Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the National Summit on Africa, delivered on his behalf by Ibrahim Gambari, Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa, in Washington, D.C. on 17 February:
I send my warmest greetings to you all. Sadly, a long-standing commitment to the people of East Timor prevents me from being with you in person. But, I am glad to know that the many parts of the United Nations system concerned with the peace and development of Africa are all strongly represented.
America and Africa have many good reasons to work closely together. The relationship is important for both sides. Africa has a strong claim on American solidarity. It also offers exciting opportunities and challenges to American enterprise and idealism.
It was, therefore, highly appropriate that last month the United States used its presidency of the United Nations Security Council to focus world attention, at a higher level than ever before, on the challenges Africa faces and the efforts its people are making to meet those challenges. The scale of the challenge posed by HIV/AIDS was at last clearly recognized; and peace processes in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, especially, received a vital new impetus.
And it is no less appropriate that this gathering will concentrate on finding concrete and specific ways to enhance cooperation. I hope you will draw attention to the new opportunities which are opening up, as many African countries reform their economies and create better conditions for foreign investment. And I hope you will also explore ways for Africa to tap into the large pool of expatriate expertise, to help fill the human resource gaps which so severely constrain the continent's efforts to rebuild itself.
Meanwhile, the United Nations has made Africa a priority in every facet of its work. In the field of peace and security, the Security Council devotes more time and attention to Africa than to any other area, because unhappily Africa has more than its share of conflicts. Let me briefly mention three that are of particular concern.
In Angola, the search for peace is protracted and frustrating, but I believe it is benefiting from the work of the Council's Committee on Sanctions, ably led by Ambassador Fowler of Canada.
In Sierra Leone, last year's Lomé Agreement has brought a real, if still fragile, hope of lasting peace. We now have a large peacekeeping force on the ground, and are doing everything we can to help implement the agreement.
And, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we anxiously await the adoption of a Security Council resolution which will authorize the deployment of 500 military observers, backed up by over 5,000 military personnel. The main function of this mission will be to monitor the ceasefire and facilitate the implementation of other provisions of the Lusaka Peace Agreements, including the "national dialogue" between Congolese parties.
Given the size of the country and the complexity of the military situation, the international community must understand that this relatively small United Nations force, with its very restricted mandate, will not be able to guarantee protection of the civilian population. This is why the commitment of the signatories to the Lusaka Agreement is so crucial. If they, themselves, do not abide by its provisions observing the ceasefire and negotiating a peaceful resolution of the conflict -- the United Nations presence will not, indeed cannot, succeed in its mission to help bring lasting peace.
I stress this point because I do not want people serving under the United Nations flag, and doing their best to carry out the mandate given them by the Security Council, to be held responsible for circumstances beyond their control. The Member States of the United Nations must not blame us later for failing in tasks they neither equipped nor mandated us to perform.
But, let me not give the impression that helping bring about ceasefires and resolve conflicts is the only service the United Nations provides in Africa. No less important is the work we do to reduce poverty, to fight HIV/AIDS and other endemic diseases, to help build lasting peace in societies emerging from conflict, and to make conflict less likely in those which have so far been spared it. On all these activities, my colleagues from the relevant parts of the United Nations system will, I know, give you a clear picture later in the meeting.
Let me simply say now that, throughout the length and breadth of Africa, the United Nations system is striving to address the root causes of conflict and to contribute to development in its broadest sense: the building of modern societies, with institutions that enable ordinary people to improve their quality of life. That objective, I know, is shared by all those attending this summit. I am sure your meeting will mark an important step towards achieving it.