GROUP OF EIGHT
More promises for Africa
The annual summit of the world’s major industrial countries, the Group of Eight (G-8), concluded in Heiligendamm, Germany, on 8 June with new pledges of support for African development. In a communiqué on Africa, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, UK and US pledged $60 bn “over the coming years” to help Africa combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other infectious diseases. They also reaffirmed a promise made at the 2005 G-8 meeting to increase aid to developing countries by $50 bn a year by 2010 — including $25 bn in additional support for Africa.
On the eve of the meeting, Oxfam International reported that the G-8 would, at present aid levels, miss their 2005 commitments by a full $30 bn. The group applauded the G-8 for cancelling the debts of 24 poor countries in 2005, including 18 in Africa, but noted that, globally, official development assistance actually dropped by more than 5 per cent in 2006, the first decline in a decade. Aid to Africa, Oxfam said, has risen just 2 per cent since 2004.
Irish rock star Bono, who campaigned for increased African aid at the 2005 meeting, criticized the 2007 declaration for lacking a timetable for funding increases. Some G-8 leaders are meeting their pledges, he said, “but collectively they are slipping up.”
African economies maintained robust growth rates in 2006, averaging 5.7 per cent last year on the strength of increased world prices for African commodity exports and better economic management. It was the third consecutive year that African economies have grown above 5 per cent annually, according to the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), based in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia. The ECA expects the trend to continue in 2007, with average rates forecast to reach 5.8 per cent. Among African economies, only crisis-bound Zimbabwe posted negative growth rates in 2006, while eight countries posted rates above 8 per cent.
Africa’s 2006 growth figure, from the ECA’s annual Economic Report on Africa (http://www.uneca.org/era2007/), was well above the 3.8 per cent average for the world as a whole. It reflected increased demand for African energy and minerals, particularly from China, India and other rapidly industrializing developing economies. The negative impact of high oil prices on non-oil producers, the report noted, had been cushioned by debt relief and higher export earnings. The ECA cautioned, however, that the development benefits of recent debt cancellations are proving “very slow to materialize” and that growth rates are still too low to have a significant impact on poverty levels.
The UN Secretary-General has named Mr. Francis Deng of Sudan as his special adviser for the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities, succeeding Mr. Juan Mendez. At the time of his appointment, Mr. Deng served as director of the Sudan Peace Support Project. From 1992 to 2004, he was the UN Secretary-General’s representative on internally displaced persons. He has also served as his country’s ambassador to Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the US.
Ms. Josette Sheeran of the US became the new executive director of the UN World Food Programme in April 2007. She previously served as under-secretary for economic, energy and agricultural affairs at the US Department of State. In 2006, she also served on the High-level UN Panel on System-wide Coherence. Ms. Sheeran brings to WFP more than 20 years of experience in the public and private sectors.
Ms. Elizabeth Mataka, a Zambian policymaker and activist, will serve as the UN Secretary-General’s new special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, succeeding Mr. Stephen Lewis of Canada. Ms. Mataka had been executive director of the Zambian National AIDS Network and vice-chairperson of the board of the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Mr. Robert Zoellick, a former deputy US secretary of state and trade representative, has been named by the World Bank’s board of governors as the institution’s new president, following the resignation of Mr. Paul Wolfowitz. At the time of his appointment, Mr. Zoellick was vice-chairman of the Goldman Sachs investment group. During the 1990s, he also served on numerous non-profit boards, including the Council on Foreign Relations and the Overseas Development Council, as well as on advisory councils of the World Wildlife Fund and the Institute of International Economics.
Ms. Obiageli Ezekwesili of Nigeria assumed the post of the World Bank’s vice-president for Africa on 1 May 2007. Most recently, she was Nigeria’s minister of education. Ms. Ezekwesili was a founding member of Transparency International, for which she served as director for Africa, and was also special assistant to the president of Nigeria on budget monitoring. She also served as Nigeria’s minister of solid minerals development and since 2004, as Nigeria’s chairperson for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
The UN Secretary-General has named Mr. Haile Menkerios of Eritrea as assistant secretary-general for political affairs. Most recently, Mr. Menkerios was deputy special representative of the Secretary-General in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Previously, he also served his country as ambassador to Ethiopia and the Organization of African Unity, special envoy to Somalia and the Great Lakes region and permanent representative to the UN from 1991 to 2000. He succeeds Mr. Tuliameni Kalomoh of Namibia.