SECURITY COUNCIL HEARS OAU CALL ON INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO BE MORE HUMAN AND PERSONAL RATHER THAN STATISTICAL IN DEALING WITH AFRICA19980424 Debate on Secretary-General's Report on Africa Begins
As the foundations of a new partnership were created, it was Africa's hope that the international community would go beyond facts and figures and be more human and personal rather than statistical in its dealings with the continent, the representative of Zimbabwe told the Security Council this morning as it began a debate on the situation in the continent.
Speaking on behalf of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), he said that more than further studies and analysis, Africa longed to see the implementation of plans and programmes, noting that such statistics were largely silent about what was really happening to the African people at large, in a continent where some countries were actually de-industrializing and were no nearer to eradicating absolute poverty among the majority of its people.
Africa had embarked in the protracted process of building the institutions of democracy, and instilling and nurturing a culture of democracy where once there was one of autocracy and military rule, he said. However, the seed of democracy could not thrive in the soil of mass poverty, illiteracy, hunger and disease. He appealed to the international community to assist Africa by supporting the continent's own efforts.
The Council met to discuss a report of the Secretary-General on the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in the continent, which provides an analysis of the sources of conflicts in Africa and the reasons why they persist,as well as specific recommendations on a variety of issues ranging from arms control to debt relief.
Gambia's representative, referring to the initiative of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide debt relief to highly indebted poor countries, said it was a benevolent gesture; however, conditions for qualification were too stringent. Moreover, since the international community contributed to Africa's debt crisis, it should share the responsibility. He hoped the calls of the Secretary-General for the conversion into grants of all remaining official bilateral debts of the poorest African countries would be heeded.
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The representative of Japan said Africa's integration into the global economic system could benefit the world as a whole. Japan hoped to serve as a catalyst for international cooperation on Africa, with the United Nations playing a central coordinating role. A working group should be established to study the Secretary-General's recommendations, and devise a plan of action for the Council's consideration next September, possibly at ministerial level.
The representatives of Gabon, Portugal, Russian Federation, Sweden, France, China, United Kingdom, Slovenia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Bahrain and Kenya also spoke.
The meeting, which began at 10:20 a.m. and was suspended at 1:26 p.m, will resume at 3 p.m. today.
Council Work Programame
The Security Council met this morning to begin its debate on the situation in Africa. It had before it a report of the Secretary-General on the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in the continent (document A/52/871-S/198/318). The Secretary-General introduced the report of the Council on 16 April. (For further information, see Press Release SG/2045-AFR/50-SC/6501 of 15 April).
The report provides a candid analysis of the sources of conflicts in Africa and the reasons why they persist. The Secretary-General suggests three areas which deserve particular attention: First, he says Africa must demonstrate the will to rely upon political rather than military responses to problems. Democratic channels for pursuing legitimate interests and expressing dissent must be protected, and political opposition respected and accommodated in constitutional forms.
Second, Africa must summon the will to take good governance seriously, ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law, strengthening democratization, and promoting transparency and capability in public administration. Unless good governance is prized, he says Africa will not break free of the threat and the reality of conflict that are so evident today.
Third, he asserts that Africa must enact and adhere to the various reforms needed to promote economic growth. Long-term success can be achieved only if African governments have the political will to enact sound economic policies, and to persevere in their implementation until a solid economic foundation had been established.
Political will is also needed from the international community, the Secretary-General says in his report, and urges it to intervene where it can have an impact, and invest where resources are needed. New sources of funding are required, but so too was a better use of existing resources and the enactment of trade and debt measures that will enable Africa to generate and better reinvest its own resources. Significant progress will require sustained international attention at the highest political levels over a period of years.
The Secretary-General observes that the time is long past when anyone could claim ignorance about what was happening in Africa, or what was needed to achieve progress. The time is also past when the responsibility for producing change could be shifted onto other shoulders. It is a responsibility all must face, he says, and adds: "The United Nations stands ready to play its part. So must the world. So must Africa".
Other key recommendations of the report include those concerning arms and arms trafficking, sanctions, refugees, structural adjustment, development
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assistance, debt and trade, the Security Council and international business and practices.
The report was submitted in response to the Council's request made at a meeting at the level of Foreign Ministers last September to consider the need for a concerted effort to promote peace and security in Africa. The Council requested the Secretary-General to submit a report on the sources of conflict, ways to prevent and address those conflicts and how to lay the foundation for durable peace and economic growth following their resolution.
DENIS DANGUE REWAKA (Gabon) said African States had for almost a decade undertaken courageous structural adjustment programmes. Conflicts warranted prevention, he said, and added that the Organization of African Unity (OAU) conflict-resolution mechanism was doing a good job. That mechanism had proven its usefulness and needed to be strengthened and supported. African leaders and States had, whenever possible, been able to help resolve conflicts. The President of Gabon had been involved in resolving the recent conflict in Congo- Brazzaville.
He said there should be coordination of efforts between the Security Council and regional and subregional bodies. He stressed the full role that the Security Council should play as the vital force for the coordination of peacemaking efforts.
ANTONIO MONTEIRO (Portugal) endorsed the Secretary-General's emphasis on the absolute need for political will on the part of African States and the international community. Political will was needed to find political rather than military solutions for the problems facing the region, to commit to the principles of good governance, in democracy and with respect for human rights and the rule of law.
He said that the proliferation of arms was a scourge on the African continent and that more must be done to stop the illegal flow of weapons, particularly small arms, across borders from conflict to conflict. "I would like to stress the importance of preventing arms that have been collected at the end of one conflict from ending up in another war on the other side of the continent."
While calling on African governments to reduce their defence budgets, he said Portugal recognized that it was not always easy or possible in cases where internal stability was threatened. The international community cold help by providing incentives to governments that entered into agreements to reduce their military budgets. He welcomed the Secretary-General's recommendations for ensuring the safety of refugee camps and the separation of combatants from refugees.
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SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said his country was ready to contribute to international efforts to resolve the problems of Africa. He said the role of the Security Council in the maintenance of peace and security should be strengthened. He noted, however, the role of African States themselves, as well as their regional body, such as the OAU in conflict-resolution.
Referring to the recommendations of the Secretary-General on arms, he said a distinction should be drawn between the legitimate needs of countries for arms for defence purposes and the need for reduction in arms expenditures.
He said the various recommendations of the Secretary-General should be studied further. The Security Council and the various bodies addressed by the Secretary-General's report should intensify their analysis of the report. The division of labour among those bodies would help in the search for answers to Africa's problems.
HANS DAHLGREN (Sweden) said that while every aspect of prevention, peacekeeping and conflict-resolution had been penetrated in theory, that knowledge meant virtually nothing in the face of a concrete crisis without an adequate response through action, a manifestation of the political will and the release of the required financial resources. The African quest for peace and prosperity should be supported, for "what happens in Africa will affect us all, in one way or the other".
Poverty, oppression, poor economic policies and human rights abuses must be fought as a matter of priority and targeted in a renewed policy of partnership with Africa, he said. Stopping the proliferation of arms would be another considerable contribution to the prevention of conflicts. In that regard, he supported the Secretary-General's proposal to establish an international mechanism to assist host governments in maintaining the security and neutrality of refugee camps and settlements. Furthermore, the early-warning signals of conflicts must be transformed into early action, and in that context, the conflict prevention mechanism of the OAU was worth all support.
At the same time, the Security Council could not renounce its primary responsibility for peace and security, he said. The capacity to rapidly establish an international presence to prevent and contain conflicts was crucial. It was deplorable that there was a lack of political will to provide the necessary resources for the United Nations when such tasks were needed. With the essential task ahead in several African conflict situations of focusing on the transition from peacekeeping to peace-building, the Secretary-General's recommendation to establish post-conflict peace-building structures and include post-conflict recommendations in peacekeeping missions' mandates had his Government's support.
ALAIN DEJAMMET (France) said the Secretary-General's report contained an honest analysis of present and past realities, and it was extremely timely. The
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reasons for what had been called "Afro-pessimism" continued to exist. At the same time, there were encouraging aspects, including the growth of some States, and the prevention of certain pending conflicts. United Nations actions should support the efforts of African countries to resolve their problems. Cooperation at different levels should be strengthened, including with the OAU and other regional initiatives. The importance of well-targeted sanctions highlighted by the Secretary-General was a concern shared by all.
He said financial constraints should not be a decision-making criterion for conflict prevention. The capacity and will of Member States to respond to the needs of the moment was important. It was important to support African States' capacity to play their part in the maintenance of peace.
The rights and safety of refugees must be ensured, but the security of host countries was also a priority, he said. Refugees must not be used by any party for political purposes. The establishment of a state of law required clear laws, respect for commitments and the payment of public and private debt. In countries where there had been internal conflict, particular attention must be paid to the need for national reconciliation. It was necessary to find a balance between majority rule and the rights of minorities. France's actions were increasingly aimed at strengthening democracy and the rule of law.
Assistance for Africa had been brutally reduced in recent years, he noted. France, however, was maintaining its aid efforts. Half of its $7.5 billion official development assistance (ODA) was allocated to Africa, making France the largest donor to Africa. France had taken measures to write off debts to countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In international forums, it had ceaselessly advocated alleviation of the debt of African countries. France was ready to respond to the Secretary-General's call on the international community to manifest the political will to consolidate peace in Africa.
SHEN GUOFANG (China) said Africa must be viewed from a strategic standpoint of global peace and development. Without peace and development in Africa, there would be no genuine world peace and development. China supported a greater role by the Security Council in solving African issues, and timely deployment of peacekeeping operations according to the United Nations Charter and at the request of the African countries concerned. In seeking solutions to the continent's problems, it was essential to respect the views of African countries, their sovereignty and territorial integrity, following the principle of non- interference in internal affairs.
Economic difficulties were one of the root causes of instability in Africa and it was therefore a task of utmost urgency for the countries of that continent to overcome those difficulties and realize accelerated growth, he said. African countries knew best their problems and needs. Only they could decide upon their course of development in light of their specific conditions. Imposing a given model on them would be counter-productive. Proposals of the Secretary-General,
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such as instituting mechanisms like "Friends", or special conferences to handle conflicts, protecting the humanitarian interests of the African people, strengthening Africa's peacekeeping capacity and assisting regional efforts, deserved in-depth consideration. It was hoped that those proposals would be turned into concrete action on the basis of extensive discussions with African countries.
He said the OAU and subregional organizations in Africa were playing an increasingly more important role in both international and regional affairs, and had scored commendable achievements in dealing with African conflicts and hot spots. China believed that the United Nations system and the Bretton Woods institutions should play a more active role in African issues. To date, his country had provided different categories of assistance to all 53 African countries and completed more than 600 projects. China did not attach conditions to its assistance and would continue to enhance economic cooperation and trade with African countries while supporting their efforts in casting off poverty and realizing sustained economic development at an early date.
Sir JOHN WESTON (United Kingdom) said it was necessary to learn from the fact that Africa had been the scene of many of the successes of the United Nations as well as many of its failures. More should have been done, and sooner, to secure peace in Sierra Leone and to halt the fighting in Congo-Brazzaville.
The Somalia experience had been a bitter one, but the non-intervention in Rwanda had been worse, he said. Fear of the financial costs of intervention could not be allowed to become the Organization's guiding principle. Intervention could be difficult and dangerous, but it could often be unavoidable if humanitarian catastrophe and the insidious spread of instability were to be prevented. There could be no question of retreat by the Security Council from Africa.
What was needed was active partnership with the continent, he said. The United Kingdom agreed with the need for restraint by arms-exporting countries and was trying to get European Union-wide support on similar standards through the proposal for a European code of conduct on arms exports. The proliferation of light weapons in Africa was as much the result of illicit trafficking as legal transfers.
The Secretary-General was right to highlight the plight of refugees, he said, adding that his Government welcomed the report's ideas on a mechanism to assist with the maintenance of the neutrality and security of refugee camps, and with the need to take a "hard look" at humanitarian assistance.
ABDOULIE MOMODOU SALLAH (Gambia) said that following 30 wars on the African continent since 1979, the present state of the African people was pathetic. While the African people should not look beyond themselves for responsibility for their present situation, those external factors, including States, institutions
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and individuals, which had contributed to the problem should share the responsibility for solving it.
The emphasis now was on moving civil conflict from the battlefield to the negotiating table, he said. However, peace dividends were not always immediately available, due to the exorbitant costs of demobilization and military restructuring. The problem of separating combatants from refugees and the ever increasing problem of the flow of arms across borders retarded the process. In that context, his delegation welcomed ongoing efforts to establish an African crisis response force.
In African countries today, political activity and thinking were becoming more focused on consolidating democracy, he said. There was now a growing understanding of the close and inevitable links between political liberalization, good and effective governance and a stable and sound environment for economic growth. While the growing trend towards economic growth provided hope for the African continent, the fragility of recent economic successes in some African States, coupled with the present economic stagnation and the ongoing internal conflicts in others, posed its greatest challenge.
He said that the initiative undertaken in 1996 by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and later joined by the African Development Bank to provide debt relief to highly indebted poor countries was a benevolent gesture; however, conditions for qualification were too stringent. "It is therefore not surprising that only four African States are able to meet the requirements." In order to be meaningful, those requirements should be such that African States should be able, with reasonable effort, to meet them. Moreover, since the international community contributed to Africa's debt crisis, it should share the responsibility. In that regard, he hoped the calls of the Secretary- General for the conversion into grants of all remaining official bilateral debts of the poorest African countries would be heeded.
DANILO TüRK (Slovenia) agreed with the Secretary-General's emphasis on the need for an intrinsic and essential link between the construction of durable peace and the promotion of economic growth. Growth and development were among the most effective guarantees to prevent conflict. Despite recent progress, the situation in many African countries was still characterized by a lack of adequate basic infrastructure and severe fiscal problems. Such a setting could be detrimental to the inflow of private capital and thus nullify efforts at furthering the openness to trade, accountability and the protection of property rights.
He regretted that United Nations experiences in Africa had hobbled the Organization's capacity to respond swiftly and decisively to crises. The lack of success in one of the world body's peacekeeping missions in the region had had a disproportionately negative effect, and in order to ensure the credibility of
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the United Nations, the international community must be willing to act with a view to advance the objectives of the continent's peace and security.
The tragedy of Africa was that the majority of sanctions imposed by the Security Council so far had been targeted against Member States or specific groups, he said. Sanctions inflicted costs on unintended victims and greater attention should be paid to the adverse effects suffered by neighbouring countries.
FERNANDO BERROCAL SOTO (Costa Rica) said the Secretary-General's report was essentially a vast programme of action for the entire United Nations system. Current realities had changed the perception of Council members of their responsibilities under Chapters VI and VII of the Charter. The Council's agenda was weighted with African issues. Each, when considered more deeply, inexorably revealed severe economic and social realities. The topics of international peace and security were interdependent with social and political realities.
If the international community and the African countries, as well as regional bodies, did not embark on a major programme of development for Africa, the current crisis would persist, and a solution would never be found for conflicts, he said. The crisis in the Great Lakes region of Africa to a large extent had to do with the arbitrary divisions by which the present political boundaries had been drawn. Work must be undertaken in a joint effort to confront the realities of Africa. He was in agreement with the course of action presented in the Secretary-General's report.
For 50 years, Costa Rica had not had arms expenditures, he said. The resulting funds had been channelled to social works. While his country's decisions were not valid for all, it was true that without intensive investment in social development, the struggle for economic development, social justice and democratic institutions would not yield permanent results.
Ceasing arms investment was the best decision for developing countries, in all regions. He completely agreed with the democratizing approach the Secretary- General urged. All countries needed to work for the separation of State powers and respect for the rule of law. At the same time, sustainable economic development was a priority. Latin American countries supported the democratic vision for Africa's future.
The great challenge was the achievement and consolidation of constitutional systems of government, with civil rather than military rule. In reaching such an objective, the political will of African States was indispensable. The history of the struggle for democracy in Latin America showed that democracy was linked to the war on poverty and ignorance. The countries of Africa could not be asked to move directly from crisis to competitive participation in the globalized market. The International Monetary Fund and other institutions must
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adapt their programmes to the realities of African States. Similarly, the Security Council must work closely with regional and subregional bodies.
CELSO AMORIM (Brazil) said in dealing with Africa "we must not lose sight of the universal dimension of its individual character". The report of the Secretary-General was an objective analysis with thoughtful recommendations which called for careful examination not only by the Security Council, but also by the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and other components of the United Nations system, including the Bretton Woods institutions. In the weeks and months ahead, it would be incumbent upon the Organization to deal most efficiently with the suggestions made in the report, so that increased awareness of the challenges facing Africa could quickly be translated into tangible progress.
Consistency was needed in the search for solutions to areas in crisis, he said. While the lessons-learned approach in looking at the Organization's recent experiences in African peacekeeping was appreciated, certain mistakes of the past merited additional highlighting. Serious conceptual difficulties could arise with a United Nations agenda that would seem to attribute priority to diplomacy and dialogue at the local level while assuming a militaristic attitude with respect to multilateral efforts. Although the deployment of operations with "credible deterrent capacity" might be necessary in situations of extreme gravity, "we must guard ourselves against the temptation to seek predominantly military solutions to problems that require, above all else, dialogue and diplomacy", he added.
The United Nations had been instrumental in bringing peace and relief to many areas of Africa, either through peacekeeping or through manifold programmes directed at improving the lives of the neediest, he said. Unfortunately, those efforts remained insufficient. The problem was not only one of resources. There was a qualitative dimension to be kept in mind. Technical assistance, for instance, could not be "supply oriented", but must be targeted to the specific needs of the recipient countries and should make full use of their resources and potentialities.
He said that in areas such as the protection of human rights and the promotion of democratic governance, it would be beneficial to foster interaction among different African countries, as well as between Africa and other regions of the developing world where progress had been made, Central America for example. Brazil supported the Secretary-General's proposal for reconvening a ministerial meeting on Africa on a biennial basis and convening a summit within five years.
JASSIM MOHAMMED BUALLAY (Bahrain) said the many tense situations in Africa represented a threat to international peace and security. The Security Council, with its responsibility for maintaining peace and security, faced a difficult task. It was important that the causes of the conflicts in Africa were
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diagnosed. He blamed the effects of colonialism and the multi-ethnic nature of African States for the continent's problems. Economic and social problems complemented the vicious cycle of instability, he added. The international community must adopt urgent measures to deal with Africa's economic problems. He reaffirmed the United Nations role in that effort.
He said the peacekeeping operations of the Security Council had largely been successful in containing conflicts, although that had not always been the case in Africa. Regional bodies should be involved in peacekeeping efforts. He underlined the need for international organizations' involvement in reconstruction efforts, noting that humanitarian assistance alone was not enough in peace-building.
He drew attention to the need to tackle the problem of illegal arms trafficking and for preventive measures to stem the flow. Other means to resolve Africa's problems included, he said, coordination of efforts between the Security Council and regional bodies, such as the OAU. He reaffirmed the major role the United Nations and its bodies could further undertake to ensure peace and stability in Africa.
NJUGUNA M. MAHUGU (Kenya) said that regional and sub-regional organizations could only play a complementary role in maintaining international peace and security, while the primary responsibility rested with the United Nations. However, a strengthened OAU was urgently required, through the enhancement of an early warning system; technology transfer; personnel training; information exchange; logistical support; and most importantly, the concrete mobilization of financial support.
He said that while his delegation fully supported the Secretary-General's recommendations in the area of peace-keeping, many had been raised before to no avail. The urgent call by the heads of State and government of the sub-region for a separation of intimidators and bona fide refugees during the crisis in Eastern Zaire in 1996 also went unheeded, resulting in genocide and the disappearance of a large number of refugees. Although countries should emulate the example of preventive action set by the African countries, notably in the Central African Republic and Sierra Leone, there was no substitute for timely and appropriate responses by the international community.
A coordinated approach towards humanitarian assistance in Africa should continuously be sought, he said. Human rights missions should be deployed, thereby providing substantive international pressure on the combatants to respect the human rights of civilians. He endorsed the Secretary-General's notion of children as "zones of peace", and he supported the idea of establishing an international mechanism to assist host governments in maintaining the security and neutrality of refugee camps. Furthermore, a focused attempt must be found to deal with the impact of so-called "armed labour", or displaced persons roaming
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across borders with weapons, which had the potential to destabilize entire sub- regions.
HISASHI OWADA (Japan) said that maintaining international peace must involve political, economic, social and even cultural factors. If left unattended, economic stagnation in Africa would produce a crippling effect on the world economic system and could lead to a situation in which social grievances, emanating from marginalization, could lead to global instability. By contrast, Africa's integration into the world economic system could benefit the world as a whole.
The strategic approach proposed by the Secretary-General, which encompassed the political, developmental and humanitarian fields, had Japan's full support, he said. His country had been advocating such an approach since the first Tokyo International Conference on African Development, held in 1993. Japan hoped to serve as a catalyst for international cooperation on Africa, with the United Nations playing a central coordinating role. Activities of the United Nations, including the Bretton Woods institutions, as well as regional and subregional bodies, should be complementary, based on the principle of shared responsibility and global partnership. Each conflict should be dealt with through individualized and pragmatic approaches.
Turning next to specific proposals in the Secretary-General's report, he said the international community must tackle the problem of trade in arms. Those who exported arms to Africa should feel a major responsibility for the current situation. The Council should monitor activities involved in the export of small arms. The United Nations Register of Conventional Arms -- which had resulted from a proposal by Japan in collaboration with the European Community in 1991 -- could be better utilized. Enhancing transparency in national defence capabilities would help build confidence among neighbouring countries. The Register system should be more fully implemented worldwide, while supplementary regional registers of conventional arms should be established.
Non-military sanctions should be employed in a targeted manner, he continued. The international community should thoroughly study the different aspects of sanctions, to ensure that their application had the desired effect. Humanitarian assistance to civilian populations victimized by conflicts should take into account the requirements of post-conflict efforts to build peace. Noting that it was becoming necessary to ensure the distribution of humanitarian relief supplies, or to separate civilians from ex-combatants and criminals in refugee camps through military efforts, he said the Security Council should focus more attention on the matter as an urgent priority.
A working group should be established by the Security Council to study the Secretary-General's recommendations, and devise a plan of action to be taken by the Council, he said. That could then be submitted to the Council for its consideration at a meeting to be convened in September, perhaps at the
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ministerial level. Underscoring the importance of mobilizing political will, he said that Japan had been offering its share of contribution to conflict prevention and development in Africa through various means including, in the last five years, contributions amounting to $5.4 billion. The people of Japan would continue to work with people in Africa for the continent's peace and development, he pledged.
MACHIVENYIKA TOBIAS MAPURANGA (Zimbabwe), speaking on behalf of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), said that news of economic growth had been communicated to the international community mainly in terms of statistical figures such as percentage growth of gross domestic product (GDP), reduced budget deficits, curtailed public expenditures and lower inflation rates. Such statistics were largely silent about what was really happening to the African people at large. Whereas structural adjustment programmes prescribed to many African countries by the Bretton Woods institutions had often reflected impressive figures in the books, they had also had a very severe and adverse impact on African societies in terms of curtailed social spending, health and education facilities, as well as growing unemployment.
As a result, he said, the international community had in its hands cases of African countries whose economic statistics were improving, and were even impressive, but were not matched by an improvement in the conditions of living of the bulk of the African people. Some of those countries were actually de- industrializing, and were no nearer to eradicating absolute poverty among the majority of its people. Many African countries continue to spend more on debt- servicing than they did on education or health, or on education and health combined in some cases.
As the foundations of a new partnership were established, he said, it was Africa's hope that the international community would go beyond facts and figures and be more human and personal rather than statistical in its dealings with the continent.
He went on to say that Africa had embarked in the protracted process of building the institutions of democracy, and instilling and nurturing a culture of democracy where once there was one of autocracy and military rule, he said. However, the seed of democracy could not thrive in the soil of mass poverty, illiteracy, hunger and disease. He appealed to the international community to assist Africa by supporting the continent's own efforts, which stemmed from a recognition of the need for accelerated human resource training, technology transfer, debt remission, capital investment and access to international markets on the basis of equitable terms of trade.
More than further studies and analysis, he stressed, Africa longed to see the translation of plans and programmes from the drawing board to the implementation stage. Like the Secretary-General, Africa appealed to the United Nations in particular, and the international community in general, to give new momentum to the region's push for peace and development. Africa would not be found wanting in political will and commitment to seize opportunities that may be provided. * *** *