His Excellency El Hadj Omar Bongo
President of the Gabonese Republic

at the 
International Conference on Financing for Development

Monterrey, Mexico 
21st March 2002

For a number of years now, meetings on the subject of development have been organized all over the world. We would like to congratulate the United Nations Secretary-General, who has been behind this initiative. We are pleased to see the very significant participation of the international community at these forums.

These meetings have gradually engendered a tremendous amount of hope and have led African countries to implement political, economic, financial and social reforms. We were assured that these reforms were absolute prerequisites; however, we have to note today, upon taking stock, that in spite of the very firm commitment of African countries towards these reforms, our meetings are nothing more than media events, with hardly any light at the tunnel for our countries, and without any prospects for our populations. This is because our own commitment has not been matched by that of our partners with the necessary firm will and unswerving commitment to support development and to combat poverty.

It is very difficult to imagine that Africa, home to 10 per cent of the planet’s population, is involved in only 2 per cent of the world’s trade. Why is it that since the 1960s, the commitment of official development assistance (ODA) at the level of 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNP) has not been achieved? 

Nevertheless, since we are meeting here to discuss the specific problems of financing for development with a view to reducing poverty, and together building a world based on justice and solidarity, let us face these real problems down. If one were to glance at our planet, one would very quickly see how impossible it is to build a democratic, fair, harmonious and peaceful world where there is poverty. There will be no democracy, no sustainable development, no true peace, unless there is an improvement in the human condition and quality of life of the great number of people of our world. If our target, therefore, is to halve poverty between now and the year 2015, let us equip ourselves with the specific means and tools to be able to reach this objective, and let us move from words to deeds.

As far as Gabon is concerned, we stick to our commitments. Democracy resides in Africa. Good governance is being seen in Africa now. We pay our debts. Regional integration is becoming organized. Moreover, The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) is such that we have to select the issues on which to focus at this time in order to make sure that our actions are credible. These issues, as participants in this Forum know, are numerous. To be specific, we could retain the following: first of all, we have mobilization of ODA; then we have the debt burden; next we have combating HIV/AIDS and malaria; and then access to markets. This cannot omit our very strong concerns relating to infrastructure, the production sectors and human resources.

Lastly, it is important to point out that we will never reach the objectives we have set for ourselves without the true harmonization of our policies -- and by policies, I mean economic, industrial, social and cultural policies.

I would not wish to conclude without raising ethical concepts – the concept of a country – a medium-income country. Today countries such as mine – Gabon - find themselves excluded from any of the advantages from which other developing countries benefit. Gabon is penalized, and this reduces its capacity for investment; it is an obstacle to the efforts that we are making to combat poverty.

But Gabon and Africa cannot disappear; nor can they stay on the sidelines of the changes in the world for very long. It is up to each of us to ensure that such things will not happen. I am convinced that if the Monterrey Consensus, this mutual commitment, will be for everyone, then there will be great hope, and this will lead to a new era of cooperation for the peoples of the world.

* The text of this statement has been transcribed from audio recordings as the original was not submitted to the Secretariat.

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