Thank you for your warm welcome to Kuwait. I am honoured to represent the United Nations at this third Africa-Arab Summit – and I commend the government and people of the State of Kuwait for their warm hospitality.
I am particularly pleased to be here on the 50th anniversary of Kuwait’s joining the United Nations. On that occasion fifty years ago, it was His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, then Foreign Minister of the State of Kuwait who raised the flag of his country at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
And I wish to thank His Highness and the Government for the key humanitarian role Kuwait continues to play, not least through its hosting of the Second Pledging Conference for Syria this coming January. I also wish to thank the Government and people of Kuwait for their generous contribution to the first pledging conference and, just yesterday, to the United Nations Haiyan Humanitarian Action Plan to assist the people of the Philippines.
I carry with me the good wishes and respectful greetings of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who warmly welcomes your coming together to strengthen bonds between Africa and the Arab world.
Your regions share cultures and traditions. You share history and proximity. You even share a continent.
You are natural partners – partners for peace … partners for prosperity, partners for progress … and as the theme of this year’s Summit puts it, partners in development and investment.
You are also crucial partners for the United Nations – representing more than one-third of all United Nations members.
As your ties grow stronger, so, too, can our global quest to resolve conflict, build peace, empower women and young people and advance sustainable development.
The time is right to join forces – as we mark the 50th anniversary of African unity and see sweeping change and transition in your regions and our wider world.
Like people everywhere, the citizens of Africa and the Arab world are thirsty for hope, for jobs, for women’s empowerment and political participation, and for effective and accountable institutions that listen to their voices and deliver.
As never before, the connection between peace, development and human rights is clear and indispensable to responding to people’s aspirations.
The Secretary-General reinforced this message of interdependence during his visit earlier this month to four countries of the Sahel region. He travelled with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, the President of the World Bank, the President of the African Development Bank, and the Development Commissioner of the European Commission – the first joint high level visit in the history of these institutions.
I saw this connection myself on a recent visit to Somalia – my first in 20 years. I saw hope and determination – new energy and a spirit of enterprise. I saw the beginning of a new Somalia that can take root if security, reconciliation and development proceed in parallel, and if the international community provides generous support to the Federal Government of Somalia.
Africa and the Arab region share a rich common source of opportunities. Resources are abundant. Education is expanding and deepening. Growth is on the rise. But, as we know, too many people are not sharing the benefits.
One vehicle for inclusive growth is capacity to trade, not least between countries in the South. Around the world, regional economic communities have helped reduce barriers and increase jobs and incomes. But, more needs to be done to maximize the South-South potential for trade.
The United Nations stands ready to support you in advancing these goals, not least through support for the Africa-Arab Joint Action Plan and the Aid for Trade Initiative for Arab States.
Trade and investment are also essential for our larger goal of achieving sustainable development and eradicating poverty.
We are now at a crossroads in the world. We have three huge tasks. We must accelerate progress on the Millennium Development Goals; establish a post-2015 development agenda; and finalize a new climate change agreement.
The deadline for all these objectives is the year 2015.
The nations of the world have made important headway in achieving the MDGs – and I salute your efforts. But progress has been uneven among and within countries – particularly on key challenges such as sanitation and maternal mortality. We must spare no effort to achieve the goals. And we must focus special attention on the particular circumstances of Least Developed Countries.
At the same time, the process of shaping the Post-2015 Development Agenda is well underway. We look to your guidance to ensure that this agenda is bold in ambition yet simple in design – universal, yet responsive to the needs of individual countries. It should be rights-based, with special emphasis on women, young people, migrant workers and marginalized groups. Let us also work together for a concise and single set of sustainable development goals which can mobilize the world.
Addressing the threat of climate change is dramatically urgent. We need to finalize an ambitious, legal climate agreement in 2015. To add momentum to this process, the Secretary-General will convene a Climate Summit next September in New York. He has asked me to extend a personal invitation to the leaders of Africa and the Arab world to take part in this vital gathering, mobilising political will for concrete action.
Finally, progress in trade, investment and sustainable development is also related to an enabling environment. Investors and entrepreneurs must do their part, but places where there is perpetual conflict or misrule are likely to fall behind or be left out.
Leaders must continue to show that they are committed to building trustworthy institutions, promoting the rule of law, resolving differences peacefully, and developing human capital through education and the free flow of information and ideas.
Conflict resolution is especially important. Syria and the Syrian economy is in ruins. The riches of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have yet to benefit the people. We must create the political and economic climate that will facilitate the emergence of a viable Palestinian state in both the West Bank and Gaza, where the situation is so difficult today.
On these and other challenges, you can count on the full support of the United Nations as you strengthen your cooperation and as we work to build a life of dignity for all.