18 December 2007


18 December 2007
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Following is the text of a briefing by UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro to the African Group of Permanent Representatives on the Secretary General’s MDG (Millennium Development Goals) Africa Initiative, in New York, today:

I wish at the outset to thank you, Mr. Chairperson, for your kind introduction and for the opportunity to brief the Africa Group of Permanent Representatives on the Secretary-General’s MDG Africa Initiative.  It is a great privilege to be here with you.

Before addressing the topic of our meeting today, allow me to extend to the African Group of States, the Secretary-General’s warmest greetings and my personal gratitude for your Group’s strong support to the work of the Organization. 

As you well know, there are ample reasons for optimism about the prospects for further growth and poverty reduction in Africa.

Over the past five years, sub-Saharan African countries have posted some of their most impressive macroeconomic results of the past 40 years.  In fact, 17 countries in sub-Saharan Africa sustained positive and high real growth rates over the last five to ten years.  Inflation is lower than it has been in decades across sub-Saharan Africa, productivity is improving and the cost of doing business is falling.

The recent improvement in growth and economic stability across the continent has created real successes in our efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals.  These include the expansion of HIV/AIDS treatment, increased agricultural productivity, better access to water and sanitation, and expanded Quick Impact Initiatives, such as malaria control and an end to user fees for primary education.  All of these do demonstrate that the Millennium Development Goals can be achieved in Africa.

However, despite these strong economic fundamentals, progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals in sub-Saharan Africa remains too slow at the mid-point to 2015.  There is, therefore, an urgent need to scale up efforts as part of the MDG-based national development strategies on which many of your countries have been working.

The MDG Africa Initiative is designed to help mobilize international support for African States’ own efforts.  We want to ensure that, when we reach 2015, we can say that the United Nations system has done everything possible to motivate the international community to follow through on its commitments to support the Millennium Development Goals in Africa.

The MDG Africa Initiative starts from a basic observation that, despite commitments in 2005 at Gleneagles to increase annual official development assistance to Africa to $50 billion, assistance to Africa has not been scaled up, nor has it become more predictable.  The follow-up on commitments made to support the Millennium Development Goals in Africa remains fragmented and does not draw on the full expertise of the United Nations system and its partners.

To remedy this, the Secretary-General established the MDG Africa Steering Group and associated Working Group this past September.  They represent an intensive effort to mobilize the full resources of the United Nations system and its partners to achieve the Goals in Africa.

The Steering Group brings together the apex of the international system working to further development in Africa.  Namely, it consists of the principals of:  the African Union Commission; the African Development Bank; the European Community; the International Monetary Fund; the Islamic Development Bank; the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); the World Bank; and the United Nations Development Group.

The Steering Group is tasked with identifying strategic ways in which the international community can make existing support mechanisms for country-led programmes work better.  It is also charged with proposing new mechanisms where they do not exist.  In this effort, the Steering Group is assisted by a working group made up of an even wide range of multilateral, United Nations, and international development institutions that work with Africa.

And both these groups focus on three key objectives:

  1. Identifying practical steps and mechanisms for more coordinated international MDG efforts in five areas:  health; education; agriculture and food security; infrastructure and trade facilitation; and national statistical systems.
  1. Concretizing aid commitments and improving aid predictability; and
  1. Supporting MDG operationalization at the country level.

This third objective will require close collaboration between your Governments and the members of the Steering Group.  In this regard, at its second meeting on 30 November, the Working Group considered modalities through which it would support your Governments’ efforts to identify priority projects and programmes, in Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers or elsewhere, that could be financed if official development assistance were increased to the levels promised at Gleneagles G8 Summit in 2005.

An analysis of these interventions will be conducted by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the United Nations Development Programme to ensure they are consistent with good public finance management and macroeconomic stability.  The aim is to show that scaling up aid to Africa can be done.  The plans are ready; the implications have been assessed.  All we lack is the promised financing.

Following consultations with the African Union Commission, World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme, initial work will start in ten countries -- Benin, CAR, Ghana, Liberia, Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia -- with a view to extending this work to other countries as soon as possible.  This move will in no way cause official development assistance to be diverted to these countries.  On the contrary, this innovative approach is an open-source concept available to any country with the support of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations Development Programme country teams.

We hope these efforts will provide an effective advocacy tool to scale up official development assistance to Africa.  With the Economic and Social Council’s Development Cooperation Forum in July, the High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra in September, and the end-of-year Financing for Development meetings in Doha, the Secretary-General’s MDG Africa Initiative is strategically timed.

But the MDG Africa Initiative will only succeed if it receives countries’ support and cooperation.  Its success also rests on the different Governments’ willingness to sustain their national leadership and ownership in pursuing the Millennium Development Goals.

The work has started and the Secretary-General will share some of his initial thoughts with African Heads of State and Government in the cause of time.  We would appreciate getting your comments and suggestions.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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