Prime Minister Meles Zenawi,
Dr. Jean Ping,
My dear friends Executive Secretaries Janneh and Steiner,
It is an honour to be at this joint meeting of the African Union and the Economic Commission for Africa.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak on sustainable development in the presence of so many ministers of economy and finance.
As well as environment ministers, you are equally, if not more, responsible for sustainable development, given its three inter-linked pillars of economic growth, social development and environmental protection.
Nearly ten years ago in Johannesburg, the United Nations convened, for the first time on the African continent, a World Summit on Sustainable Development.
In the Johannesburg Declaration, world leaders solemnly committed themselves to building a humane, equitable and caring global society.
They declared, I quote, “from this continent, the cradle of humanity, our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life and to our children.”
These are solemn, inspiring words – words of vision, promise and collective responsibility.
Nearly ten years on, we remain far from that goal, despite progress in some areas.
Africa remains off track in achieving sustainable development, confronted with multiple crises, some originating from outside the continent.
Africa contributed little to CO2 emissions but is vulnerable to climate change.
Africa did not cause the financial crisis but has suffered from the collapsing trade and trade finance in the immediate aftermath of the crisis.
Excellencies, dear Friends,
To renew the political commitments for sustainable development, assess gaps in implementation and identify new and emerging challenges, the General Assembly decided to convene a summit-level conference on sustainable development in 2012, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, also known as Rio+20.
The Conference will focus on two themes – a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development.
Will this Conference bring about a sustainable Africa?
The answer depends on the collective action of the international community and on everyone gathered here in this hall.
As Conference Secretary-General, I believe Rio+20 offers an opportunity for Africa. Africa should seize it.
For too long, the international community has dwelled on the problems confronting Africa – hunger, poverty, conflicts, diseases, drought and desertification, etc.
In the meantime, aid commitments, including those made to Africa at Gleneagles, have not been met.
But Africa is taking development into its own hands. Today, we are gathered here to discuss how to govern development in Africa.
In this discussion, let us not lose sight of Africa’s potentials.
With over 40 per cent of its population below 15 years of age, Africa is the continent with the largest youthful population.
Let us provide Africa’s youth with education and training – turning them into the most valuable asset of Africa.
Africa is a land endowed with natural resources, rich with deposits in oil, gas, and minerals.
Let us build on this wealth and diversify Africa’s economy.
Africa has developed less than ten percent of its hydro potential, and even a smaller proportion of its potential for wind and solar energy.
Let us provide every African village with energy to power its schools, clinics and local economies.
A green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication – a thematic focus of Rio+20 – can help reenergize Africa’s growth.
As senior policy-makers, you can help advance Africa’s green economy - in Africa’s context. Your views and decisions on this will be instrumental.
We look forward to hearing from you.
There are concerns over green protectionism and aid conditionality, and over shortfalls in finance and technology.
The international community must address these concerns head-on. Only then can the green economy become an entry point for re-launching Africa’s growth on an environmentally friendly and socially inclusive pathway.
Rio+20 will also focus on governance. Its decisions on strengthening institutions for sustainable development at the national, regional and global levels can benefit from today’s discussion.
Rio+20 is also for Africa. We need the strong voice and the clear vision of Africa in this process.
I appeal to all of you here to help provide this voice and vision.
Let us know your expectations for Rio+20; let us know how Rio+20 can help Africa achieve its sustainable development goals.
We need Africa’s contributions.
Rio+20 is at once a promise and the start of a new chapter.
Let us come together to realize that promise. Let it be history’s new chapter of peace, prosperity, and sustainability for Africa.