20 April 2016

Bold, Decisive Leadership Must Steer Drive to Reach New Development Goals, Deputy Secretary-General Tells High-Level Forum on Africa

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks to the High-Level Forum “The Africa We Want in 2030, 2063 and Beyond”, in New York today:

I thank the African Union and the Government of Sweden for organizing this timely High-Level Forum together with [the] UN Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, Maged Abdelaziz.  I thank you for offering me this opportunity to reflect on how we can better integrate the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with the first 10-Year Implementation Plan of Africa’s Agenda 2063. 

Last year, when the world adopted the historic 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as the Paris climate change agreement, Africa adopted its own transformative Agenda 2063 and 10-Year Implementation Plan.  These global and regional frameworks share a focus on people and their well-being on a healthier planet. They include pledges on justice and are rooted in respect of human rights.

Both agendas, through their aspirations and goals, aim at structural transformation and a more equitable sharing of income and wealth.  They both stress inclusive growth and sustainable development.  These high ambitions require bold and decisive action from everyone involved.  The people of the world are looking to their leaders on all levels to act and to be accountable for their actions.  The broad and comprehensive nature of these two agendas calls for setting priorities from the start.  I would like to focus attention on three points in particular.

First, women’s empowerment is a vital area for our joint work and one of the main themes of this meeting.  SDG [Sustainable Development Goal] 5 calls for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.  Goal 17 of Agenda 2063 requires full gender equality in every sphere of life.  Women are key drivers of development.  If women and girls are given their rightful place and their empowerment, everyone benefits.  It is a win-win proposition.  Conversely, preventing half a population from full participation in social and economic development is a shameful waste of human potential and a systemic obstacle to progress.

Second, both agendas stress the urgency of ending conflict, through SDG 16 and Agenda 2063’s aspiration for “a peaceful and secure Africa”.  People living in fragile and conflict-affected countries make up 15 per cent of the world’s population.  But, they also represent more than 30 per cent of people living in extreme poverty.  Countries affected by conflict were among the poorest performers of the Millennium Development Goals.  They also, every year, place in the lowest ranks of the Human Development Index.

Recognizing this, the SDGs and Agenda 2063 require Governments, regional organizations and the international community to focus on the root causes of conflict and fragility.  These causes range from poverty, inequality and exclusion to governance failures, the lack of decent work and the flow of weapons.  Here, I would like to commend the African Union for its commitment to silence the guns by 2020 [that] is ambitious, but critically important.

Third, sufficient resources, both in terms of capacity and financing, will play a decisive role in tackling the UN and African agendas.  Development aid will remain important, particularly for the least developed countries.  The global partnership agreed in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda is crucial.  We must also achieve better mobilization of domestic resources through more efficient and equitable tax regimes, supported by tougher international measures to fight tax evasion.  Stemming the illicit flow of billions of dollars’ worth of resources from the African continent is vital.  Last year’s joint United Nations-African Union report presents important steps that can be taken towards this goal.

Carrying out these agendas will require stronger policymaking capacities and effective cooperation and coordination and there is work to be done on data, indicators and monitoring mechanisms.  The entire UN system stands ready to support Governments with the tools and expertise at its disposal at this crucial stage of converting the SDGs into national planning and strategies.

These huge undertakings demand wise leadership and a spirit of commitment from all sides to improve the lives of billions of people in the world, not least on the African continent.  People are rightly at the centre of these agendas, in the spirit of “We the Peoples” of the UN Charter.

Let us together mobilize all good forces to support the people of Africa in realizing their hopes and aspirations for peace, development and human rights.  In this pursuit, the United Nations and the African continent are working as one.  I thank you, and I wish you a successful meeting.

For information media. Not an official record.