Africa and Asia
Regions build stronger ties
Leaders from more than 100 African and Asian countries pledged to strengthen their ties at the Asian-African Summit held in Jakarta, Indonesia, in April. They noted that the current global situation and conditions in the two regions “necessitate the need to actively pursue a common view and collective action to ensure the equitable sharing of the benefits of globalization.”
The leaders adopted the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership, a broad visionary document that calls for closer economic and social integration between the two continents and stepped-up cooperation in the fight against poverty, corruption and terrorism. Representing two thirds of the world’s population, the leaders also pledged to work towards the world’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged them “to be as innovative and as visionary as your forebears were” by supporting his agenda for UN reform, outlined in his report In Larger Freedom, which contains proposals for change at the world body and calls for new commitments by the international community to deal with a broad range of development challenges.
The summit commemorated the first Asian-African Conference held half a century ago in 1955 in Bandung, 100 km from Jakarta. In Bandung, leaders pledged solidarity in the fight against colonialism and for economic development. The landmark Bandung Declaration adopted at that conference paved the way for the subsequent creation of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Disease costs Africa $12 bn a year
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that malaria is costing Africa about $12 bn annually and is hampering development efforts. “Malaria remains a major contributor to the disease burden in Africa,” WHO Southern Africa regional director, Mr. Antoine Kaboré, said at an event marking Africa Malaria Day in Lusaka, Zambia, in April.
He said that about 80 per cent of the 1 mn malaria deaths recorded globally each year occur in Africa. “The burden on health systems, absenteeism among school children and diminished or lost worker productivity, all contribute to make malaria a significant contributor to low economic growth in endemic countries,” he said.
This year’s Africa Malaria Day was particularly symbolic as it marked the halfway point between 2000 — the year of the African Summit on Malaria in Abuja, Nigeria — and 2010, the year by which 44 African leaders at the summit pledged to halve the burden of malaria in Africa. The illness kills more than 800,000 Africans every year.
“Africa Malaria Day 2005 is intended to remind African leaders of the burden that malaria continues to place upon the continent and of the commitment that they made at the Abuja Summit,” the WHO noted. The mid-term (2005) targets agreed in Abuja also include covering at least 60 per cent of vulnerable target groups through a combination of prevention and control methods.
Most countries will not achieve the Abuja mid-term targets at the end of the year, but there has been some progress. For example, 21 malaria-endemic countries have therapy based on artemisinin, a Chinese plant, considered the best method of treatment currently available. Some 20 countries have reduced tariffs and taxes on nets and insecticides against the mosquitoes that carry malaria, and 20 mn nets are now in use in the region.
Mr. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari of Nigeria has been appointed by the UN Secretary-General as the organization’s new under-secretary-general for political affairs. He succeeded Mr. Kieran Prendergast, as of 1 July 2005, becoming the first African to hold this very influential position. Mr. Gambari, who was UN under-secretary-general and special adviser on Africa at the time of his appointment, previously served as special representative of the Secretary-General to Angola. A former external affairs minister of Nigeria and director-general of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, he also served as Nigeria’s permanent representative to the UN.
Mr. Kemal Dervis, a former finance minister in Turkey and senior official at the World Bank, has been appointed by the UN Secretary-General to a four-year term as administrator of the UN Development Programme. He takes over from Mr. Mark Malloch Brown, who was recently appointed as the Secretary-General’s chief of staff. Mr. Dervis served for two years as Turkey’s finance minister, in addition to a cabinet position as minister for economic affairs and the treasury. He also is a member of Turkey’s parliament and of the Joint Commission of the European and Turkish Parliaments.
Mr. Paul Wolfowitz assumed his duties as president of the World Bank Group on 1 June 2005, after winning approval of his nomination by the institution’s Board of Executive Directors in March. Prior to this appointment, Mr. Wolfowitz served as US deputy secretary of defence, following earlier government appointments as under-secretary of defence for policy and US ambassador to Indonesia. He also served for seven years as dean and professor of international relations at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
Former European Union Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy has been selected as the new director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO). He will take over from the current WTO head, Mr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, whose term ends on 31 August. Mr. Lamy began his career in the French civil service with various finance postings. From 1984 to 1994, he was chief of staff to the European Commission (EC) president. Mr. Lamy then joined Crédit Lyonnais, where he became director-general in 1999, the same year he became EC trade commissioner.
The UN General Assembly has appointed former Portuguese Prime Minister António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres as the new UN High Commissioner for Refugees, following a recommendation by the UN Secretary-General. His three-year term came into effect on 15 June 2005. Mr. Guterres is currently president of the Socialist International, a position he has held since 1999. He was a member of the Portuguese parliament from 1976 to 1983 and from 1985 to 1995, and was a founding member of the Portuguese Refugee Council. Since 2003, he has also been an advisor to the board of Portugal’s second largest bank, Caixa Geral de Depósitos.