urgent need for large-scale investments in energy infrastructure, and States were committed to promoting renewable sources of energy. On HIV/AIDS, the Assembly reaffirmed its resolve to provide assistance for prevention, treatment and care, and urged companies to provide access to affordable drugs, including retroviral drugs.
Opening the meeting, General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua reminded delegates that the cry of Africa’s peoples did not require new commitments; rather “the courage to live up to the words we have spoken many times over”. Africa had made democratic advances, notably with the holding of elections and establishment of elected Governments. Nonetheless, its challenges were enormous. “Brave as its nations may be -– and we know that they are brave indeed –- Africa cannot move ahead on its own,” he said, stressing that it was now time to move from promises to concrete action, and for donors and Bretton Woods institutions to fully honour their pledges.
In his opening remarks, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that $72 billion per year was needed in external financing to achieve the Millennium Goals by 2015. While that figure might seem daunting, it was, in fact, affordable, particularly considering the $267 billion spent last year by Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries on agricultural subsidies alone.
“No one is more alarmed than you at the current trends, which indicate that no African country will achieve all the Goals by 2015,” he said, but emphasized that he was nevertheless convinced that through concerted action by African Governments and their development partners, the Millennium Development Goals remained achievable. Today’s event was critical to preparations for the Doha Review Conference on Financing for Development in November, and he urged agreement there on clear steps for follow-up. “Let us leave this hall with a strengthened commitment to change the course of history,” he said.
Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, speaking on behalf of the African Union, underscored that Africa was determined to wrestle itself from its predicament; all it needed was help to complement its efforts. A lack of resources stood in the way, and he was disappointed at the failure of developed nations to follow through on their commitments. Removing debt relief and humanitarian assistance from the equation revealed there had been no real change in aid flows since 2004. A “new impetus” was needed.
Speaking on behalf of the European Union, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the bloc’s 27 members had recently restated their very clear commitment with respect to aid and delivery, and in June, the European Council had confirmed the target of devoting 0.7 per cent of its wealth to ODA by 2015. “The globalized world needs a developed Africa,” he said. “It would be a delusion to envision Europe’s prosperity without working for the emergence of a major economic partner.” Unleashing private initiative in Africa was important, as businesses had the greatest capacity to generate jobs.
Also speaking in today’s opening plenary was the Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany.
The Special Envoy of Japan also spoke, as did the representative of Antigua and Barbuda (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China).
The President of the European Commission and the Chairman of the African Union Commission also addressed the Assembly.
The General Assembly will reconvene Tuesday, 23 September at 9 a.m. to begin its annual general debate.
The guiding document for the General Assembly’s high-level meeting on development in Africa was the Secretary-General’s report on “Africa’s development needs: state of implementation of various commitments, challenges and the way forward” (document A/63/130), which takes stock of those needs and identifies actions that, if carried out, would ensure that the continent’s development imperatives are addressed as it moves towards the Millennium Development Goals, as well as other internationally agreed development goals.
The report is divided into three sections: examining Africa’s development challenges within the present global, regional and national environments; reviewing the primary commitments made by African countries and the international community to meet these challenges; and recommendations to positively impact the continent’s development. Among others, it considers how African States and institutions have implemented their commitments, as well as the execution of pledges made by international development partners in a range of vital areas, such as international development assistance, debt relief and debt cancellation, trade liberalization and aid for trade, and peace and security.
Among the conclusions regarding African institutions, the report states that the African Union Commission and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) secretariat should intensify efforts towards the ongoing integration of NEPAD into the structures of the Commission. It also recommends that African countries begin a peer-review exercise to review their achievement towards the Millennium Development Goals; improve their economic and political governance; and deepen their regional integration.
Acknowledging that tremendous gains are possible if the global community translates its commitments into results, the report outlines some ways in which world players could support the Goals: launching an African green revolution within the framework of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme; investing in critical infrastructure; strengthening health systems; providing family planning services; and carrying out national water supply and sanitation strategies. Finally, to achieve a conflict-free Africa by 2010, the report concludes that donors should focus on conflict prevention/early warning, post-war reconstruction, peacekeeping and peace enforcement.
The Assembly also had before it the June 2008 report of the MDG Africa Steering Group Achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Africa. Chaired by the Secretary-General, the Steering Group brings together leaders of multilateral development organizations to identify practical steps for attaining the Millennium Development Goals and other globally agreed development goals.
In its recommendations, the Group calls for several key actions by sector, including: in agriculture, support for African Governments to launch a green revolution to double crop yields; in education, financing for national education strategies endorsed by the Education for All Fast-Track Initiative; in health, international support to help phase out user fees for primary health care; infrastructure and trade facilitation, a doubling of infrastructure financing to $23.7 billon annually by 2010; and for national statistical systems, concerted action to support a full census across Africa.
The report also includes an explicit call to “climate proof” efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, to guard against changing weather patterns. On external financing, the report states that existing European Union and Group of Eight (G-8) commitments –- combined with present aid flows from other sources –- are sufficient to finance the estimated $72 billion a year needed to implement the Group’s recommendations. The Group urgently calls on donors to accelerate official development assistance (ODA) flows to Africa, as the $425 billion annual increase promised by the G-8 at Gleneagles has not yet materialized.
Finally, the Steering Group notes that –- if fully implemented –- the recommendations will produce verifiable development results that can serve to monitor progress and ensure the effective use of domestic and external resources.
Statement by General Assembly President
Opening the high-level meeting, General Assembly President MIGUEL D’ESCOTO BROCKMANN ( Nicaragua) said he was pleased that the world body was beginning its collective work with such an urgent issue. Throughout history, Africa had endured sacrifice, plunder, slaughter and near-oblivion, he said, recalling that in September 2000, Member States had made a collective commitment to “their African sisters and brothers”. Almost a decade later, it was time to assess progress made towards goals set in the Millennium Declaration.
In that regard, he said Africa had made democratic advances, notably with the holding of elections and establishment of elected Governments across the continent. He welcomed the creation of the African Union and launch of NEPAD, both milestones in Africa’s history. Highlighting the African Peer Review Mechanism, a self-monitoring initiative, he also stressed the adoption of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, which had been ratified by all the Union’s members.
Africa had “amply” fulfilled its political, economic and social commitments. To consolidate progress, he called on donors and the Bretton Woods institutions to fully honour their commitments. Africa’s challenges were enormous, and gains must be decisively strengthened through concrete actions, such as external debt relief. Unfair conditions imposed by Bretton Woods institutions and creditor countries prevented the effective implementation of poverty reduction programmes and eroded living conditions.
Africa’s integration into the global economy required guaranteed access into the international market, he said, noting that the key to providing that access was eliminating developed countries’ subsidies, notably for agricultural producers. The failure of the World Trade Organization’s Doha trade talks illustrated the limits of “the free-market doctrine”, and he called for broad cooperation to eliminate market distortions caused by those subsidies. They had played a key role in worsening the global food crisis, he added.
The global food crisis had extinguished what little hope there had been of halving, by 2015, the proportion of Africans suffering from hunger, he continued. It was imperative to transfer technology to give countries new instruments to guarantee food for life, food security and sovereignty. Technology transfers were also crucial for ensuring Africa’s adaptation to climate change was “not just a dream”. Calling the principle of shared but differentiated responsibility a “cornerstone” of international sustainable development commitments, he said it gave developed countries a “moral and legal” obligation to honour their pledges to that end.
Helping Africa boost its capacity to combat infectious diseases must begin with measures to give the entire population access to clean water, he said. With nearly 25 million Africans living with AIDS, preventing the continent’s decimation by the pandemic was a moral obligation to be shared by all.
Recalling that commitments made at the 2002 Monterrey International Conference on Financing for Development, notably for ODA, were “undeniably urgent”, he called on rich countries to redouble efforts to bring ODA closer to the pledge of 0.7 per cent of gross national product; a goal first proposed in 1970.
In closing, he said the cry of Africa’s peoples did not require making new commitments; rather only that “we have the courage to live up to the words we have spoken many times over”. It was time to move from promises to concrete action.
Remarks by Secretary-General
BAN KI-MOON, United Nations Secretary-General, said today’s event was important in itself, but also critical in the preparations for Thursday’s High-Level Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals and the Doha Review Conference on Financing for Development in late November. “No one is more alarmed than you at the current trends, which indicate that no African country will achieve all the Goals by 2015,” he said. “But I am convinced that through concerted action by African Governments and their development partners, the Millennium Development Goals remain achievable in Africa. This is one of my highest priorities as Secretary-General.”
He said achieving the Goals by 2015 would cost about $72 billion per year in external financing. Although the price tag might look daunting, it was affordable. “Just consider that Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries spent an estimated $267 billion last year on agricultural subsidies alone.” In that context, the cost of solving the food crisis, addressing global warming and pulling millions out of extreme poverty in Africa looked like good value, he said, and appealed to all donors to implement the 2005 Gleneagles Summit pledge to more than double aid to Africa.
“We need to provide insecticide-treated bednets. We must improve maternal health, the slowest-moving MDG. We must make sure every child has access to free primary education,” he said, urging Member States to agree on clear steps to follow up on the outcome of the high-level event.
Increasingly volatile weather conditions were taking their toll on African agriculture, with Ethiopia a case in point, he said. That implied that the effects of climate change had already arrived. “It is sadly ironic that the poor –- who contribute the least to global warming –- suffer most from its ill effects.” Climate change was also leading to competition and conflict over natural resources. The recent spate of conflicts over food and natural resources showed that security depended on building prosperity in the developing world. “Peace, development and respect for basic human rights go hand in hand. As we seek to build roads, bridges and schools, we also work to prevent war and build peace,” he said.
Achieving peace and building trust required patience and perseverance, he said, paying tribute to the people of Zimbabwe for recently negotiating a Government of national unity. Similar perseverance was needed to resolve other crises, including in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia. The United Nations was strengthening cooperation with the African Union in peace and security, mediation and conflict prevention. While welcoming ongoing efforts to establish an African Standby Force, he said, noting: “But at the same time, multiple challenges continue to take a terrible toll: the terrible impact of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis; the millions of school-age children deprived of basic education; the widespread violence against women; and the suffering of innocent people in Darfur and Somalia.”
Several reports indicated that Africa’s progress was not on track, and what needed to be done to correct that course, he said, concluding: “Let this be the day when we begin implementing these recommendations in earnest. Let us leave this hall with a strengthened commitment to change the course of history, and bring hope and development to Africa and the world.”
JAKAYA MRISHO KIKWETE, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, speaking on behalf of the African Union, said Africa deserved special attention, as it was the poorest of the world’s continents. Indeed, its needs ranged from the provision of basic social and economic services to increasing peoples’ incomes through the transformation of productive sectors.
What stood in the way was a lack of resources, he said. Development required huge resources, and Africa did not have sufficient means to pull itself out of the “poverty trap”. The MDG Africa Steering Group report had quantified the continent’s assistance needs, he added.
He said African Governments had taken measures to tackle development challenges, and the international community had helped with resources. Unfortunately, those resources were not sufficient, and much that had been promised had not been provided. He was disappointed at the failure of developed nations to provide pledged resources, and called for a “new impetus” towards meeting those commitments. It was a moral obligation to help the needy in Africa -- not a question of charity, he said.
Calling the 2002 Monterrey Consensus, a key framework for financing for development, an “important step” in scaling up development efforts, he said it was only prudent to take stock of its implementation. He noted United Nations efforts, notably through the 2007 high-level dialogue on the topic.
He said Africa appreciated efforts to meet its needs, and noted the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, and the G-8 Gleneagles Summit declaration. However, he was concerned at the “persistent gap” between what had been promised and what had been delivered. Now was the time to “walk the talk”.
The amount of aid was as important as its quality, he continued, concerned that recent increases were primarily due to debt relief and humanitarian assistance. Removing those two components revealed no real change in aid flows since 2004, he said, calling for a significant scaling up of aid over the next two years.
In closing, he said “ Africa is not a hopeless case. Neither are we desperate. We are determined to wrestle ourselves out of our predicament.” All Africa needed was help to complement its efforts.
NICOLAS SARKOZY, President of France, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that growth on the Africa continent -- expected to reach more than 6 per cent in 2008 after averaging nearly 5 per cent annually since 1994 -- faced many challenges: from the food crisis to climate change. Indeed, no African country was on track to meet all the Millennium Development Goals.
The 27 European Union Member States recently restated their very clear commitment with respect to aid delivery, and in June, the European Council confirmed the target of devoting 0.7 per cent of its wealth to ODA by 2015. A real agenda for action between now and 2015 had been drawn up and would be debated this coming Thursday at the special high-level meeting on the Millennium Goals convened by the Secretary-General.
“The globalized world needs a developed Africa,” he said, adding: “It would be a delusion to envision Europe’s prosperity without working for the emergence of a major economic partner.” The European Union would, therefore, continue to work to achieve the Millennium Goals because there were more than 70 million African children to send to school; many of the 900 million people suffering from under-nutrition lived in Africa; more than 23 million people lived with AIDS; and 10 African children died from malaria every five minutes. Support for growth was indispensable to achieving the Goals and transforming agriculture, especially local agriculture was essential, he added.
Unleashing private initiative in Africa was also important, and businesses, especially small and midsize businesses, had the greatest capacity to generate jobs. The President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, had recently suggested placing the private sector at the centre of development and letting businesses supplement the Millennium Goals with competitive goals for development, he said.
Development implied essential political pre-conditions: peace; security; and the accountability of those who govern to their citizens. Lastly, donors and recipients of aid must increase their efforts to coordinate and harmonize their actions and achieve greater efficiency. France would play its full part in the collective endeavour to take full advantage of the new opportunities being presented to Africa, which was at a turning point.
HEIDEMARIE WIECZOREK-ZEUL, Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany, said new challenges posed a threat to human lives and development achievements, including major food, fuel, finance crises and climate change. At the halfway point, there was a mixed record on the Millennium Development Goals, especially for Africa. There had been achievements, for instance in the fight against malaria, but it was “completely unacceptable” that the risk of a woman dying due to pregnancy or childbirth was 300 times higher in Africa than in industrialized countries.
She said the Millennium Development Goals could only be reached through extra efforts by all. The achievement of those Goals and the resolution of global problems would only be possible if there “is a working global partnership with Africa as a strong player”. The upcoming Doha Conference on Financing for Development needed to reinforce confidence in the partnership launched in 2002 at Monterrey. It was vital that the Group of Eight deliver on the pledges made at the 2005 Gleneagles Summit. There was a need for innovative finance instruments, she said, noting that one promising approach was to use revenues from auctioning of carbon credits for development.
She was concerned that in 2008, the least developed countries would have spent an extra $50 billion on oil, more than they received in official development assistance. She, therefore, called on those countries and businesses that reaped high profits to make investments in development.
The current crisis in the banking system was related to lack of transparency in the global financial markets. There was a need for a reliable regulatory framework for the global financial markets. Tax avoidance was costing developing countries $500 billion a year. There was, therefore, a need to build efficient and fair tax systems in developing countries and a need for an international compact to fight tax flight and evasion, she said.
In conclusion, she called on Member States to participate at the highest possible level in the November Doha Conference, and to ensure broad civil society participation as well, because that Conference “must be a success”.
YOSHIRO MORI, Special Envoy, Japan, heralded the unprecedented economic growth and the increased political stability in the continent of Africa. However, new and ongoing major challenges, among them poverty, unemployment, HIV/AIDS and climate change, would prevent achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Africa, he said, calling for enhanced support from the international community to help Africa eradicate poverty, and turn the page to make the twenty-first century the century of African growth.
At the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) and the G-8 Hokkaido Toyako summit this past July, representatives from 51 African countries, 34 donor countries and 77 international organizations adopted the Yokohama Declaration, consisting of four objectives, including strengthening economic growth, supporting community development, participating in the consolidation of peace and promotion of good governance, and addressing environmental and climate changes to promote sustainable economic growth.
From both the outcome and discussions of TICAD IV and the Hokkaido Toyako Summit Leaders Declaration, which reflected the request of several African countries for more effective and adequate follow-up, the G-8 formulated the Yokohama Action Plan, and the TICAD Follow-up Mechanism to periodically report on the implementation of support to African nations. In September, Japan initiated its own assistance and dispatched the Joint Missions to Africa to promote trade and investment between Africa and Japan, and to investigate how Japan could provide support through its official development assistance programmes.
He concluded by stating that the continued development of Africa would only be ensured if African ownership was linked with the international community’s efforts to ensure support that conformed to the real needs of African countries. A dialogue reflecting those needs would then transform into effective action, and would encourage the success Japan supported for so many years. At the same time, if the assistance that partners provided was to be both effective and efficient, “it’s clearly essential that there be earnest efforts made on the African side”, he said, calling on African States to muster the political will to meet such challenges as consolidating peace and achieving good governance.
JOHN ASHE ( Antigua and Barbuda) delivered a statement on behalf of Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. He spoke also on behalf the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, saying that Africa’s needs and challenges were well known, deep-seated and fundamental, and that the global community had focused on them in various international conferences, including at the Assembly’s Millennium Summit.
Africa’s challenges required significant cooperation and facilitation in the form of resources and technology, as well as a supporting international environment, he said. The Secretary-General’s report and the Steering Group’s recommendations were clear: if fully implemented, existing commitments could take African countries closer to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and lay the foundation for robust economic growth. The question was: how would States implement their commitments?
Africa had done a great deal to change its image: some countries had raised domestic revenue as a share of GDP by 6.9 per cent between 1996 and 2006, and put in place ambitious programmes to develop the private sector. So the obvious question was: had the global community delivered on its commitment?
Continuing, he wondered whether the international community had provided its promised increase in ODA to Africa; adjusted the Intellectual Property Rights regime to allow access to vital technologies; mitigated the build-up of greenhouse gasses; streamlined aid delivery processes to enhance support of institution building; increased the predictability of assistance or moved away from the proverbial “provision of a fish” to Africa.
If the answers to such questions were in the negative, as he suspected, the nature of conclusions would be clear, he said. The Group’s analysis of the declaration suggested that the global community had not yet fully grasped the need for urgency. He hoped that by the sixty-fifth session, when the 2015 Millennium Goal deadline would be just five years away, there would be a strong mechanism in place to monitor commitments.
JOSE MANUAL BARROSO, President of the European Commission, said 2008 should not only produce new commitments by the international community towards global development, but should provide an opportunity to bolster existing pledges. The European Union provided 60 per cent of international aid. Europe had a unique relationship with Africa, bound by history, trade, geography and language. It was time to recognize the new joint economic and social realities, and to go beyond traditional areas of development and to tackle today’s global challenges, he said.
He said the three primary challenges of today included soaring world food prices, climate change and energy. On global food prices, he said action was needed to support agriculture in developing countries and enable African farmers to grow more food for Africans. The Commission had proposed a new €1 billion Food Facility to promote agriculture production by improving poor farmers’ access to inputs, such as fertilizers and seeds.
Turning to climate change, he said the effects of global warming threatened to undermine promising African growth rates of 6 per cent and could be a major threat to peace and security on the continent. The upcoming climate conference in Poznan at year’s end, and in Copenhagen in 2009, would be opportunities to build a new international consensus on the issue. For its part, the Commission had launched the Global Climate Change Alliance between the European Union and poor and vulnerable developing countries. Another major aspect of that partnership was combat against deforestation, the prevention of the illegal exploitation of rainforests, and the support for sustainable management of the forests.
Thirdly, he said energy security needed to be created for both continents, as well as stronger connections on energy matters between and within Africa and Europe. Improved governance and use of oil and gas revenues were also vital. The Africa-EU Energy Partnership, launched last year, would address those and other issues. In conclusion, the European Union was proud of its record of working with Africa on “the crucial mission of development”, he said, noting the continent’s progress and its stronger rates of growth, and stressing that Africa’s future, ultimately, rested in African hands.
JEAN PING, Chairman of the African Union Commission, said Africa, the cradle of mankind, deserved the international community’s attention, all the more so as the continent had suffered from the injustices of history, an experience that had enriched and matured the people. Wisdom had been a guide towards appreciation of the added value that a fruitful contact with other civilizations brought. Now it was a duty to ensure that the partnership for development was a determining parameter in the search for harmony and a better life for all. “We want to see the African continent as a continent like any other: safe from fear and safe from need.”
He said Africa’s development needs were well known and recognized. Now the time had come for implementation. There was a need for a firm schedule and a tangible partnership. There was also need for effective leaders and trust among partners. “It is for us as Africans to be primarily responsible for Africa,” he said, highlighting NEPAD as the very spirit of ownership among African leaders. The NEPAD Peer Review Mechanism for evaluation expressed Africa’s desire to control its own destiny, he stressed.
It was a known fact that political stability facilitated mobilization of resources, he said. Peace and security were intertwined with sustainable development. The African Union was resolutely committed to peacekeeping operations in Africa and had emphasized conflict prevention. It was establishing its development structure to meet the needs and expectations of the African peoples. Peace, security and development of Africa required enhanced international cooperation.
He welcomed the proposals made by the Secretary-General in his report, as well as the joint strategy and action plan agreed with the European Union and the strategic partnership with Japan, China, India, Turkey, South American countries, and the United States. General mobilization was imperative to meet new challenges such as the food crisis, the fuel crisis, climate changes and the digital divide, he added.
Round table 1
Round Table 1 of the high-level meeting on Africa’s development needs was co-chaired by John Agyekum Kufuor, President of Ghana, and Haris Silajdzic, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mr. KUFUOR opened the discussion by paying tribute to former South African President Thabo Mbeki, who had been a major initiator of NEPAD. He went on to say that there were a number of issues that needed to be “urgently addressed” in order for Member States to be able to agree upon an “action-based political declaration” at the conclusion of the meeting. Specifically, he suggested three top priority issues to be addressed: aid for trade and technical assistance, including Doha Round talks; the implementation of previously agreed-upon international commitments to enhance the institutional capacity of Africa, especially the Millennium Development Goals; and other urgent global challenges, such as climate change and rising food prices.
Mr. SILAJDZIC reminded Member States that, despite noteworthy achievements made towards Africa’s development, most international commitments to Africa were only partially realized, and the goal of doubling assistance to Africa by 2010 was far from a reality. Numerous global challenges, such as climate change and rising food prices, threatened to further delay, if not reverse Africa’s development. The current meeting should thus be seen as an opportunity for Member States to reaffirm their commitment, renew their collective political will, and strengthen the global partnership for Africa’s development at the highest possible level. Moving forward, the international community needed to think of new and innovative ways of addressing Africa’s development needs, especially ways that would help to mobilize private sector and civil society participation. “Africa must be brought into the mainstream global economy and we can achieve this only if we act as one,” he said, stressing that “ Africa’s future was our future.”
Several speakers noted that, for their part, African countries were already taking measures to create an environment conducive to global partnerships, as called for by the high-level meeting. President ABDULLAH GUL of Turkey noted that Africa’s priorities had already been identified by NEPAD, namely development assistance, debt relief, Africa’s access to global markets, foreign investment, and assistance with peace and security. Further, as pointed out by President HIFIKEPUNYE POHAMBA of Namibia -- and echoed by the Foreign Minister of South Africa and others -- economic reform had created increased trade, investment and tourism opportunities in Africa, while political reforms were beginning to lead to improved governance. But, progress continued to be stymied by obstacles, ranging from low agricultural productivity to internal political conflicts. African countries were also discovering that they had a limited capacity to generate the energy they needed to power their economies.
As the high-level meeting worked on a final declaration, speakers urged that the document’s points be stated clearly. President YOWERI MUSEVENI of Uganda urged fellow leaders to eschew abstract academic notions of economic development, and instead focus on concrete ideas for Africa’s “economic transformation”. It was his view that Africa must embrace private sector involvement, as the emerging economies of Eastern Europe and China had done, and that African nations engage in export-oriented growth, rather than pursue import substitution policies. Speakers also underlined the importance of tailor-made approaches to development, as underlined by Prime Minister IVO SANADER of Croatia, whose own country had recently emerged from conflict. He said he was heartened by references in the draft text of the final declaration to the return of refugees, confidence building, reconciliation efforts, and economic revitalization in conflict-ridden nations.
To speed up Africa’s development, Sudan ’s Minister of International Cooperation, ELTIGANI SALAH FIDAIL, exhorted the entire international community to play their part as responsible partners in the global economy, a sentiment echoed by many others throughout the discussion. He said resources available to African countries were currently insufficient, and investment in the services sector, education and health needed to increase. On that subject, DIDJOB DIVUNGI DI NDINGE, the Vice-President of Gabon, noted that many developed countries had not delivered on their pledge to devote 0.7 per cent of their gross national income to foreign aid. It was also his view, as echoed by several others, that the World Trade Organization’s Doha Development Round of negotiations must quickly reach agreement on issues relating to fairer trade between developing countries and the developed world. JOSE MACHADO VENTURA, Deputy President of the State Council and the Council of Ministers of Cuba, added that official development assistance should be given to African countries without pre-conditions, and that their Governments must be free to determine their own priorities when using those funds.
Offering the view of donor States, the former Prime Minister of Japan, YOSHIRO MORI, acknowledged that, indeed, some commitments had not been delivered, and that, as a consequence, several development aims still remained unachieved. He urged both the donor community and recipient nations to follow up by addressing the issue with clear ideas. Delving deeper into the topic of financing, the Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany,HEIDEMARIE WIECZOREK-ZEUL, discussed the need for greater transparency in that area, and suggested that tax collection systems within African countries be improved as a means of generating more revenue. Other speakers voiced support for the idea that Africa’s debts be forgiven, while urging the international community to strive to make good on promises to double aid to Africa by 2010.
Another subject commonly raised by participants was that of South-South cooperation and inter-cooperation among African nations themselves. The Foreign Minister of Indonesia, HASSAN WIRAJUDA, said his country had long shared best practices in agriculture with African countries, and would continue to do so through agriculture training and apprenticeship programmes. Yet, others stressed the importance of Africa-led initiatives, such as President ERNEST BAI KOROMA of Sierra Leone, who stressed that Africa simply needed to learn how to better use its abundant resources. To that idea, the President of Sao Tome and Principe, FRADIQUE BANDEIRA MELO DE MENEZES, added his view that Africa must realize that the North could not be expected to open all markets to Africa; Africa must “fight” for its place in those markets.
Closing the session, President KUFOUR emphasized the importance of exerting political will to advance Africa’s development. He laid stress on the need to improve Africa’s education system, a topic first broached by President DANILO TÜRK of Slovenia, who suggested that the issue of higher education in Africa deserved more attention than it was receiving. Indeed, research centres located within institutions of higher learning were often instrumental in developing projects for stimulating long-term growth. Further, Mr. KUFOUR said the notion of a “global partnership for all” must encompass the practice of providing oversight over the giving and receiving of aid, and added that all countries with means were encouraged to give aid -- not just industrialized nations belonging to the OECD. He voiced agreement with representatives of civil society and the private sector, who addressed the round table on the importance of partnership between Government, citizens and corporations. Citizens must be empowered to influence the delivery of public goods and services, while businesses must help improve the communities in which they worked.
Also participating were the Heads of State or Government and ministers from Senegal, Morocco, Slovakia, United Kingdom, Myanmar, Luxembourg, Pakistan, Denmark, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russian Federation, Colombia, Spain and Egypt. Representing the views of civil society and the private sector were the representatives of World Vision and Sumitomo Chemical Corporation.
Round Table 2
President PAUL KAGAME of Rwanda, Co-Chair of Round Table 2, said that while Africa’s insufficient progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals was well documented, there was a broad consensus on what was needed –- increased and more urgent action. Given that performance and accountability had improved in most of Africa, Member States should not spend too much time debating the past and assigning blame. It was more important to see how they could move forward, and hopefully the gathering would hear ideas on how more progress could be made by working together. There was a wide range of areas that might be addressed, including security, agriculture, the environment and climate change, infrastructure, integration, the private sector, conflict, education, health, aid effectiveness and gender.
During the ensuing discussion, several speakers noted the daunting challenges facing Africa, including poverty, hunger, malnutrition, deadly disease and the search for lasting peace and security. The current global crisis, climate change, soaring energy prices, and the volatility of international financial markets exacerbated the region’s difficulty in overcoming those obstacles. Still, it had immense potential as it was endowed with vast human and natural resources. Africa was an opportunity, not a problem, many speakers said.
ABDOULIE JANNEH, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said the continent had enjoyed growth of more than 5 per cent in the past six years, accompanied by improvements in social conditions and better governance. Thanks to good governance, the continent had far fewer armed conflicts than a decade ago.
Speakers noted, however, that while trade, official development assistance and technology transfer were crucial to Africa’s development, current levels of aid to the continent fell far short of the amount needed, and the G-8 promises made at Gleneagles in 2005 to double ODA by 2010 were not being met. Further, sub-Saharan Africa’s external debt situation remained serious. Conditionality, unpredictability and the earmarking of assistance further inhibited its effectiveness. Many speakers from Africa and the least developed countries called on developed-world partners to make good on their ODA commitments and improve the quality of development aid, stressing that resources meant for achieving the Millennium Development Goals should not be diverted to other crises and challenges. Rather, additional funding should be provided.
King MSWATI III of Swaziland encouraged African Governments to take the initiative in getting projects started because sometimes the private sector was unable to respond as expected. MARC RAVALOMANANA, President of Madagascar, called for an agricultural revolution across Africa in order to boost significantly farm productivity and incomes for the poor, while safeguarding the environment and lifting millions of small-scale farmers out of poverty and hunger. The United Nations and donors should increase financial resources and technical expertise so as to expedite the revolution.
ATO NEWAYE GEBREAB, Minister and Chief Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, stressed the importance of identifying the most critical failures of different groups of countries in meeting the Millennium Goals, which would help devise support for them from the Bretton Woods institutions, as well as other multilateral and bilateral assistance. OJO MADUEKWE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, said it was necessary to conclude the stalled Doha Round of negotiations, and to avoid a “one-size-fits-all” approach to Africa, as each country had its own distinct issues. YANG JIECHI, Foreign Minister of China, said developing countries should strengthen South-South cooperation, while FAWZI SALLOUKH, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigrants of Lebanon, called on developed countries to effect major debt relief and restructuring for Africa, in addition to granting debt relief to countries that were not part of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, Secretary of State of the United States, noted that her country had developed policies that treated its African counterparts as partners rather than objects of assistance, and stressed the importance of transforming assistance into an incentive for further African action. President George W. Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPAR) provided $18.8 billion in HIV/AIDS funding to African partners, and another $40 billion would be provided in the next five years for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
LOUIS MICHEL, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, said the commitments to Africa made in Paris, Accra and elsewhere were not just rhetoric. The European Union had committed $300 billion to strengthen links with Africa, and the bloc’s relationship with Africa was now a partnership of equals rather than one of donor and receiver. Africa should continue to capitalize on its rich mining and oil resources, but its infrastructure and financial sectors should also be developed. A lack of diversification often prevented African countries from entering the globalized economy.
In closing remarks, Co-Chair TARJA HALONEN, President of Finland, noted that many participants had underscored the necessity of updating Africa’s image to a more positive one, and several had agreed that a global partnership was essential to achieving the Millennium targets. Countries must make good on their commitments and aid cooperation should be more effective. Moreover, the resources of the global private sector must be mobilized as all human capital was needed. The promotion of good governance, good law and the fight against corruption were also relevant issues that had been discussed. African countries had to support themselves and have the support of others in their endeavours. Other speakers had mentioned education, women, human rights, peace and security, and climate change. The deliberations had underscored the fact that there was an increased common understanding of Africa’s need to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, while noting that substantive challenges still lay ahead.
Also participating were Heads of State and Government, ministers and senior officials from Bangladesh, Mozambique, Belgium, Guinea, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Latvia, Jamaica, Hungary, Ireland, Togo, Iceland, Angola, Cameroon, Bulgaria and Zimbabwe.
The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also participated, as did representatives of the Pan-African Parliament and Map International.
Round Table 3
President ABDOULAYE WADE of Senegal, Co-Chair of Round Table 3, opened the discussion by urging fellow participants to use the opportunity to seek clear conclusions that could help in implementing commitments made in the past. Member States and development partners should avoid making more promises and set to work evaluating the progress on those already made. From that evaluation, specific conclusions would drive future action.
During the ensuing discussion, many speakers acknowledged the disconnection between the stated development agenda for Africa and the follow-through on the part of both African countries and their global partners. VINCENZO SCOTTI, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Italy, said the African demand that today’s meeting not become yet another ritual United Nations exercise destined to have no impact on reality was fully understood. The meeting, which was taking place at the midpoint to the Millennium Development Goals, could signal a shift in the world’s collective commitments by directing actions towards priority goals. To that end, added BONI YAYI, President of Benin, if assistance was to be more effective and efficient, it must be aimed at the most persistent challenges, including greater access to clean water and sanitation, raising maternal health and fighting extreme poverty.
Throughout the discussion, speakers were nearly unanimous in their support of African ownership as the fundamental driver of real development across the continent. Nevertheless, said ALEXANDRE FASEL, United Nations Director in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, donor countries must be their true partners. Greater harmonization would be a key element in order for development cooperation programmes to have real results.
Many speakers from both developing and developed countries emphasized that in order to meet the development gaps facing Africa, it was not just the volume of aid, but how it flowed that was critical. JAN PETER BALKENENDE, Prime Minister and Minister for General Affairs of the Netherlands, said that, among other things, aid schemes should increase the involvement of non-State counterparts, including local non-governmental organizations, civil society and individual citizens. ERIK SOLHEIM, Minister for the Environment and International Development of Norway, said that, while it was “absolutely shameful” that many rich nations had broken their aid promises, aid was but a small part of the answer to Africa’s economic growth. Mobilizing public-private partnerships would be a growing component of future success.
South-South cooperation held critical benefits for Africa’s future development, several speakers said. ALEJANDRO FOXLEY, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Chile, said his country was looking at Africa from a new perspective that combined its political and trade interest with a solidarity born of its status as a developing country from the South. ANAND SHARMA, Minister of State for External Affairs of India, said the recent Delhi Declaration and the Africa-India Framework for Cooperation had adopted the first-ever India-Africa Partnership Forum Summit 2008, which provided a solid foundation for a systematic and stepped-up engagement in the years to come. Applauding that partnership, President WADE said that, by avoiding overly long debates and the pitfalls of bureaucracy, India was able to respond quickly and undertake rapid action that led to more effective help.
Emphasizing that Africans wished to live a life of security in which they were treated with fairness and dignity while making a decent living and meeting their basic needs, BEKELE GELETA, Secretary-General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said development was not only about raising income levels, but liberating people from fear of the future. Development efforts should focus on enabling the poor and vulnerable to better meet future risks. To do that, a number of speakers emphasized, greater attention should be directed towards youth initiatives, particularly in the area of job creation. KAMALESH SHARMA of the Commonwealth Secretariat said that if, in the end, universities or educational programmes graduated 100 students but only 20 of them were able to find employment, then the system was not useful. An entrepreneurial spirit that favoured job creation and a willingness to take risks was needed.
Sustainable economic development would be impossible without human development, other speakers added. In addition to education and training, aggressive steps were needed to address the conditions and diseases that killed Africans. RICHARD STEARNS, President of the United States offices of World Vision, said it was an “inconvenient truth” that each day in Africa 5,700 people died of AIDS and 2,500 of malaria. Participants should resist the temptation to believe that malaria or HIV/AIDS were simple public-health issues to be fixed with a pill. The diseases were socio-economic challenges. Rather than mere bednets, safety nets were needed to address their sociological impacts.
Pointing out that helping women made for smart economic policy, because every benefit they were given extended to families and their countries as a whole, THORAYA OBAID, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said poverty could not be eradicated unless the gap in women’s health was bridged.
In closing remarks, RALPH GONSALVES, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Planning, Economic Development, Labour, Information and Legal Affairs of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said that, although a lot of good things have been done in Africa recently, tremendous difficulties and challenges remained. “We have done well, but we can do much better,” he concluded.
Other Heads of State participating in the discussion were the Presidents of the Central African Republic and Guyana.
Also participating were ministers and other high-level officials from Monaco, Libya, France, Zambia, Antigua and Barbuda, Nicaragua, Viet Nam and the Philippines.
A representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See also spoke.
Other speakers were representatives of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Bank ( Saudi Arabia), Business Action for Africa, African Monitor and Regensys.
Round Table 4
Highlighting the issues of education and health within the framework of Africa’s development needs, the President of Cape Verde, PEDRO VERONA RODRIGUES PIRES, one of the Co-Chairs of Round Table 4, said education was an important factor in modernization, change and progress. It allowed people to take ownership of the development process, and much work was needed to guarantee access to education and fight illiteracy in Africa.
As for the issue of health, he said that one could not talk about that issue without also addressing the problems of food, water and sanitation. Among other priorities for Africa, he also highlighted the issues of access to medication and health services, and the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.
In the ensuing discussions, numerous speakers outlined actions taken by Africa, donor countries, the international community and regional organizations in those areas, particularly since the adoption of NEPAD as the continent's main development blueprint in 2001. Several representatives of African countries said that much was being done in the areas of education and health, including efforts to ensure free access to primary education, publish textbooks and equip new classrooms. They described their national efforts, ranging from distribution of mosquito nets and water filters to training medical personnel and vaccinating of children.
Participants also said the peoples and Governments of Africa were making enormous efforts to overcome poverty, disease and hunger, and secure development. At the same time, several speakers pointed out that, although average economic growth rates in Africa had exceeded 5 per cent in recent years, the continent still required assistance in achieving its goals. Eradication of poverty remained one of the main challenges, and the continent remained unlikely to achieve the internationally agreed goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, speakers said, pointing out that fair trade, investment and political stability were critical for consolidating recent African achievements. In that regard, Congo’sForeign Minister BASILE IKOUEBE pointed out a number of contradictions that African countries faced in trying to reach the Goals, which included the fact that, along with rapid growth and urbanization, up to 62 per cent of the urban population in Africa lived in shanty towns.
Many speakers stressed the need to “stand in solidarity with Africa” for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and engage country, business and civil society leaders in Africa's priority issues. The representative of Liberia was among the speakers who insisted that, in order to scale up internationally agreed goals for Africa’s development, it was necessary to increase ODA, build consensus for the 2008 Doha Round, work on restructuring the World Trade Organization and international financial institutions, and increase support for regional and subregional partnerships to complement North-South assistance. Benchmarks were also needed for measuring progress. Venezuela’s representative also raised concerns regarding the impact of the current global financial crisis on African economies, suggesting that the final statement of today’s meeting should include safeguards in that regard.
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Gambia, OMAR A. TOURAY, pointed out that the support of the international community for NEPAD was critical for enabling African countries to take their fair place in the global economy. Investing in Africa’s priorities, particularly infrastructure, agriculture, human development and the environment, would go a long way towards eliminating the major constraints to trade, development and poverty reduction on the continent. In addition to declining levels of ODA, he also mentioned the fact that, while Africans were liberalizing their trade regimes, protectionism by their partners in the North continued. Those policies and market distorting measures had led to an unfortunate impasse in the Doha Round of trade negotiations, which needed to be overcome.
Also noting rapid growth of African economies in recent years, the President of Brazil, LUIZ IGNACIO LULA DA SILVA, emphasized the importance of health, education, agriculture and cultural exchange within the framework of South-South cooperation. He stressed the need to go beyond assistance models that perpetuated dependence, to efforts that nurtured African ownership of its development. Brazil advocated projects that would address the deep causes of poverty and instability in Africa. Technical cooperation and technology transfer, along with measures to ensure access to international markets, were important steps in that regard. It was important to forge a true alliance to overcome the structural difficulties that stood in the way of African development.
Speaking from the standpoint of donor countries, Austria’s President, HEINZ FISCHER, confirmed his Government’s dedication to the European Union commitment of devoting 0.51 per cent of its gross national income to ODA by 2010, and reaching 0.7 per cent in 2015. Already, over 50 per cent of Austria’s overall ODA was devoted to Africa. Focusing on the issues of food security, energy and water, he also said Austria had been the lead donor for the water sector and had hosted the International Water Association Congress this month. Having discussed the issues of sustainable water management with his colleagues on the eve of today’s event, he shared the view of many experts that advancement on access to water and sanitation may be one of the best opportunities to jump-start African development.
Concluding the discussion, President RODRIGUES PIRES said that the reality in Africa was difficult and complex, and challenges enormous. Progress was possible and ongoing, however. Together, all players could overcome constraints, meet the challenges and secure lasting development. That would be possible if acts became consonant with intentions and declarations of political will. As pointed out in the debate, development was impossible without peace and stability, and all must contribute to those major goals. “We must strive to reduce the threats to Africa, like endemic conflicts, the flouting of human rights, inequalities within societies and difficulties in the consolidation of the rule of law,” he said. But the international community was on the correct course.
“All must understand that failure is not an option,” he said in conclusion. “If we want progress in Africa, we must believe in the possibility of development”, because of the wealth of the continent and vitality of its youth. Development could only be a long-range task and the result of continuous and sustainable efforts.
Also participating in the discussion were the President of Iran and ministers and high level officials from the Republic of Korea, Australia, Kenya, Thailand, Sweden, Estonia, Belarus, Botswana, Ukraine, Qatar, Burundi, Kuwait and Israel, as well as representatives of the International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Pan African Women’s Organization and the Development Bank of Southern Africa Group.
President KIKWETE of the United Republic of Tanzania, Chairman of the African Union, called the conference “a great day for Africa” as it signalled the United Nations commitment to the continent’s future and the international community’s partnership with Africa.
He welcomed the strong statements of support made during the plenary session and the frank discussions, aired during the round tables, on the challenges facing Africa, the implementation of the commitments and the way forward.
He was also pleased with the subject matters of the 15 side events, on issues from women and development to the food crisis, energy and the challenges of governance. He noted the expertise of Africans and non-Africans, and welcomed the opportunity to meet with the United Nations press corps.
Noting that there had been much talk in the past when it came to Africa’s development, he was encouraged by the meeting’s tremendous resolve to move ahead with renewed momentum and said the participants would look back and think “we were here when history was made.”
Assembly President D’ESCOTO closed the day’s discussion by noting that democratization of the United Nations, the Assembly’s key objective, resonated in the outcome document -- in its stated “need to enhance the voice and participation of developing countries in policymaking in the areas of trade, money and finance”. The high-level meeting had raised the profile of the Assembly, the world’s most representative organ, and it was high time for the body to take back the development debate from the Group of Eight and Bretton Woods institutions. “No barbed wire. No tear gas,” he added.
Indeed, the Assembly was where Africa constituted the largest group, and rallying around African priorities would go a long way, he continued, adding: “There is a sense of emergency and concrete actions must follow suit.” While development started at home, there was also a clear sense that African efforts be complemented with a change in international economic and trade policies. International aid was not just a matter of the heart, it was a matter of the head -– of real and concrete political will. An African renaissance was in the common interest, and after speeches of solemnity came the test of solidarity.
* *** *For information media • not an official record