General Assembly

18 October 2007

Statement to the General Assembly Plenary on Africa’s development, security and health issues

Ban Ki-moon

(Reports on the partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the causes of conflict and the promotion of peace and development in Africa and the Decade to Roll Back Malaria)

I am pleased to have this opportunity to introduce my reports on Africa at this important debate on agenda items 49 and 66.

I am also pleased that the Chief Executive Director of the NEPAD secretariat, Firmino Mucavele, is with us today.

Since I took office as Secretary-General, Africa and its special needs have topped my agenda. That is why my first extended official mission overseas took me to the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, followed by visits to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya.

I have since visited Sudan to underscore the United Nations commitment to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement as the cornerstone for peace throughout the country, and to advance efforts to resolve the crisis in Darfur. As I have said on many occasions, peace in Darfur remains my utmost urgent priority. We must all work together to ensure the success of the Darfur peace negotiations commencing in Libya later this month. For my part, I intend to do everything I can to bring an end to the intense suffering in Darfur.

I have also made it a priority to advance our development agenda in Africa, especially the Millennium Development Goals. Many African countries have made good progress towards the Goals. But overall the continent is not on track to reach these development targets by 2015.

Just past the midpoint of our marathon, the challenges remain daunting. Extreme poverty, reinforced by a lack of access to basic education, health care and adequate nutrition, continues to prevent millions of talented, promising young Africans from fulfilling their potential.

This status quo is unconscionable, for Africa and for the world. Changing it requires a strengthened global partnership. It demands shared responsibility. And it needs the implementation of all existing commitments.

That is why I have established the Millennium Development Goals Africa Steering Group, to bring together all major multilateral and intergovernmental development organizations. The aim is to galvanize international action towards attaining the Goals in full, on time and across Africa.

We know that peace, development and human rights go hand in hand. Fighting extreme poverty is key to preventing conflict. My progress report on the causes of conflict and the promotion of peace and development in Africa clearly acknowledges this reality.

It is therefore heartening that over the past decade Africa has made significant progress towards ending armed conflicts. It has also progressed in building its own architecture in support of conflict prevention, mediation and conflict resolution, particularly through the African Union.

Conflicts in Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Burundi have come to an end. Fragile peace processes are being reinforced, largely through African efforts, strongly supported by the international community. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, successful democratic elections have at last taken place; the United Nations is supporting the Government’s efforts to consolidate State authority in [the eastern part of the country]. We are also helping to address the serious humanitarian challenges in the Kivus.

As outlined in my report, we must now help consolidate the positive changes in Africa through stronger, more coherent UN support, including in the areas of governance and institutional capacity-building. We must ensure that the UN plays its role to the fullest extent possible along the peace continuum -- from conflict prevention to peace-making, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. We must use all possible resources to support Africa’s development, and empower women to strengthen their essential role in the process. And we must do more to help Africa deal with the increasing threat posed by climate change, because we know that poor countries stand to bear the brunt of it.

Much has changed since 1998 when my predecessor prepared the initial report on the causes of conflict in Africa. The time has come to take stock of progress and lessons learned, so that we can build on the results attained thus far. That is why I am proposing a comprehensive review of the recommendations contained in the 1998 report. As requested by this Assembly, my report also includes proposals for UN action in support of the goal of achieving a conflict-free Africa by 2010.

In my report on “Progress in Implementation and International Support for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development”, I have provided an overview of the progress being made in implementing the NEPAD blueprint. I have also provided Member States with a picture of the multifaceted ways in which the United Nations system is working closely with Africa and African institutions in the implementation of NEPAD.

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development is a good example of the resolve demonstrated by Africans to take full responsibility for their continent’s future. A growing number of African countries are participating in the African Peer Review Mechanism. Improvements in governance have been accompanied by sustained economic growth and better management of the economies of many African countries. These developments underscore the importance of international support for NEPAD as an African-owned and Africa-driven framework for the region’s future.

In spite of many positive developments, the special needs of Africa remain immense. And today, there is no more pressing need than addressing the fight against the pandemics that continue to ravage the continent. Malaria, AIDS, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases are taking their worst social and economic toll on countries that can least afford it. They also pose threats to peace and stability, in the devastation they wreak on capacity and governance.

Malaria alone kills more than 1 million people every year, mostly infants, young children and pregnant women -- and most of them in Africa. In its report on the Decade to Roll Back Malaria, the World Health Organization outlines the significant progress made in the international campaign against this ancient enemy of humanity. We now have the tools and increased resources to control malaria. But there is no time to waste. Every minute we deliberate, another two children die needlessly. Let us keep pushing to reverse the incidence of this killer disease.

African countries are the first to acknowledge their primary responsibility to tackle Africa’s problems. They accept the urgent need to continue to fight corruption, improve governance, empower women and create jobs.

They recognize that tens of millions of young people need education. That essential infrastructure must be built. That Africa must be able to compete effectively in the world economy. Africa’s courageous efforts at reform must continue -- but the international community must also rise to the challenge.

The United Nations has a crucial role to play in helping Africa meet its challenges and realize its full potential. That is why I will do my utmost to further enhance the Secretariat’s capacity to support our Africa-related programmes and efforts.

I look forward to a substantive and useful debate on these Africa-related agenda items. And I am confident that this Assembly will reaffirm its strong political will to assist the Governments and people of Africa in their struggle for lasting peace, poverty eradication and sustainable development.