On this observance of Africa Day, I applaud the headway the continent has made in addressing its many challenges. The creation of the African Union, the shift from non-intervention to non-indifference, the outlawing of unconstitutional changes of government, the creation of NEPAD and the African Peer Review Mechanism -- such steps represent tremendous progress in the continent's normative and institutional development and innovation.
The United Nations is committed to supporting the AU and sub-regional organizations through joint efforts focusing on preventive diplomacy, mediation, electoral assistance, human rights, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. The UN and AU have strengthened our institutional relationship at various levels in order to improve coordination and maximize our comparative advantages.
The World Bank's most recent World Development Report shows yet again that the single biggest hurdle to development in Africa and elsewhere is insecurity and violence. Moreover, regions stricken by armed conflict often see a concomitant rise in transnational organized crime and terrorist violence -- as indeed is occurring, in one way or another, in the Sahel zone, West Africa and the Horn of Africa.
To address these interlinked challenges, we need to ensure that our efforts in any given country are “joined up” and follow a common strategy. We need increased regional and trans-regional cooperation. And we need the international community to help fragile countries in the long-term work of strengthening rule of law and justice systems.
The United Nations has played a key role in developing frameworks, mechanisms and models for such comprehensive approaches. Within the framework of the UN Global Strategy on Countering Terrorism, the UN is piloting “integrated assistance on countering terrorism” (I-ACT) in Nigeria and Burkina Faso. We are supporting ECOWAS in the fight against drug trafficking. The Contact Group on Piracy off the coast of Somalia is pursuing deterrence, security and the rule of law, and development. And we have been quietly promoting regional cooperation to combat terrorism and drug trafficking among Sahel-Sahara countries, although the lack of an inclusive regional mechanism remains an important obstacle. With support from Africa and the international community, we can scale up these and other initiatives.
Despite Africa's many significant gains, progress remains fragile. Far too many African citizens still live on less than two dollars a day. Far too many African countries are among the least developed in the world. Across North Africa, the lack of jobs, opportunities and participation in decision-making has sparked popular movements for freedom, social equity, justice and democracy. The United Nations and the AU must support the legitimate aspirations of the people, and we must stand for core principles and values, in particular respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms, protection of civilians, rejection of violence and support to inclusive dialogue and meaningful reforms.
We must also work together, in the spirit of today's special event, to forge closer ties between Africa and those Africans who have sought work, education and opportunities in other countries. The African diaspora is recognized by the AU as an important constituency, and indeed expatriates have much to contribute to progress on the continent –not just through remittances, important as they are, but also through exchanges of knowledge and technology and through the bonds of solidarity.
As we celebrate Africa Day 2011, let us all -- Africans at home, Africans abroad and their international partners -- recommit to strive for a future that meets the aspirations of the continent's people for freedom, prosperity and unity.