As world embarks on Global Goals, African leaders at UN urge ongoing focus on continent’s challenges

President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé of Togo addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventieth session. UN Photo/Cia Pak

30 September 2015 – Among the host of African leaders addressing the United Nations General Assembly today, the President of Togo, Faaure Essozimnia Gnassingbé, stressed the need for continued support to the continent – as well as ongoing cooperation with the vital work of the African Union – to ensure that gains of the past decades could be maintained and bolstered in the face of lingering poverty, terrorist activities and weak governance systems in some areas.

Mr. Gnassingbé said that since becoming a member in 1960, Togo had done its utmost to contribute to the Organization’s noble ideals and, in turn, had received much from the “great United Nations family”, with support, including from the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA) and the UN system in Lomé.

Despite the great economic growth in Africa in recent years, actions and financing that went beyond classic financial structures were needed. Following the Addis Ababa conference on development financing, he hoped the donor community would spare no effort to assist African countries more constructively and with fewer restrictions.

President Gnassingbé said today’s realities also included the impact of climate change, poverty and threats to human rights. The Togolese experience every day the effects of climate change, including coastal erosion that is threatening coastal populations. Their survival requires more urgent responses and significant investments. In that regard, climate change financing is critical and should not come by way of a reduction in traditional official development assistance (ODA).

In his remarks, Ismaël Omar Guelleh, the President of Djibouti, said the international community undeniably faces an unprecedented range of challenges. “Poverty and hunger, persistent unemployment and violent armed conflicts as well as climate change. Last year alone we saw the health systems of fraternal countries being overwhelmed by new and terrible threats such as the Ebola virus.”

“Climate change is the greatest challenge confronting human kind, but also the most important one of our day in terms of development and threatens to undermine life for future generations,” he continued, noting that the many meetings on climate change and the little progress that has been made over the years shows the extent to which the issue is a source of “controversy and division.”

“It is true that our claims are legitimate and understandable. However, it is also true that Africa has more to lose than others. For that reason, we stand ready to shoulder our responsibilities in order to reduce our emissions and we hope that the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities will be scrupulously respected,” he said.

President Guelleh said violent extremism is the deadly ideological product which openly advocates the elimination of others on behalf of a supposed religious belief. Noting that West Africa is one of the first regions to have fallen victims to terrorist attacks, he stressed that Al-Shabaab is a major threat. “In most countries of our region, this painful experience has enabled us to develop knowledge of the workings and practices of all the terrorist groups. And this deserves to be shared.”

Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, Vice President of Equatorial Guinea, said that his country always trusted the United Nations despite attempts by some to monopolize the Organization. While renewing faith and trust in the world body, which promotes peace, security and stability among all nations, his country is also concerned about some weaknesses it has shown in preventing and eliminating conflicts.

“Member States must act in solidarity to address the proliferation of conflict in Africa, the Middle East and Europe, which are in turn causing massive migrations. The United Nations is not a police force [and] Member States must submit themselves to international law and norms.

In his remarks, Crown Prince Moulay Rachid of Morocco said the international community is facing unprecedented challenges requiring joint, efficient and integrated action. As such, he wondered if the newly adopted Sustainable Development Agenda and relevant international mechanisms are fit for purpose.

Indeed, looking back on implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), one would question the commitment of the international community to fulfil its ambitions. As for the Global Goals, there is a need to ensure that those new targets can not only be met, but financed and monitored.

“Development does not come through bureaucratic decisions or through technical reports that lack credibility,” he continued, saying such development is achieved through deep analysis of the subjects and the conditions in which they live. With that in mind, the Crown Prince said the reality in Africa is much harsher than reports reveal and as such, Africa must be at the heart of international cooperation for development in order to help the continent rid itself of its colonial past and unlock its potential.

“For this reason, Morocco is calling on the United Nations and on regional and international financial institutions to draw up an action plan for economic transformation in Africa and provide steady resources to finance it,” said the Moroccan leader, underscoring that despite promising qualifications and skills, Africa stands at a crossroads today.

“Without substantial and tangible international support, Africa will experience glaring disparities between countries. There will be nations engaged in the pursuit of development and progress, while others will be desperately seeking to address their problems and will sink further into poverty, ignorance and instability,” he said.

Lionel Zinsou, Prime Minister of Benin, said that while the international community has made much progress over the 70-year lifespan of the UN, many challenges remain, including terrorism, climate change, massive youth unemployment, poor governance and corruption. Africa is struggling against such corruption and needs coordinated judicial assistance to counter its harmful effects. “We must deny the perpetrators of economic and financial crimes the ability to take refuge in safe havens,” he declared.

He was pleased that the United Nations is working with the African Union on such matters. Closer to home, Benin, with the help of its technical and financial partners, has implemented robust plans to tackle corruption but was seeking assistance to end the impunity that often accompanied financial crimes.


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