[As prepared for delivery]
I thank the African Group, the African Union, the African Ambassadors Spouses Group and the Universal Peace Federation for inviting me to share in tonight’s celebration.
Of course, it was a month ago in Addis Ababa that I had the pleasure of marking the 50th anniversary of the Organization of African Unity and its successor.
That was a memorable gathering, not least because I had just visited several African countries and had seen once again the excitement and dynamism that characterize so much of the continent.
Africa is a continent on the move.
Peace prevails in most African countries.
Extreme poverty is declining, income is rising and there have been important inroads against deadly diseases.
Several African countries are among the world’s fastest growing economies, defying the global downturn.
Opportunity beckons for ever greater numbers of people. And ever more international investors are taking notice.
Of course, deep challenges persist. But Africa’s overall trajectory is clear. Africans are writing a new narrative in their history.
A more stable and prosperous Africa is on the horizon, but to get there we still need to resolve the underlying causes of conflict.
I know that Africans are determined to strengthen democracy, protect human rights, fight corruption and enhance governance.
The United Nations will continue to work with you to ensure the equitable distribution of resources, increase agricultural productivity, and tap the talents of Africa’s people, especially women and youth.
I am also committed to accelerating our work towards the Millennium Development Goals, and making sure that Africa’s priorities and concerns are reflected in the post-2015 development agenda.
Africa is among the regions most vulnerable to climate change. I am determined to press for a global agreement in 2015. The plan announced by President Obama yesterday is a step in the right direction. If we act now, we can still avoid the worst impacts.
Achieving these objectives will require considerable effort and investment, and I continue to urge the international community and private sector to fully support this cause.
I place great importance on close ties between the United Nations, the African Union and the continent’s regional and sub-regional organizations.
These cover an increasingly broad range of activities – from peacekeeping and mediation to peacebuilding, electoral assistance and the rule of law; from economic and social empowerment to sustainable development.
The entire UN system is committed to supporting Africa’s efforts, including through a new era of heightened coordination with the World Bank.
Fifty years ago, the founders of the Organization of African Unity showed great resolve and collective purpose in leading the world against colonialism and apartheid.
One of the leaders of that movement -- one of the giants of the 20th century -- is now in hospital, in critical condition. I know our thoughts and prayers are with Nelson Mandela, his family and loved ones, all South Africans and people across the world who have been inspired by his remarkable life and example.
Let us all show similar conviction and sense of purpose today in working to improve well-being and opportunity for all Africans.
The United Nations will continue to be Africa’s close partner in this journey.