GREAT LAKES REGION
Summit to push for peace, integration
On 14-15 December, heads of state from Africa’s Great Lakes region will meet in Nairobi, Kenya, to sign a pact designed to bring peace, stability and prosperity to countries long troubled by civil wars and conflicts with each other. In the pact are projects, programmes of action and protocols which have been negotiated over the past two years by the governments and peoples of the 11 countries taking part in the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, sponsored by the United Nations and the African Union.
The pact, says Mr. Ibrahima Fall, special representative of the UN Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region, provides a framework for building cooperation and regional integration among the countries of the region in four areas: peace and security; democracy and good governance; economic development and regional integration; and social and humanitarian matters. “This is one of the most important regions of Africa, politically, strategically and, in terms of potential wealth,” notes Mr. Fall. “If we can stabilize and bring about development here, we can help to build a stronger Africa.”
The conference is supported by a group of donor countries, known as the Friends of the Great Lakes Region, co-chaired by Canada and the Netherlands. The group will remain involved as the conference enters its implementation phase. The countries participating are: Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia.
Norway set a precedent in October when it announced the cancellation of $80 million in “illegitimate” debt accrued by five developing countries — Egypt, Ecuador, Peru, Jamaica and Sierra Leone. It was the first time any creditor nation used a lack of legitimacy as a criterion for debt cancellation. Norway’s International Development Minister Erik Solheim said the decision was taken following recognition by the government of “a development policy failure.” Between 1976 and 1980, the country exported ships to developing countries mainly to benefit Norway’s crisis-ridden domestic ship-building industry, rather than to serve development in the countries concerned. “Cancelling these debts will have consequences for how we think about responsible lending in the future,” he said.
Anti-debt activists have long advocated cancelling debts resulting from negligent lending policies, including to unaccountable governments. “This is a groundbreaking decision which has huge ramifications for other lenders that acted irresponsibly in the past,” said Ms. Gail Hurley of the non-governmental group European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad). “It is not fair that the populations of debtor nations continue to pay the price of corrupt, negligent and politically motivated lending in the past. Today the silence has been broken and we urge other creditor countries, in particular in Europe, to follow Norway’s bold lead.”
The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is calling for a new approach to aid delivery, including the establishment of an independent fund administered by the UN, if rich countries are to fulfill their promise to double aid to poor countries. In a report released in September, UNCTAD argues that a new arrangement should replace “the current chaotic system in which too many agencies … are pushing too many development projects that sometimes compete with each other, often don’t match recipients’ development goals, are costly to administer, and frequently leave African governments confused and stymied by their numerous rules and conditions.”
The report, Economic Development in Africa 2006, says that aid to Africa should not only be doubled, but also disbursed multilaterally, perhaps by a UN fund independent of political pressures. The money should be aimed at assisting African countries to produce a diverse range of products and create more jobs, through predictable disbursements over long periods.
The UN Secretary-General has appointed Mr. Shola Omoregie of Nigeria as his new representative in Guinea-Bissau and as head of the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS). Mr. Omorogie has been with the UN since 1978 in a variety of posts. He served as the first resident representative of the UN Commissioner for Namibia in Botswana (1978) and later in the same capacity in Angola. He also has been with the UN Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations and, just prior to his new appointment, with the Security Council Affairs Division of the UN Department of Political Affairs.
Mr. Victor da Silva Angelo of Portugal has been named by the UN Secretary-General as his executive representative for the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL). He will also continue to serve as UN Development Programme (UNDP) resident representative and UN resident coordinator in that country. He has previously represented UNDP in the Central African Republic, East Timor, Gambia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, and was UNDP’s deputy regional director for Africa at headquarters in New York.