21 April 2008
As you will hear, we face a development emergency. Well past the mid-point of the race to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, many countries are falling behind. This region, Sub-Saharan Africa, is most at risk – here, not a single country is on track to meet all of the MDGs by 2015.
At the same time, advances on specific goals in individual African countries suggest that rapid progress is certainly possible. Our host nation, Ghana, is an excellent example. It has made significant strides in increasing primary school enrollment. Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda report similar advances. Elsewhere, Senegal is making great strides towards meeting the water target. And Niger, Togo and Zambia have made impressive progress in malaria control through the free distribution of bednets.
These success stories need to be replicated and scaled-up across Africa with effective support from the international community. The MDG Africa Steering Group is preparing detailed recommendations for how these successes can be implemented across Africa.
This scaling-up of our development activities requires unprecedented effort, but it is achievable. African economies have performed extremely well in recent years. Their growth and strong macroeconomic fundamentals provide a solid foundation for a concerted push towards the MDGs. Existing commitments are enough to achieve these Goals, so the focus must now be squarely on implementation.
The benefits of globalization, especially increased trade and investment, are some of the surest drivers of long-term growth and human development. Regrettably, Africa has yet to benefit fully from these worldwide trends; its share of global trade and foreign investment languishes at a mere 3%.
A sure way to boost this figure is by ensuring a rapid breakthrough in the Doha Round, one that incorporates a significant development component. South-South exchanges, greater foreign direct investment, enterprise-development, and crucial infrastructure advances facilitated through Aid for Trade can also help spur Africa's progress.
For their part, African Governments that are benefiting from the current boom in commodities prices have to increase spending on the MDGs and to promote broad-based development. International donors can help these countries navigate this path through increases in Official Development Assistance – increases that have been pledged, but have not so far been forthcoming.
The MDG challenge has been complicated by the alarming rise in global food-prices. High prices threaten to undo the gains achieved so far in fighting hunger and malnutrition. They call for a substantial increase in investment and expenditure in agriculture. And they underscore the importance of pushing for an open trading system in agricultural commodities – which would benefit countries around the world.
I have been especially troubled by incidents of food riots, here in Africa and around the world. Today, I urge you all to consider bold measures to guarantee affordable food to even the poorest of the poor. Feeding women and children must be our priority. The World Food Programme has already issued an "extraordinary emergency relief appeal" for $755 million to sustain food rations to some of the world's most impoverished regions. I ask donors to help sustain this critical initiative.
In the medium-term, we need a substantial increase in expenditures on agriculture. In particular, trade and investment should be used to bring about a “Green revolution” of improved agricultural productivity across Africa. Today's high commodity prices present a unique opportunity to reduce trade-distorting subsidies and tariffs on agricultural products. I urge all countries, especially developed nations, to do more on this issue in the Doha Round negotiations.
Climate change is another area of great and growing concern for Africa. The people of this continent – who have contributed so little towards this problem – cannot be expected to bear this burden on their own. I challenge the international community to devise climate strategies that are an opportunity – not an obstacle – for Africa's development and prosperity.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I have already called for 2008 to be the year of the 'bottom billion'. I count on you, the leaders of the international community, to help redeem this pledge. Your views and recommendations will feed into the high-level meeting on the MDGs that I have called for September. Your discussion can also guide participants in the year end Review Conference on Financing for Development.
That is why I am eager to hear from our panellists, and from all of you. Let me therefore cede the floor to Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD, who will moderate this segment.
Thank you very much.