Secretary-General, Addressing Cameroon National Assembly, Calls for Political Will Needed to Help Africa Meet Millennium Development Goals

10 June 2010

Secretary-General, Addressing Cameroon National Assembly, Calls for Political Will Needed to Help Africa Meet Millennium Development Goals

10 June 2010
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, Addressing Cameroon National Assembly, Calls for Political

Will Needed to Help Africa Meet Millennium Development Goals

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki moon’s remarks to the National Assembly of Cameroon, in Yaoundé today, 10 June:

Thank you for your warm welcome and for the productive meetings we have had on a wide range of topics.  Wherever I go in the world, I also try to visit lawmakers.  I seek out the parliaments of the world.  Parliaments make the laws.  They express the diversity of any nation.

Before I begin my speech, allow me, Mr. President of the National Assembly, to tell you how saddened I am by the disappearance this very day of His Excellency Ferdinand Leopold Oyono, former minister, renowned author, and former Permanent Representative of Cameroon to the United Nations in New York.  I convey to his family, and to the Government and people of Cameroon, my most sincere condolences.

That diversity is especially evident here in Cameroon — “ Africa in miniature” — thanks to your rich ethnic, linguistic, geographical and religious diversity.  It is through parliaments that the people’s voices are heard.  And those voices, together, become the voice of any robust democracy.

It is a privilege to be here at this moment.  This year, you celebrate 50 years of independence.  Fifty years of Africa’s growing presence on the international stage.  We have seen it in the field of politics, peace and security.  And, this month, we will see it on another field of play.  The World Cup will showcase Africa.

Bafana Bafana, the host country team of South Africa.  Les Fennecs from Algeria.  Côte d’Ivoire’s Elephants and the Black Stars of Ghana.  Nigeria’s Super Eagles.  And, of course, the Indomitable Lions.

Allow me to congratulate four of the Lions for their good services.  Each of them is a Goodwill Ambassador for the Millennium development Goals:  the captain Samuel Eto’o, Junior; Alexandre Song; Rigobert Song; and Idriss Carlos Kameni.  They are ambassadors of whom Cameroon can be proud.

Tomorrow I fly to Johannesburg for the opening game.  I do not claim to be a sports expert.  But I can let you in on a secret.  I already know the winner of the World Cup.  The real victor will be Africa.  I am so excited to be on the continent.  To experience the pride.  To feel the energy.  To tap into the hope.  To look forward together.

Today, I would like to focus on the opportunities and obligations I see ahead; both the promises to Africa, and the promise of Africa.

The United Nations relationship with Cameroon is as old as the Organization itself.  Cameroon joined the United Nations 50 years ago, but our bonds stretch back to 1946 and the United Nations Trusteeship Council.  Through the years, our partnership has grown.  Today, Cameroon is a generous contributor to United Nations peace operations.  More than 130 of Cameroon’s finest are serving as police officers from Burundi to Côte d’Ivoire, from Sudan to Haiti.

Cameroon is host to 100,000 refugees, many from the Central African Republic.  And together with Nigeria, Cameroon has provided the world with a model for the peaceful resolution of disputes.  Both countries have committed to the 2002 ruling of the International Court of Justice, as well as the 2006 Greentree Agreement, on the settlement of their border dispute.

Your leadership has shown that, with the support of the United Nations, peace and common understanding can prevail.  Your significant investment in the Bakassi peninsula is testament to your determination.  The United Nations stands ready to offer its full support as you consolidate peace and strengthen cooperation in the region.

Cameroon is also helping to show the world that the Millennium Development Goals are within reach.  You have made significant progress in reducing extreme poverty.  You are working to make sure every child is in primary school.  Some may call progress like this a miracle.  But there is nothing miraculous about it.

It is the result of one simple truth:  That is, where we try, we succeed.  When we don’t try, we fail.  I saw the same today in Mbalmayo.  I met women being empowered to help themselves and others; a community radio station that is helping to lift a whole community; and a water project that is providing a sound foundation for health.

What I saw today showed what can be achieved when partners take comprehensive and coherent action; when partners stand together against poverty, hunger and disease.  I will take these lessons to the G-20 summit in Canada in July and the Millennium Development Goals Summit in September in New York.

The message is simple.  Africa can achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  Africa has boundless potential, amazing human and material wealth, 1 billion people, more than half of whom are under the age of 30.  As I see it, delivering for the people of Africa is a matter of commitment.  Africa’s people need neither pity nor charity.  They need only the tools to create jobs and generate incomes.

Developed countries should make good on promises to double aid to Africa, promises made repeatedly at summit meetings of the G-8 and G-20 and at the United Nations.  There must also be more room for free trade.  Africa’s products should not be priced out of markets by heavy import taxes.

Africa’s farmers should not have to run up against unfair agricultural subsidies.  Africa’s Governments must be empowered to scale up investments in agriculture, water, education, health and infrastructure.  At September’s Millennium Development Goals Summit, I will call on Governments to develop a results-oriented action plan, with concrete steps and timelines.

As the Cameroonian proverb teaches us: “A chattering bird builds no nest.”  We need less talk, more action.  That is why we will showcase success stories, scale them up, create partnerships that will allow us to do even more.  Africa needs true partnership, partnerships where donors listen to recipients and tailor their assistance to Africa’s needs.

Maternal health is the Millennium Development Goal where we have lagged furthest behind.  Yet if we can succeed here, we will touch off a virtuous “ripple effect” through all the Goals.  We need to combine the efforts of donors and recipients with private sector and civil society initiatives.  This week, I announced a plan in Washington, D.C., that does just that.

Before I came here, I attended a big international conference titled “Women Deliver”.  There, with a United Nations initiative, we adopted a Joint Action Plan to help women and girls from dying needlessly of diseases, from complications of pregnancies, and from preventable diseases.

One woman dies every minute.  Two children die every minute.  That is just unacceptable.  That is social injustice, political and moral injustice.  We must prevent it.  I have asked for $15 million by next year and $45 million additional by 2015 to help the capacity-building to prevent this maternal mortality and child mortality.

We know that climate change is a threat to development, a threat to stability and a particular threat to Africa.  Cameroon and other members of the Lake Chad Basin Commission have voiced valid and legitimate concerns over the dramatic decrease in water levels of this vital source.

Africa needs help in reducing its vulnerability.  Last year’s Copenhagen Climate Conference marked a significant step forward in a number of areas: a goal of limiting global temperature rise to within 2° C by 2050; mitigation actions by all countries; progress on addressing deforestation and forest degradation; funding for developing countries for adaptation and mitigation.

My High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing is working to mobilize new and innovative public and private funding to reach our annual $100 billion target by 2020.  This funding will support mitigation and adaptation strategies in developing countries.  It will help countries like Cameroon to reach the Millennium Development Goals.

I have spoken about the developed world’s responsibilities in keeping the Millennium promise.  But Africa, too, has a promise to keep.  Sustainable development can only be built on the firm bedrock of peace and good governance.

Over recent years, Africa has moved steadily from a principle of “non-interference” in one another’s affairs towards a new and more modern principle of “non-indifference”.  We must keep and build on this momentum.

The organization of peaceful, credible and transparent elections is critical.  We cannot allow the will of the people to be thwarted by electoral fraud.  We cannot accept unconstitutional changes of Government.  We cannot permit endless manipulations of the law to preserve the privileges of those in power.  We cannot turn a blind eye to corruption, nepotism and tyranny.

Nor can we stay quiet when people are denied fundamental rights.  Without durable peace there will be no sustained development.  Without sustained development, Africa will not attain the Millennium Development Goals.  And without achieving the Millennium Development Goals, Africa will not find the promise and prosperity that its people so richly deserve.

The United Nations is your partner — as mediator, peacekeeper and peacebuilder.  Only by living together as good neighbours — as individuals, as communities and as nations — can we fulfil the promise of the United Nations Charter.  In this pursuit, I assure you, the United Nations will always be your ally.

For peace and security, for development and human rights, the United Nations will be with you every step of the way.

Thank you for this honour.  And thank you for your commitment to the important work ahead.

* *** *


*     Reissued to reflect remarks as delivered.

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