Notion That Africa’s Isolation from Global Capital Markets Shielded It from Financial Crisis Was Wishful Thinking, Says Secretary-General

10 July 2009
SG/SM/12361-ECO/163

Notion That Africa’s Isolation from Global Capital Markets Shielded It from Financial Crisis Was Wishful Thinking, Says Secretary-General

10 July 2009
Secretary-General
SG/SM/12361 ECO/163
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

NOTION THAT AFRICA’S ISOLATION FROM GLOBAL CAPITAL MARKETS SHIELDED IT

FROM FINANCIAL CRISIS WAS WISHFUL THINKING, SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL

Following are Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the breakfast on the impact of the economic crisis on Africa, at the G-8 Summit, in L’Aquila, Italy, on 10 July: 

Good morning, buon giorno.

Thank you very much for convening this breakfast on the impact of the economic crisis on Africa.

Any notion that Africa’s relative isolation from global capital markets would shield it from the effects of the financial crisis has now been proven to be wishful thinking.  We live in a fully interconnected world.

Africa’s progress toward the Millennium Development Goals is in peril.  The economic and financial crisis has set us back several years.

The world is looking to us to respond.  I would like to sketch out five key points on which we need to take action.

First we must continue and step up our aid to Africa.  Never before have we had so many positive signs that aid can transform lives.  Across a range of sectors, aid has helped Africans and other developing countries make huge gains.  Let me give three illustrative examples:

AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria.  The Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria has had a dramatic impact in improving the lives of millions

Agricultural production.  Countries like Malawi have shown that when small-holder farmers have access to better seeds, fertilizers and irrigation, they can transform a country from famine to food exports in less than a decade.

Gender parity.  Thanks to our support to education, several countries, such as Rwanda, have achieved gender parity in primary education.  Not surprisingly these countries also have some of the world’s highest numbers of women legislators.

Second, we need to sound an alarm that aid flows must not be cut in the midst of the current crisis.  During past financial and economic turmoil, we have sometimes seen annual aid cut by as much as 30 per cent.  We cannot allow this to happen.

Third, we need to go beyond a recommitment to follow through on existing aid commitments.  Each of the last three G-8 Summits and the recent G-20 Summit reaffirmed the 2005 Gleneagles commitments.  Now is the time to translate these reaffirmations into a time-bound action plan that spells out, country by country, how the Gleneagles commitments will be delivered.  The Millennium Development Goals Africa Steering Group’s work with 10 initial African countries shows us how the Gleneagles commitments can be feasibly implemented at the country level.

Fourth, Africa, perhaps more than any other region, needs us to seal a deal on climate change in Copenhagen this year.  Africa needs the industrialized world to agree on substantial cuts in emissions.  And it needs financial support for its own adaptation and mitigation efforts.

Fifth, we need to ensure full access for African goods to global markets under the Doha Round of trade negotiations.

As you know, delivering for Africa is one of my key priorities.  I would like to end by updating you on the latest work of the United Nations System in support of Africa.

We are also undertaking a range of initiatives across the United Nations system —- from a jobs pact to environmental protection -— designed to assist Africa and the rest of the developing world in mitigating the effects of crisis.

The H1N1 pandemic is starting to accelerate in a disturbing way.  We are receiving reports of overloaded health systems in some southern hemisphere countries.  If H1N1 were to make major inroads in Africa, we cannot say for certain how lethal it might be.

We have a small window of opportunity to help poor countries access what they need to get ready for the virus.  If we do not take advantage of this window, the cost in human lives, economic development and stability could be too great to bear.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.