30 June 2008


30 June 2008
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Following is the text of Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the Eleventh Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union, today, in Sharm el-Sheikh:

It is an honour for me to be here today at this august gathering.  At the outset, allow me to extend to you warm and personal greetings from Secretary-General Ban, who also asked me to convey his most sincere wishes for a successful summit.

Let me thank the Government, and through it the people of Egypt, for their warmth and generous hospitality.  I would also like to pay tribute to the Chairperson of the African Union, President Jakaya Kikwete, for his outstanding leadership.  Finally, I wish the Chairperson of the Commission, Jean Ping, a successful tenure.

As you know, the Secretary-General has put Africa’s well-being at the heart of his agenda.  We are advancing in partnership with the African Union, based on our shared conviction that this continent is poised to overcome its challenges and realize its tremendous potential.

You have already demonstrated this conviction through your commendable efforts for peace, security, human rights and development on this continent.  The African Union and the United Nations are natural partners in building on these accomplishments.  We should strengthen our ties now more than ever.

I welcome this Summit’s focus on the Millennium Development Goals -- including the targets on water and sanitation.  2008 is the midpoint on our path to achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  With only seven and a half years to go, we must do everything possible to accelerate progress on the Goals.

As a mark of this urgency, United Nations Secretary-General Ban convened the MDG Africa Steering Group to support enhanced action by Africa and the international community.  The African Union has provided enormous support to the Steering Group with its endorsement in January at the Summit in Addis Ababa.  The African Union Commission has also contributed substantial leadership to the Steering Group’s work.

The Steering Group has produced a set of practical recommendations that can ensure Africa reaches the Millennium Development Goals.  These recommendations are in the annex of the 2008 Africa MDG Progress Report before you.  I applaud the African Union Commission and the Economic Commission for Africa for this very insightful and in-depth report.

Your Excellencies’ endorsement of this report, and the Steering Group’s recommendations, will give additional leverage to the Millennium Development Goals agenda.  It will also send a strong message to the G-8, ahead of its Summit next week:  the world’s most industrialized countries must live up to their global responsibilities, their past commitments, and their obligations to future generations -- knowing that the African Union will do the same.  With President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, the Secretary-General is determined to ensure that your message is heard.

This summit is proof of your leadership in promoting regional coordination and integration in Africa.  Such action is vital to accelerating progress on a wide range of fronts.  The challenges we face demand a collective and integrated response -- we cannot afford to let the ties that bind us together fray any more.

Regional integration is crucial, and so is partnership with the United Nations.  To truly tackle global threats, we need the involvement of all countries and all actors:  developing and developed countries, businesses and non-governmental organizations.

We must act together and act quickly.  As we speak, the food crisis -- compounded by the hike in fuel prices and climate change -- threatens to push an estimated 100 million people deeper into poverty and will have direct bearing on our efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

The road ahead is difficult, but the MDG Progress Report and the Steering Group’s recommendations provide a map.  We know what works.  Many of you here in this room have made tremendous strides towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  Well-designed and properly financed programmes have helped reduce child mortality in Malawi, improve water and sanitation in Senegal, and expand primary education in Ghana and the United Republic of Tanzania -- to name just a few success stories.

There are numerous other examples that prove that the ambitious Millennium Development Goals can be achieved.  The careful plans crafted by African Governments need to be backed by adequate and predictable donor financing.

Three years ago, at Gleneagles, G-8 countries committed to increase their annual official development assistance (ODA) to Africa by $25 billion per year, in 2004 dollars.  At 2007 prices and exchange rates, this would translate into an average of a little over $100 per capita in annual development aid.  The Steering Group recognizes, however, that donors are not yet on track to meet this commitment.

The MDG Africa Steering Group finds that donor financing and other constraints have made it difficult for African countries to reach the Goals.  In response, the Steering Group’s recommendations can help mobilize the resources needed to turn sound policies into life-saving programmes.

The Secretary-General is determined to catalyse coordinated and resolute action on programmes and donor financing in Hokkaido.  To build momentum, the United Nations is also convening high-level events dedicated to Africa’s development and to the Millennium Development Goals on the 22nd and 25th of September, respectively.  The Secretary-General looks forward to your active and personal participation in these important events to ensure that 2008 is not just a midpoint, but truly a turning point in our progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

Support for Africa’s development is not just a moral imperative -- it is also critical to global security.

The principle behind the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission -- which has four countries, all in Africa, on its agenda as of now -- is that we cannot separate security from development.

We’ve seen progress in a number of post-conflict African States.   Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea-Bissau have all embarked on longer-term efforts to consolidate peace.  Their efforts deserve greater support from the international community.

Somalia, a country that has some of the worst indicators on earth, has taken a step towards improving stability.  I welcome the recent Djibouti Agreement, and call on all parties to abide by their commitments.

This accord provides for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia.  As that happens, the international community must assume its responsibility to prevent a security vacuum in Somalia.  African Union member States must augment the valiant Burundian and Ugandan troops already on the ground, and support the creation of an international stabilization force.  We have a joint responsibility to ensure that after so many years of conflict and strife, the people of Somalia can finally live in peace and stability.

We must also stand by the people of Zimbabwe, who are facing an extremely grave crisis.  This is the single greatest challenge to regional stability in Southern Africa, not only because of its terrible humanitarian and security consequences, but also because of the dangerous political precedent it sets.

The climate, in which the 27 June run-off election occurred, was not conducive to credible, free and fair elections because of the violence and intimidation that prevailed.  Regrettably, the run-off went ahead, despite the concerns raised and calls made by the international community, including by the Security Council, to suspend the vote.  This is a moment of truth for regional leaders.  Many have raised their voices regarding this issue.  The Secretary-General also urges you to mobilize support for a negotiated solution.  Only dialogue between Zimbabwean parties, supported by the African Union and other regional actors, can restore peace and stability to the country.

Our work in helping Kenya to resolve its political crisis, shows that when political leaders are willing, the African Union and the United Nations can form a powerful coalition to live up to our founding ideals.

The joint United Nations-African Union 10-year programme to enhance the African Union’s capacities has already shown results.  Two years in, our efforts have focused on security issues through support for the African Union’s peacekeeping activities and the establishment of an early warning system, the establishment of a crisis centre and the African standby brigade.

By jointly tackling security and development concerns, we can improve conditions for countless African people who are, in the end, our greatest asset in achieving all of our aims.

The entire United Nations System is firmly committed to supporting the African Union’s efforts to build peace and prosperity on the continent.  We will spare no effort in our work with you to ensure a better future for Africa’s population.

Only by staying focused on Africa’s needs, Africa’s concerns and Africa’s aspirations can we ensure that its people realize their limitless potential.

Excellencies, I offer you my sincere good wishes for a successful summit.

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