2 February 2009
Secretary-General
SG/SM/12084
AFR/1805

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

DEVELOPMENT OF AFRICA’S INFRASTRUCTURE KEY TO ECONOMIC GROWTH, SOCIAL PROGRESS,


SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL IN ADDIS ABABA ADDRESS

 


Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s address to the Summit Meeting of the African Union in Addis Ababa, 2 February:


It gives me a great pleasure to join you for this important session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union.  I thank Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and the Government and people of Ethiopia for their warm hospitality.  I also thank President Kikwete and Chairperson Ping for their dynamic leadership at this challenging time for the African Union.


Before I begin my substantial remarks, I would like to express sympathy and condolences to President Kibaki of Kenya for the recent tragic accident where over 100 people have been killed.


I extend my deep admiration and respect to all the leaders of the African Union.


The African Union meets at a critical period in Africa’s search for development in greater peace and security.  I welcome African countries’ ongoing efforts to perfect their union.  I can assure you that I and my staff at the United Nations are committed to doing everything within our capacity to support you. 


As you know, I recently travelled through the Middle East seeking a durable and sustainable ceasefire to the conflict in Gaza.  The casualties were unacceptable by any standards.  We have a fragile ceasefire at this point, but it must be sustained and the crossings opened.  Steps must be taken towards Palestinian unity taken to ensure that Gaza is rebuilt and that conditions are in place for the conclusion of a comprehensive peace in the region.  In my capacity as Secretary-General, I am committed to making this fragile ceasefire a durable and sustainable ceasefire, working together with the leaders of the region and the international community.


What the recent conflict in Gaza teaches us is that prevention is better than cure.  It also underscores the importance of working towards sustainable political solutions.  The United Nations, therefore, particularly welcomes the various regional initiatives in Africa that are potentially much more effective than preventive diplomacy launched from New York.  Of course, regional initiatives carry not only the privilege of priority, but also greater ownership and the responsibility of effective delivery.


All of us can take pleasure in the progress to a political settlement in Somalia, and I particularly want to congratulate President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, who is with us here today.  We have all worked hard to get to where we are, but there is much that remains to be done to alleviate the suffering of the Somalians.  The people of Somalia must build on their excellent start in Djibouti to achieve a truly national political and social compact.  The United Nations will take the lead in building up the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) and strengthening Somali national forces with the international community doing its part to provide equipment and support.  We should also plan, if considered appropriate, for the incorporation of AMISOM into a United Nations peacekeeping force in the months ahead.  We appreciate the determination of the international community to fight against piracy activities along the coasts of Somalia.


In Darfur, insecurity and intense suffering prevail despite the commendable support of the international community and the courageous humanitarian, peacekeeping and mediation efforts of our colleagues on the ground.  I urge the Government of the Sudan and the rebel groups to stop immediately all kinds of violent activity, which jeopardize the peace process and threaten the lives of civilians.  I have urged the JEM to withdraw from Muhajeria in order to avoid an escalation of violence, and the Sudanese authorities to use maximum restraint.  It is important to ensure that the situation in Darfur does not impact negatively on the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  As you know, elections within this framework were planned to take place by July, but delays in setting up the requisite infrastructure for elections may make this deadline hard to meet.


The African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) was fully able to deploy more than 60 per cent of its troops by the end of December.  We shall continue to accelerate the deployment.  I urge the countries that have pledged troops to deploy them as soon as possible.  UNAMID still lacks several critical assets, such as 18 utility helicopters.


I am grateful to the Government of Ethiopia for its pledge of tactical helicopters.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, recent setbacks in the eastern part of the country have now taken a dramatic turn for the better.  But the situation on the ground is still fragile.  We will strengthen the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) to better protect civilian populations and provide humanitarian assistance.  We should also acknowledge the significant achievements made in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with the successful holding of presidential elections, the functioning of its legislative bodies and marked improvement in the security situation.  The spirit behind the new cooperation in the east should be the basis for building lasting peace in this long-troubled area.  The United Nations remains deeply invested in the search for peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  I urge an immediate end to the senseless violence against innocent civilians.  Perpetrators of such crimes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere should know that they will not go unpunished wherever they happen; they will have to be accountable.


On Zimbabwe, I welcome the National Unity Government as the first step towards full democracy.  But there is still a long way to go.  The United Nations has supported the mediation efforts of the South African Development Community (SADC), and I am pleased that the two sides have now agreed to work together.  I urge all sides to build on the hard-won breakthrough which has taken place so that the international community can partner with Zimbabwe in meeting the desperate humanitarian needs of its people.  I will immediately send a high-level humanitarian mission to Zimbabwe.  The United Nations remains ready to help this Government as it moves forward.  We must all remain watchful to ensure that the human rights and democratic freedoms of all Zimbabweans are protected. 


In West Africa, we have witnessed a reduction in the number of destructive and internecine conflicts, as well as several peaceful, democratic transfers of power.


I commend Ghana for its recent smooth democratic transition of power and my congratulations to the people of Ghana.  To keep this momentum going in the region, it is essential that a date be set for the presidential election in Côte d’Ivoire.  However, drug trafficking is becoming a major challenge to security and governance in West Africa, as traffickers are taking advantage of porous borders, inadequate security and limited national capacity.  We are working closely with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to roll back this dangerous phenomenon.  But these efforts have only just begun.


I note that the Africa Union has made it clear that it will not accept unconstitutional changes of power such as recently took place in Guinea and Mauritania.  It has further taken the lead in demanding a quick return to constitutional legality.  I welcome and encourage this strong, principled and consistent approach and commend the African Union for the adoption of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.  I am particularly concerned about recent developments in Madagascar and urge all parties to address their differences peacefully and through existing constitutional mechanisms.


Our world continues to face urgent and complex challenges.  A grave international economic and financial crisis.  Climate change.  High food prices.  Energy insecurity.  The global economic crisis is unprecedented in scale and scope.  It is erasing jobs and undermining with alarming speed the hard-won gains of recent years.  For a majority of people, particularly those in developing countries, the most painful and terrifying phase of the crisis has only just begun.


In Africa, its negative effects will reach not only growth, trade and financial flows but also the fight against poverty and the likelihood of reduced official development assistance (ODA).  In responding to the crisis, the international community must take account of the needs of the poorest countries and stimulus packages should take this appropriately into consideration.  I have made my consistent and strong message to the developed world while I welcome the national stimulus packages to address this financial crisis, they should never lose sight of the challenges of the most vulnerable people.  They should keep their commitment on ODA; they should keep their commitment of fighting against climate change, fighting against this food crisis.  And I’m sure that they have taken note of my strong message and this is going to be my message when I attend the G20 {Group of 20] Summit Meeting in London in April.  Emerging and developing countries should have greater voice and representation in the new international financial system and all around cooperation will be needed to protect the gains made towards achieving the MDGs. 


It is healthy, well-nourished and educated people who will drive development and prosperity on this continent.  However, last year’s dramatic rises in world food prices were especially hard on the poor.  Nearly a billion people are going to bed hungry -– one in seven people on Earth. 


We are encouraging a two-track approach at the global level to help those at immediate risk while tackling the underlying causes of the crisis.  The High-Level Task Force I formed last May has proposed a Comprehensive Framework for Action that links improved nutrition, food security, agriculture, social protection, functioning markets and fair trade.  In addition, I recently joined the Prime Minister of Spain in hosting a high-level meeting on food security last Monday which agreed on a number of steps to achieve this goal.


Africa should not have food shortages.  I commend the African Union for establishing the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).  I would be delighted if this process could be driven by African agriculture, and involve African Governments, farmers’ organizations and businesses.  Our Task Force will do all it can to help achieve this goal. 


One of the immediate priorities must be to help smallholder farmers before the next planting season starts.


Climate change remains on the front burner of global concerns.  Various studies have shown that Africa will be one of the regions most affected even though it has not contributed much to the problem.  Our objective, however, should be seamless cooperation to tackle this problem by showing political will, providing resources and seeking an international treaty by the end of this year through the United Nations Framework Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.  Time is short to achieve these goals.  This is why I regard 2009 as the year of climate change.  I trust that recent steps taken by African countries to adopt a coherent approach on climate change will enable them to participate actively in the forthcoming negotiations.


I welcome your choice of infrastructure as the focus of this Summit, as infrastructural development is key to economic growth and social progress.  Africa needs good roads, schools and hospitals; as well as reliable and efficient water services, electricity grids and telecom networks; while information and communication technologies must also be a bigger part of Africa’s future.  These remain the building blocks for job creation and the ability to compete in global markets.


Infrastructure development is an opportunity to go green.  Greater use of renewable energy would increase access and protect against climate change.  Geothermal energy in the Great Rift Valley; solar energy in the Sahara; hydropower and rainwater harvesting; these all have great potential to create jobs and lay the groundwork for tomorrow’s low-carbon economy.


Given the large number of small and landlocked countries, and shared resource belts, regional approaches to providing infrastructure are essential.  The various African river basin initiatives are a good first step in this regard.  There is a great benefit to be derived from the economies of scale that cross-border cooperation brings.  This should be complemented by public-private partnerships, building of indigenous scientific and technological capacities and tangible investments in education.


The MDG Africa Steering Group, which I established after attending the African Union Summit here in Addis Ababa two years ago, has estimated that $52 billion in public and private investment would be needed annually to address Africa’s critical infrastructure needs.  All of us should support the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa’s efforts to mobilize these resources.  Investing in Africa’s infrastructure is a cornerstone of Africa’s development.  We must rededicate ourselves to this vital objective.


Africa’s strong commitment to improving governance including through the African Peer Review Mechanism has contributed to the consolidation of peace and security and improved economic management.  I strongly urge you to forge ahead in this constructive path.  As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I shall continue to call on Africa’s development partners to fulfil their commitments to the continent, even in this time of crisis.


With your strong leadership, matched by strong partnership from the international community, Africa will be transformed for the better in the future.


I thank you for your kind attention and I count on your leadership and vision.


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For information media • not an official record