Deputy Secretary-General Welcomes Focus of Danish Africa Commission on Unleashing Potential for Growth of Africa’s Youth, Shoring up Private Sector Support

15 May 2009

Deputy Secretary-General Welcomes Focus of Danish Africa Commission on Unleashing Potential for Growth of Africa’s Youth, Shoring up Private Sector Support

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




Following are the remarks of Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro at the first working session of the third meeting of the Danish Africa Commission in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 6 May:

It is a great pleasure to meet with you again.  I would like to amplify the kind words of thanks that have already been offered by my fellow Commissioners.  It has been a privilege to serve on this Commission.

Mr. Prime Minister, I would like to congratulate you on your recent appointment.  And I would like to recognize the vision of you and your predecessor in creating this commission.  It is indeed significant that the work of this Commission has enjoyed the leadership commitment of not only one, but two Rasmussens.

As others have noted, the world is beset by a number of crises:  a deep recession, food shortages, volatile energy prices and climate change.  The work of this Commission could not be timelier.

Our report underscores the critical role that partnerships will play in implementing our proposed initiatives.  Our Commission is itself a partnership of diverse individuals and institutions.  This global partnership will be decisive in creating the conditions needed for Africa to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

At the outset, I would like to welcome the Commission’s emphasis on unleashing the potential for growth in Africa’s greatest asset -— its youth.  I would also like to commend the Commission for its focus on initiatives to support the private sector.  The private sector is the engine of development.  No country has developed on public investment alone.

I want to underscore the strong complementarities between the Commission’s initiatives and the Millennium Development Goals.  Our report provides vital support to the global development agenda embodied by the Goals.

Most notably, I believe our work usefully buttresses the recommendations of the Secretary-General’s Millennium Development Goal Africa Steering Group.  Our focus on private-sector-led growth and employment also has a number of synergies with the United Nations work with the private sector through the Global Compact and our Office for Partnerships.

I would like to identify some of the important links I see between our report and the Millennium Development Goals.  In our communications around the Commission’s report, I hope that we can emphasize these links and the effective role our initiatives can play in supporting the Goals.

First, I would like to highlight the clear connection between our call for a greater focus on private growth and employment and the Millennium Development Goals.  It is true that no single Goal is focused on growth.  But Millennium Development Goal 1 -— which is devoted to the eradication of extreme hunger and poverty -— can only be achieved through faster economic growth and enhanced competitiveness.  More generally, all of the Millennium Development Goals are focused on interventions that have the power to create an enabling environment for economic growth, human development, and enhanced competitiveness.

Second, I would like to emphasize that we should not allow our call for greater focus on private-sector-led growth to be interpreted as a concurrent call for less public development.  Private growth and public development are not just mutually supportive.  They are completely intertwined, particularly in support of youth.  Public health systems reduce private-sector costs and make labour more mobile.  Public infrastructure and public education make business possible.  We cannot have one without the other.

Third, I believe we must emphasize in our public statements that aid is a necessary part of our recommendations and initiatives.  Public resources will be needed to implement our initiatives for private-sector development.

At present, private capital flows to many developing countries are collapsing:  foreign direct investment has slumped; access to capital markets has been cut off; remittances have shrunk; and tourism is reduced.  For many countries, development aid is one of the only financing options left.  Aid is not yet dead.  It is still a necessary pillar in building a sustainable future for Africa.

We have a particular responsibility to encourage donor countries to fulfil their aid commitments in support of both private- and public-sector development.  Our Danish hosts provide a sterling example that these commitments are feasible, and Mr. Prime Minister, you have already shared with us Denmark’s ambitious plans in this area.

Fourth, I fully support our report’s call for greater attention to governance concerns.  The African Peer Review Mechanism has made substantial advances on these issues.  We can usefully encourage additional countries to participate in this process.

Fifth, I believe we must do everything possible to highlight that development —- be it private- or public-led -— can only happen if women and men enjoy equal rights.   Denmark has been a great leader on gender issues.  I am pleased to see this reflected in our work.

Sixth, I would like to endorse strongly our call for international support for Africa’s own development strategies.  Indeed, for development to be truly sustainable, it must be owned and led by Africa’s people.

Finally, I am grateful for our Commission’s interest in ensuring our themes are covered in the September 2010 Millennium Development Goals review conference.

If I may, I would like to encourage us to report on our progress in implementing the Commission’s initiatives by mid-2010.  An earlier report will make it easier to ensure that our calls for a greater focus on growth and employment are heard during next year’s September MDG Summit.

Thank you again for our good work together.  But as I look forward, I have to say that only a small part of our work is done.  Implementing our recommendations will be a daunting task.  I have no doubt that the United Nations system will be an effective partner in meeting this challenge.

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