Peace and Security Council launched
The African Union commemorated Africa Day this year by inaugurating its new Peace and Security Council. The body will have the authority to intervene to prevent and resolve conflicts, and will eventually set up a standing African peacekeeping force. AU officials note that the Council sets the AU apart from its predecessor, the Organization of African Unity (OAU). "It will no longer be business as usual in our collective response to conflicts in Africa," said Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who chaired the Council at its launch in 25 May. "The legitimate expectation of the international community is that the Council should make a lot of difference from the way we handled conflicts in the past. Their hopes and expectations must not be dashed."
The Council is made up of 15 countries taken from the five regions of Africa -- Central, East, North, South and West. Five states (Gabon, Ethiopia, Algeria, South Africa and Nigeria) were elected to serve for three-year terms, while 10 others will sit on the Council for two years (Cameroon, Congo, Kenya, Sudan, Libya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Ghana, Senegal and Togo).
Not only will the new body be able to send in peacekeepers where ceasefires have been signed, but it also has the authority to intervene unilaterally in cases of genocide and crimes against humanity. By 2010, the AU intends to have its own standby army of 15,000 soldiers, ready for rapid deployment. "In the past, the OAU was accused of complicity. We are replacing the principle of non-interference with the principle of non-indifference," said AU Peace and Security Commissioner Said Djinnit.
The AU recently sent a mediation mission to the war-ravaged region of Darfur, in Sudan. It also has a mission in the Comoros. Its mission in Burundi, where a 2,700-strong AU force has been stationed since 2003, was recently handed over to a UN peacekeeping force.
'Peer review' kicks off in Ghana
A high-level African team visited Ghana on 25 May to begin preparations for examining that country's record on human rights, democracy, economic transparency and other governance issues. In announcing the mission, Mr. Wiseman Nkuhlu, chair of the steering committee of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), said that it marked an important step for the pan-African plan.
Recognizing that good governance is central not only to the continent's long-term development but also to attracting foreign investment and aid, African countries have established the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), within the NEPAD framework. It is a system of voluntary "self-monitoring" by which African countries review each others' political and economic management. In each review, a team of experts will spend several months gathering documentation and interviewing government, opposition, civil society and media representatives.
Ghana is the first country to be reviewed, and will be followed over the next year by Kenya, Rwanda and Mauritius. Fourteen others have officially joined the APRM: Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda. Angola and Lesotho have also signalled their intention to join.
Strong growth amid poverty
The world's 50 least developed countries (LDCs)--34 of which are in Africa--enjoyed strong economic growth between 1998 and 2002, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reports. Real GDP growth in the LDCs averaged 4.4 per cent in 1998-2000 compared to a world average of 3.4 per cent. The LDCs did even better over 2000-2002, growing at an average 4.9 per cent, while global GDP rose just 1.4 per cent.
According to UNCTAD's Least Developed Countries Report 2004, released in late May, the LDCs were bolstered by a nearly 45 per cent increase in export receipts. In addition, net resource flows to LDCs rose from $12.4 bn in 2000 to a record $16.7 bn in 2002. Of the latter amount, $11.6 bn, or nearly 70 per cent, came from official development assistance, which in absolute terms is still below its average level in the early 1990s. The remainder came from private flows--overwhelmingly foreign investment--which have been increasingly significant over the past decade and reached $5.1 bn in 2002.
Still, UNCTAD cautions that the number of people in the LDCs living on $1 a day or less may increase from 335 million in 2000 to 471 million by 2015.
Mr. Rodrigo de Rato y Figaredo has been selected by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Executive Board to serve as the Fund's new managing director, as of 7 June 2004. He succeeds Mr. Horst Köhler, who resigned to run for the presidency of Germany. Prior to taking up his position at the IMF, Mr. Rato was Spain's vice-president for economic affairs and minister of the economy. He was Spain's representative on the boards of governors of the IMF, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, European Investment Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
The UN Secretary-General has appointed Ms. Carolyn McAskie as his special representative for Burundi, effective 1 June 2004. Ms. McAskie was previously active in the Burundi peace process in the 1990s, during the mediation efforts of the late former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere. She joined the UN in 1999, as deputy to the under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, after 32 years of service with the government of Canada. She was the UN's emergency relief coordinator from November 1999 to January 2004 and, holding the rank of assistant secretary-general, served concurrently as the Secretary-General's humanitarian envoy for Côte d'Ivoire.