Mr. President, Distinguished Heads of State and Government, Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am grateful to so many heads of state and governments and other high-level representatives for attending this very historic meeting. The Event is important in itself, but also critical in our preparations for the High-Level Meeting on the MDGs on Thursday; and the Doha Review Conference on Financing for Development starting in late November in Qatar.
No one is more alarmed than you at the current trends, which indicate that no African country will achieve all the Goals by 2015.
But I am convinced that through concerted action by African Governments and their development partners, the MDGs remain achievable in Africa.
This is one of my highest priorities as Secretary-General. I convened the MDG Africa Steering Group in 2007 to galvanize international support, bringing together eight of the main multilateral institutions working on development with Africa.
Through the work of the Steering Group and other efforts, we now have a good idea of what is needed. It will cost about 72 billion dollars per year in external financing to achieve the Goals by 2015.
This price tag may look daunting. But it is affordable, and falls within existing aid commitments.
Just consider the fact that OECD countries spent an estimated 267 billion dollars last year on agricultural subsidies alone.
In this context, the cost of solving the food crisis, addressing global warming, and pulling millions out of extreme poverty in Africa looks like good value.
I appeal to all donors to implement the 2005 Gleneagles Summit pledge to more than double aid to Africa. We need to provide insecticide-treated bed nets. We must improve maternal health, the slowest-moving MDG. We must make sure every child has access to free primary education.
I also urge all Member States to agree on clear steps to follow up on the outcome of this High-Level event.
Increasingly volatile weather conditions are taking their toll on African agriculture. Ethiopia is a case in point. The country is currently facing a severe drought in its southeastern regions and severe flooding in its southwestern regions.
This implies that the effects of climate change are already with us. It is sadly ironic that the poor ? who contribute the least to global warming ? suffer most from its ill effects.
Climate change is also leading to competition and conflict over natural resources. Many of these conflicts are local, but if unchecked, could spin out of control.
Tackling these challenges is not just a moral imperative. The recent spate of conflicts over food and natural resources show that our security depends on building prosperity in the developing world. Peace, development and respect for basic human rights go hand in hand. As we seek to build roads, bridges and schools, we also work to prevent war and build peace.
We are exploring new ways to stabilize fragile peace processes in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan. The Peacebuilding Commission has provided support for Sierra Leone, Burundi, Guinea-Bissau and the Central African Republic. Development can now progress in these countries, where prospects were dim until only recently.
Achieving peace and building trust requires patience and perseverance. Let me pay tribute to the people of Zimbabwe for negotiating a Government of national unity. Similar perseverance is needed to resolve other crises, such as those in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.
Crucially, the UN is strengthening and deepening co-operation with the African Union in peace and security, mediation and conflict prevention. The joint African Union –United Nations panel started exploring how the international community can support peace operations in Africa. We welcome the ongoing efforts to establish an African Standby Force.
But at the same time multiple challenges continue to take a terrible toll: the impact of HIV /AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis; the millions of school-age children deprived of basic education; the widespread violence against women; and the suffering of innocent people in Darfur and Somalia. Extreme poverty is still causing needless deaths and stopping millions of promising young Africans from fulfilling their potentials.
We have before us several reports indicating that Africa's progress is not on track. We also have several reports telling us what needs to be done for Africa to change course. Let this be the day when we begin implementing these recommendations in earnest. Let us leave this hall with a strengthened commitment to change the course of history, and bring hope and development to Africa and the entire world.