First of all, I want to welcome all the high-level representatives of the African Regional Economic Communities (RECs) present here today. I am honoured to speak to you.
We meet at a turbulent and, at the same, time dynamic time at the United Nations.
This past week has been full of activity – with a strong focus on Africa, ranging from peacekeeping and humanitarian crisis to the serious Ebola epidemic.
I am pleased that today’s gathering will discuss development and the long-term future of the continent in the light of the African Union’s visionary “Agenda 2063.”
Africa has for long and consistently been a top priority for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the entire United Nations System.
We applaud Africa’s remarkable progress. Economic growth is impressive. More African children go to school than ever before. There are great advances on women’s empowerment and gender equality. Participatory governance and institutions are on the rise.
All this has been possible thanks to the leadership and commitment of African governments, the African Union, the Regional Economic Communities and many other partners. The United Nations is one such partner, not least through the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). We always stand with Africa.
Regional Economic Communities have shown their unwavering resolve to promote inter-regional trade as well as social and economic cooperation.
You have also demonstrated an increasing capacity to deal with the root causes of conflict in your respective regions.
There are many examples of progress.
The Economic Community of West African States helped to consolidate peace in Mali and the Sahel region. The Economic Community of Central African States is playing a mediating role in the ongoing crisis in Central African Republic.
I also welcome efforts by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to resolve the situation in South Sudan. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is working with the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) to implement the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes region.
The Secretary-General has convened a number of high-level meetings over the past week relating to Africa. We have seen progress towards some of our common goals. But crises on the continent still threaten lives and undermine development.
The Ebola virus disease presents new and very serious challenges in West Africa.
I commend the efforts of ECOWAS and the African Union in quickly mobilizing resources and awareness to reduce the impact of Ebola. The United Nations has mobilised to a degree rarely seen.
Our Special Envoy and the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), are working hard to stop the outbreak, treat the infected, provide essential services, preserve stability and prevent the spread of the disease.
The affected nations and the international community have a joint responsibility to contain and stop the epidemic urgently. The affected countries have a right to expect concrete and immediate acts of solidarity.
The humanitarian and security situations in the Central African Republic and South Sudan remain dire. Northern Nigeria and Somalia continue to face rising terrorist threats from Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab. The political situation in Libya is growing more complex and dangerous. Lesotho is facing a risky political stalemate. All these situations have potential spill over effects on sub-regions and the continent.
Let us remember that development is both a cause and consequence of peace.
There has been great social and economic progress across Africa. But, as in the rest of the world, its economies have not kept pace with legitimate demands. Above all, we need more jobs, especially for Africa’s young people. Unemployment is not only an economic challenge. It is also a social, psychological and political problem.
Trade among African countries remains limited, mainly because they do not have adequate railways, roads and other infrastructure. Many African economies also lack sufficient economic diversification, productivity and well-functioning institutions.
As a result, even though African countries have impressive growth, Africa is still off track to meeting many of the MDGs.
We are here today to consider how we can do more to reduce poverty and inequalities, improve food and water security, and enable more African mothers and children to live healthy lives.
Women’s empowerment is especially important to advancing progress for all. We can unleash enormous energy and gains across Africa if we end discrimination and violence against women and girls – and invest in their future as leaders in all areas of society.
Agenda 2063 offers a way forward for Africa with key regional objectives. The Regional Economic Communities can make the difference between failure and success.
Agenda 2063 has a global dimension that must be harmonized with international development trends, particularly the post-2015 agenda.
I congratulate Africa on the Common African Position on the post-2015 development agenda. As the negotiations continue, we will work to ensure that the continent’s concerns are appropriately reflected in the next global development agenda.
The transformative changes envisaged in Agenda 2063 will need to be forged around stronger regional integration. There is tremendous power and potential in intensified regional and inter-regional cooperation, not least for land-locked countries.
Stronger integration will require increased competitiveness in African economies. The process should also be underpinned by major investments in human development, science, technology and infrastructure.
All this will to a great deal depend on effective governance, and durable peace and security in all parts of the continent.
This meeting provides an opportunity for you as Regional Economic Communities to tell us how you are contributing to Agenda 2063 and how the United Nations can better support your efforts.
I also look forward to hearing from our Special Envoys and Special Representatives on how the United Nations System can enhance its cooperation with the Regional Economic Communities and the Member States.
Working together, we can demonstrate that the international community accepts its shared responsibility for Africa.
Working hand in hand with Africa will also benefit the world at large, advancing common global goals for peace, development, human rights and human dignity.