Deputy Secretary-General, to annual African Ambassadors' dinner, says Africa, more than any other continent, has carved its political, economic unity

from United Nations
Published on 30 Apr 2008 View Original

Following is Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro's address to the annual African Ambassadors' dinner, in Washington, D.C., on 24 April:

Tonight's event offers us an opportunity to celebrate Africa's achievements and reflect on the magnitude of the task ahead of African nations in their quest for a more prosperous and peaceful future.

But before exploring these issues further, let me first emphasize one of Africa's landmark achievements: its solidarity. For more than any other continent, Africa has over the years managed to carve its political and economic unity. In doing so, African States were fully aware that there were no viable options for individual States or for the continent on the world stage without strong institutional ties.

The historic decision to upgrade the Organization of African Unity to the African Union and the launch of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) epitomized this vision. Undoubtedly these institutional changes carried a lot of political weight, which helped the continent to make great strides in recent years, especially in matters of peace and security.

Many long-running conflicts have ended. Peace treaties have been concluded. Elections have been held. And new and representative Governments have taken office.

But more efforts are required if we are to reverse the enduring image of Africa as a land held back by conflict, poverty and diseases. We all recognize that it has been nurtured over time by the numerous crises and violent conflicts that have plagued the continent. It is sustained today in the face of challenges to peace and security in Somalia and Darfur. We must strive to resolve the conflicts that afflict our countries.

Most importantly, Africa's development and socio-economic shortfalls remain Africa's most pressing challenges. Malaria is today the number one killer on the continent with one million deaths each year. Some five million African children -- half of the world's total -- succumb to preventable illnesses.

In spite of the concerted and dedicated efforts to fight HIV/AIDS, the pandemic is growing and continues to claim an unacceptable number of lives throughout Africa, particularly among women and the most dynamic and productive categories of societies, with detrimental consequences on the economy and the social fabric of entire communities.

Moreover, Africa's development challenge is growing ever more pronounced due to the devastating impact of climate change. Rainfall patterns are shifting. Desertification patterns are being accelerated. Many farmers are finding that they can no longer grow their staple crops. Even their animals have to be herded further in search of pastures and water. The current food-price crisis also threatens many African nations' ability to ensure food security to their populations.

But, in the face of so much daunting adversity, we also see a lot of opportunities. The building blocks for development -- water, food and agriculture, health, education and infrastructure -- can be strengthened through proven interventions. In fact, African leaders have committed to do exactly that through the continent's own development blue print -- NEPAD -- and their adherence to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

The greatest test today, not only for Africa but also for the international community, is to fill the growing gap in delivering results on these commitments. This is an area that will require greater attention and coordination at national, regional and global levels.

On this score, global progress is mixed. The world is likely to reach the goal of cutting poverty by half in almost all regions except Africa. In view of the high poverty rates the challenge is formidable. As we have witnessed in the recent past, such vulnerability can engender instability.

I know that you all agree with me that this situation is unacceptable. So, let us focus squarely on the solutions.

At an operational level, we need to translate existing commitments into practical action on the ground. To this end, the Secretary-General has launched the MDG Africa Steering Group, his signature initiative, to mobilize international financial and development organizations in support of achieving the Goals in Africa. The Steering Group has already identified a first set of key recommendations that are to be made to step up implementation.

These include, inter alia,: launching the African Green Revolution within the framework of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) to accelerate economic growth and combat hunger; investing in education to achieve the Education for All Goals by 2015, including gender parity at all levels, and expanding access to secondary education and vocational training; strengthening health systems and phasing in of child survival interventions to reduce child mortality rates; ensuring access to emergency obstetric care for all women by 2015; controlling infectious diseases, implementing national water supply and sanitation strategies to achieve the water supply and sanitation targets; making critical infrastructure investments (i.e., transport, power, water and sanitation, broadband) to raise productivity and integrate Africa into the global economy; and strengthening national statistics systems by implementing the Marrakesh Action Plan for Statistics.

To fully succeed, these measures will require the strong Government leadership by African countries and the unequivocal support of the international community, in the spirit of the global partnership agreed in Monterrey in 2002. Success stories on the ground testify that, when all stakeholders play their part, real change is at hand.

Malawi has drastically reduced child mortality rates, and Senegal is making rapid progress towards meeting the water and sanitation Millennium Development Goal targets.  Tanzania, Ghana and Mozambique have recorded creditable achievement in primary education. These are just a few examples that show success is possible. The challenge now is to replicate them in more countries.

A lot more can be done. An African Green Revolutionary could easily double agricultural productivity. Improved water management can strengthen communities' resilience to climate change. President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has demonstrated that major killers like malaria, HIV and AIDS and tuberculosis can be brought under control by matching power tools and sufficient resources. The Millennium Challenge account is another American initiative that has the potential to boost development efforts in a number of African countries.

Several upcoming summits will provide opportunities to address Africa's development needs. They include the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) meeting in June, where food security issues will be high on the agenda, the African Union Summit meeting in Sharm El Sheik ( Egypt), and the G-8 [Group of Eight] Summit meeting in Japan. Two major events will also be held at the United Nations: the high-level meeting on Africa's development needs and the high-level event on the Millennium Development Goals, jointly convened by the Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly in New York on 22 and 25 September, respectively. African leaders' effective participation in these events could help ensure that these gatherings deliver on the promises that have already been made in support of Africa's development.

What Africa requires is better and more effective support. But recent figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) indicate that the international community is failing to meet its own promise of doubling aid to Africa by 2010. This worrying trend must be reversed.

I mention this because it needs to be pointed out that many African States have made good progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. Many have put in place robust strategies for meeting the Millennium Development Goals as agreed at the World Summit in 2005. Over 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have prepared Millennium Development Goals-based plans.

However, most have yet to obtain adequate funding from Africa's development partners. And the gap between commitments and implementation, if unresolved, will continue to be a major hindrance to attaining the Millennium Development Goals in Africa.

At the same time, Africa's development needs go hand in hand with efforts to strengthen peace and stability across the continent. Every Government has the responsibility to protect its own citizens, but we also share a collective responsibility to maintain peace in Africa. Promoting good governance and democratic processes through ensuring fair elections, holding Governments accountable to their promises, and building effective and efficient public institutions is the key to furthering this goal.

That is why the United Nations is involved in a wide range of peacekeeping activities across Africa, such as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Liberia, Sudan and in Western Sahara. Our sole interest is to promote stability for peace, security and development.

The United Nations is also engaged in promoting regional and subregional cooperation. Such as its 10-year capacity-building with the African Union and the newly established regional follow-up mechanism to the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. We are also leading efforts to support implementation of the Stability Pact for the Great Lakes Region. The Pact aims to resolve the root causes of the conflicts in the region, such as ethnic strife, the presence of large refugee populations, the operation of armed groups and the lack of credible political systems.

These are some of the many ways that the United Nations is working to advance Africa's peace, security and development needs. Part of my responsibilities is to ensure a coordinated and effective support to Africa's development needs. And I shall do my utmost to advance this critical agenda, along with my colleagues in the funds and programmes.

Before closing, allow me to recognize that tonight we are here also to celebrate the exemplary public service of General Lamine Cisse. General Cisse has served the United Nations admirably and his commitment to its ideals beyond question. We are proud of his service and I am delighted that you will be extending to him an important recognition for his achievements.

I thank you all for your attention. And I look forward to working with you for Africa's betterment.

Thank you very much.

For information media - not an official record