12 March 2009


12 March 2009
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s keynote speech -- “Navigating the Shifting Sands of Globalization” -- at a conference convened jointly by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, in Dar es Salaam on 11 March:

It is a great privilege to join the IMF, high-level representatives from across Africa and the world, and my fellow Tanzanians to kick off the second day of this important conference.

The IMF is a vital member of the United Nations family.  By pooling reserves and sharing risk, the Fund helps our Member States navigate the shifting tides of globalization.  The Fund’s support for Africa’s economic development is critically important.

Africa has achieved a decade of admirable growth, but its macroeconomic accomplishments remain poorly known.  Several countries have seen years of low inflation, strong fiscal balances, growing reserves and large increases in foreign direct investment.  Still, old myths about Africa’s economies persist.

We commonly hear that African Governments should do more to mobilize domestic resources.  In fact, Government revenue increased by about 7 percentage points of gross domestic product (GDP) over the past 10 years -- faster than industrialized countries at similar stages of development.  Africa has benefited from the demand for commodities, debt relief and investors’ search for yield.  But prudent policy decisions have played an equally important role in Africa’s strong performance.

Governance indicators have improved steadily.  The number of democracies in Africa has almost tripled.  More than half of the remaining countries on the continent are in democratic transitions.  There have also been major improvements in policies and institutions.  For the past seven years, Africa’s scores under the World Bank’s Country Policy and Institutional Assessment have been rising.  And 3 of the top 10 reformers in the International Finance Corporation’s “Doing Business” index are African countries.

Of course, more could -- and should -- be done.  But these remarkable indicators send a clear message: Africa’s economies have changed for the better.  Yet, these positive developments are now imperilled by the global economic crisis.  Today’s conference, coming just three weeks ahead of the G-20 Summit in London, must rally support to protect Africa’s achievements.

An old proverb holds that “good luck comes in slender currents and misfortune comes in rolling tides”.  Globalization can make these tides roll faster than ever before.  We can draw some encouragement from Africa’s recent track record.  Africa’s resolve has been tested by previous crises, just as it is being tested now.  And Africa has persevered.

But we must also acknowledge the gravity of the current challenges facing Africa.  Climate change is worsening drought and floods.  Food prices remain high and volatile.  The recent drop in energy prices has cut investment in new supplies.  Prices are likely to spike again once global demand recovers.  None of these individual challenges is unprecedented.  But together, they are a uniquely daunting mix.  Already, they have created instability in roughly a quarter of the world’s countries.

Africa’s isolation from international capital markets does not protect it from global economic turmoil.  To the contrary, it limits Africa’s options for financing the Millennium Development Goals.  As tourism, remittances and foreign investment dry up, many African countries are left with few means to earn foreign exchange.  Even trade credits have become difficult to obtain.  This is a serious problem.  Several African countries depend on one or two commodities for more than half their foreign exchange.

All of us dream of a day when Africa no longer needs development assistance.  That day is not yet here.  Private external finance is frozen.  And there is little room to raise more domestic revenue.  Unless there is a genuine effort to deliver on commitments to increase official development assistance (ODA), the Millennium Development Goals will remain elusive.  Further instability and immense human suffering could result.

There are no alternatives.  Aid commitments must be met.  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development-Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC) estimates that the Gleneagles commitment to double annual ODA to Africa by 2010 is worth about $62 billion in nominal terms.  This sounds like a large sum, but it appears more attainable when we consider the trillions of dollars that have been committed to stimulus packages in industrialized countries.

Development does not happen overnight.  The rising tide of globalization does not spontaneously lift all boats.  And macroeconomic stability is a necessary but not sufficient condition for poverty reduction.  Experience provides a clear guide.  If we want to achieve economic and social development, we need a supportive policy environment and concerted action.

No country in Africa is on track to reach all of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  Although there have been notable successes on some Goals, on others progress lags.  Undoubtedly, the responsibility to achieve the Millennium Development Goals rests with African Governments.  But most African countries have done their part.  They have put their macroeconomic houses in order.  They have designed not one but two generations of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers.  The world needs to match these efforts with increased aid and better technical assistance.

In 2007, the Secretary-General brought together eight leading multilateral organizations -- including the IMF -- to intensify their support for the Millennium Development Goals in Africa.  The MDG Africa Steering Group’s recommendations were endorsed by the African Union and launched at last year’s summit in Sharm el‑Sheikh.  We need to carry out this plan.

We know it can be done.  The Steering Group’s work with several of your countries on “Gleneagles scenarios” shows that scaled-up ODA can be absorbed and spent without threatening Africa’s hard-won macroeconomic stability.  Yet, tried-and-true projects and programmes lack financing.  Africa’s development partners need to deliver with scaled-up aid.  The credibility of international commitments depends on it.

Secretary-General Ban [Ki-moon] will carry this message to the G-20 leaders’ summit in April in London.  Just as he did at the G-20 summit in Washington, the Secretary-General will seek to bridge the concerns of the G-20 and those of the global community.  He will advocate for increased ODA.  Measures to support Africa could include an increase in concessional resources at the IMF.  He will call on leaders to resist protectionism.  And he will urge industrialized nations to coordinate their stimulus packages and to dedicate a portion of them to development assistance.

The Secretary-General will also argue that the crisis provides a real opportunity to put in place a “green new deal”.  That means taking well-proven measures to “climate-proof” the Millennium Development Goals.  And it means securing an agreement on climate change later this year at Copenhagen.

The United Nations and its partners have made steadfast efforts to strengthen international support for Africa’s development.  We brought the world together in 2000 to agree on the Millennium Development Goals; in Monterrey and more recently in Doha, we secured commitments to finance the Goals; at the World Summit in 2005, we outlined practical plans to reach the Millennium Development Goals; at Paris and more recently at Accra, we agreed on ways to make development finance more effective; and last September in New York, we mobilized $17 billion in commitments.

We need to build on these efforts.  What we don’t need are more promises.  According to the MDG Africa Steering Group, existing commitments are enough to secure the Millennium Development Goals in Africa.  But these commitments must, ladies and gentlemen, be fulfilled.  The Steering Group’s recommendations lay out how this could be done.

The Secretary-General, for his part, is working on many fronts.  His High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Crisis is acting to provide help to smallholder farmers in time for the upcoming planting season.  I urge donors to support the Task Force’s work.  And I encourage you, ministers, to seek its assistance.  Recent harvests in Malawi and at Millennium Villages across the continent demonstrate that, with adequate resources, African farmers can produce remarkable results.

We also need to ensure that Africa’s own initiatives reach their potential.  The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) should be given additional support.  Every country should participate in the Africa Peer Review Mechanism.  NEPAD’s short-term action plan for infrastructure and the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa need to be strengthened.  And we should make greater use of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme to boost agricultural productivity.

The United Nations system is working to enhance Africa’s capacity to benefit from these initiatives.  We support efforts to design Millennium Development Goal-based development strategies, improve resource use and carry out projects more effectively.  We want to ensure that macro-level spending is complemented by micro-level efficiencies.

African countries have committed themselves to globalization.  The international community has a responsibility to help them reap its rewards and transform these gains into real reductions in poverty.  In these uncertain times, ladies and gentlemen, we must also guard against pressures to retreat back into protectionism.

The current crisis presents daunting threats to the poor and vulnerable.  It also offers us a singular chance to implement policies and programmes that alleviate poverty and enhance economic growth in equal measure.

President [Julius] Nyerere often emphasized the importance of working together.  Our common interests are greater than those of any one country, any region, or any continent.

Together we can transform the global economy into a global community whose tides can be safely navigated by African countries.  There are no magic solutions, but Africa’s recent economic performance gives us grounds for optimism.

The IMF and Tanzania have done us a great service by convening this conference.  By bringing us together, they remind us that during a time of crisis we should raise our ambitions, not shrink our horizons.  Excellencies, I urge you to keep your sights set high.

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