21 May 2010

Africa Must Persist in Commitment to Good Governance, Rule of Law, Emphasizes Deputy Secretary-General, Addressing Conference on Continent’s Integration

21 May 2010
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Africa Must Persist in Commitment to Good Governance, Rule of Law, Emphasizes

Deputy Secretary-General, Addressing Conference on Continent’s Integration

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the Conference:  “Continental Integration of Africa as a Prerequisite for Political, Social and Economic Development”, in Bologna, Italy, today, 21 May:

It is a great privilege and honour for me to participate in this important event.  At the outset, I wish to extend to all of you the warm greetings of Secretary-General Ban and his support for this Conference.

I thank Mr. [Romano] Prodi for the commitment and leadership he has consistently shown in placing the spotlight on Africa and in deepening the ties between Italy, Europe and the continent.

In particular, I applaud you, Mr. Prodi, for the outstanding contribution you have made through the commission you chaired and the excellent report it produced on how the international community and the United Nations can better support African peacekeeping.

Africa remains front and centre in the work of the United Nations.

The Secretary-General has always emphasized that meeting the special needs of Africa is among his top priorities.

As you all know, the majority of our peacekeeping operations are in Africa; the biggest portion of our development work is done there; and our efforts to promote human rights for the people of Africa also occupy a large share of our attention.

The United Nations General Assembly has recognized the special needs of Africa on many occasions, and accorded the region priority attention in the mandates and activities of the United Nations system.  The Millennium Declaration, the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document and the final documents of many other landmark global gatherings all stress the continent’s needs and aspirations.

In our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), it is widely recognized that of all other regions, Africa, and particularly sub-Saharan Africa, still faces many challenges in attaining the Goals by the agreed target year of 2015.  To galvanize the multilateral system and boost Africa’s own efforts, the MDG Africa Task Force established by the Secretary-General has put forward a full slate of recommendations.  This September in New York, the Secretary-General will convene an MDG Summit aimed at accelerating progress and giving the goals an all-important political push.

While this is what is taking place at the global level, it is also clearly understood that Africa’s future is first and foremost for Africans themselves to determine.

This is why we have welcomed the Constitutive Act of the African Union and its clear commitment to the upholding of basic human rights, the empowerment of women, and the promotion of democracy and the rule of law.

This is why we have welcomed the new and emerging African architecture of institutions such as the AU Peace and Security Council, the Panel of the Wise, the Early Warning System, the Pan-African Parliament and the African Standby Force, as well as AU peacekeeping efforts in Somalia and the UN-AU joint hybrid operation in Darfur.

This is also why we have welcomed NEPAD — Africa’s own blueprint for economic and social progress — and innovations such as the African Peer Review Mechanism, a home-grown African effort to consolidate good governance and the rule of law at national and continental levels.

The United Nations continues to be Africa’s close and strong partner in capacity-building, institutional renewal and many other areas, through country programmes and close collaboration with the donor community and African countries themselves.

Many African countries have undertaken bold and courageous efforts to build a better future for their people, in particular through wide-ranging policy and structural reforms.

As a result of these efforts, for the first time African countries achieved economic growth of 5 per cent per year over a number of years – until, that is, the recent global economic and financial crisis.  The United Nations has been doing its utmost to help Africa respond to the crisis – to protect its people and to preserve the hard-won gains that had been registered before it hit.

Regional integration has long been at the centre of Africa’s agenda, from the era of the Organization of African Unity right through to today’s African Union and its NEPAD initiative.

African countries themselves have been the first to acknowledge that in an era of globalization, an era of large economies such as those of the United States, European Union and People’s Republic of China, their individual efforts will accomplish only limited results unless African countries come together to achieve regional integration and exploit economies of scale.

In recent years, African countries have recognized the many complexities and challenges involved in bringing together more than 50 separate, independent nation-States.  With that in mind, they have emphasized an approach predicated on building blocks — starting at the subregional and moving into regional levels, and then systematically and gradually moving towards a global, continental structure.

Each of the regional economic commissions is building institutions and strengthening collaboration.  Strategic infrastructure projects are linking the different regions by road, rail and air.  Customs and other barriers to intra-African trade are being removed, and many projects are being implemented across national boundaries.  Eventually, it is anticipated that the respective regional economic communities will merge into an African economic community.  This is Africa’s own vision and we welcome and support it.

Naturally, many obstacles and constraints lie ahead.  But African leaders are well aware that the ultimate goal of regional integration offers the best opportunity for Africa and its people to fulfil their potential, harness the continent’s vast human and natural wealth, and become a full partner in the global community.

To this end, Africans will have to persist in their ascendant drive towards greater commitment to good governance and the rule of law, respect for human rights and the deliberate choice to empower their own people.  In this regard, their collective pursuit and strengthening of democratization and opposition to unconstitutional changes of Government is a good step in the right direction and merits our fullest support.

This Conference is very timely.  It takes place in the fiftieth anniversary year of the independence of a large number of countries in Africa — and at a time when Africa both needs our assistance but is also poised to surprise us with its own accomplishments.  The United Nations strongly supports your effort to address this important subject, and we wish you every success in your deliberations.

* *** *

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