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Opening of the 76th ordinary session of the OAU Council of Ministers, Durban, 4 July 2002: Statement by KY Amoako, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa

"Meeting the challenge of sustainable development in Africa"

Mr. Chairman,

His Excellency, Mr. Amara Essy, Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity
Honourable Ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is the twelfth time that I have been honored to address this august Council. You can be forgiven for thinking: Well, here he is again.

But the fact is that I have never taken this privilege as routine and I certainly do not do so this year. For this year has been extraordinary.

When I addressed you last year in Lusaka, I reviewed concepts for a new relationship with donors, which the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) had proposed. I said that a new relationship with donors was required to address our trade, debt, HIV/AIDS and development crises.

In fact, we have had the busiest year for African development issues in a long time. Whether it is the most consequential year is yet to be seen.

Shortly after the attack on the World Trade Center, many world leaders said that the world had to respond in part by making life more secure for those in poverty. It was pointed out that the G-8 had a chance to do that if it took advantage of the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial at Doha, the UN Financing for Development Conference (FfD) in Monterrey, the G8 Summit in Canada, and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.

Where have we come since?

At Doha, hard work and excellent preparation by the Geneva African Ambassadors Group under the leadership of the United Republic of Tanzania paid off. A so-called development round of tariff reduction negotiations was put on a timetable of three years, compared with eight years for the Uruguay Round.

There were pro-development achievements on Public Health issues and on trade-related intellectual property rights. There was progress on agricultural trade but serious slippage since due to huge new US subsidies to its wealthy farmers. We made little headway on textiles. Environmental and hygiene standards are to be resolved. We did not gain much on industrial tariffs. We made progress on capacity building by placing the issue on the continuing agenda. So the results at Doha were mixed, but a lot better for us than many previous WTO meetings. Certainly Doha built up expectations for further progress at Monterrey.

In Monterrey, there was further progress. To me, it was most striking that all the major national statements, from developed and developing country leaders, agreed that the highest priority for developing countries was good governance. They agreed that these economies had to be part of the global system. They agreed that there is a need for higher quality aid. And they agreed on the need for more resources, estimated by experts at $50 billion/year, to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

Both the European Union (EU) and the United States of America (USA) made commitments to increase their aid levels by a combined total of $12 billion/year. $12 billion to meet the goal of $50 billion was, like Doha, a partial success; but it marked a reversal of aid trends. The lingering question was what would be Africa's share of this increase.

That question was answered last week when the G-8 leaders agreed that under conditions of good performance, Africa could expect half of the increase, bringing our aid back to 1990 levels.

A G-8 Africa Action Plan was adopted as a framework to support NEPAD. The G-8 agreed that each of them would establish Enhanced Partnerships with countries [Quote] whose performance reflects the NEPAD commitments [End quote]. They agreed on a goal for duty-free and quota free market access for all products originating from the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), many of which are in Africa. They added $1 billion to fully fund the Highly-Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Trust Fund and to increase the use of grants rather than loans for the poorest debt-vulnerable countries.

They were specific on peace issues. With active encouragement from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the G-8 agreed to provide additional support to bring peace to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sudan, and to consolidate peace in Angola and Sierra Leone within the next year. They agreed to joint action to support post-conflict development in the Great Lakes and Sudan and to set up contact groups with the UN and other partners to resolve specific conflicts in Africa. They also agreed to finish work on a joint plan with Africa by 2003 to develop African capabilities to undertake peace support operations, including at the regional level. Pursuit of these points has significant promise.

Finally, the G-8 agreed to keep Africa on their agenda, by reviewing progress in implementation of the plan at their next session.

So we emerged from the G-8, like Doha and Monterrey, not with everything we wanted, but with tangible progress.

Now we have the Johannesburg World Summit for Sustainable Development coming at the end of next month.

The Summit is intended to accelerate the implementation of the environmental agenda, established in the Rio Summit a decade ago, and the Millennium Development Goals for human development adopted at the Millennium Summit. In essence, sustainable development is the merger of human well-being and natural resource stewardship.

Our stakes are highest in the upcoming Summit because our sustainability issues are more acute than other regions.

Only ten of our countries will meet the poverty reduction, education and health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), if current trends continue. In many of our countries our most precious asset, our people, are increasingly wasting away from HIV/AIDS. Here in Southern Africa, we are in the midst of a grim parade of funerals. The warnings are clear that West, Central and Northeast Africa are about to emulate the crisis of Eastern and Southern Africa.

We have a second wasting away. From time immemorial, humanity has managed to pass down an environment from one generation to the next that has had promise for the future. If present trends continue, our inheritors will receive a markedly worse environment and much worse prospects.

These trends will result in Africa being a full degree warmer in temperature over the next half century and that will bring us10 percent less rain in Southern Africa and the Horn, and 15 percent less rain in the already parched Sahel. If present trends continue, our forests will shrink by 25 percent over the next half century. Those in low-lying coastal areas will have to move inland because of a rising ocean. Climate change is real. Recently, a piece of ice, nearly three times the size of Mauritius, broke off of the Antarctic.

The trends are well under way, but they can be slowed and in many cases reversed. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, says that we already have the right substantive agreements, we now need to form the partnerships and take other actions necessary to sustain our environment.

The rich countries need to fund accelerated implementation of the key agreements reached in recent years on climate, desertification and biodiversity. The rich countries are the main polluters and main cause of global climate change. They must be held to account. I believe that we need commitment from key governments to back the Kyoto Climate Change and other vital agreements.

At the same time, we in Africa have our share of hard work to reverse very serious environmental damage now going on in such fields as:

  • Water, where chronic shortages are now being faced in 14 of our countries;

  • Desertification;

  • Deforestation, and

  • Soil fertility, where our ability to grow our own food is being rapidly eroded. I should note that a major ECA report next month will say we must buy into the genetic food crop revolution in part to preserve our soil.

Underlying the negative environmental trends is the fact that our high population growth is straining our limited natural resources.

The challenge in Johannesburg is to mobilize different sets of actions, rich and poorer countries need to take, to contribute to a sustainable world.

What about after Johannesburg? In considering the coming year, I offer you and our Heads of State a few observations.

The first regards NEPAD. Several among the press and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) felt that the G-8 offered us only peanuts. We should not be disappointed, or deterred. Let us recall the fundamentals of NEPAD: an initiative for African ownership of development, African leadership of development, African accountability for development, and African responsibility for development. NEPAD is not about building a bigger tin cup for begging. In this regard, Presidents Obasanjo and Mbeki were right to observe that the G-8 meeting was a new departure not an arrival.

All of us must be in for the long haul. It is our plan and we must make it work.

Second, the heart of NEPAD, the breakthrough of NEPAD, indeed the hallmark of NEPAD is in Governance. The NEPAD Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee have made important recommendations in their "Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance" which they will table at the Summit. Why take the Declaration seriously? Because our stakes override those of others. There is clear evidence that democracy is equated with high growth; and that good governance is synonymous with very high growth. This is as true for the resource rich countries as for others not so fortunate.

The Declaration on democracy and governance is a far-reaching and powerful statement. The challenge will be in the implementation. The Implementation Committee recommends an African Peer Review Mechanism for a periodic review of political, economic and corporate governance status in member States. This is a self-monitoring mechanism for collective action and mutual learning. As such, the African Peer Review Mechanism is first and foremost for Africans.

Conducted with professionalism and integrity, it holds the promise to generate popular confidence in institutions and processes of our governments. It is essential for making efficient use of our scarce public resources. It will foster an enabling environment for the private sector and has the potential to unlock resources from this sector to generate economic growth and help overcome poverty. By demonstrating that Africans have the political will and commitment to hold themselves accountable to mutually agreed codes and standards of governance, the African Peer Review holds the promise of being instrumental for effective partnerships with the international community.

ECA has worked closely with the NEPAD Steering Committee and the secretariat on a number of key areas related to the design of NEPAD, particularly on the peer review and governance related matters. We pledge our continued and deepened support and assistance in this area through our assigned role in the African Peer Review Mechanism.

My third observation is that while the discussions so far have not produced a cornucopia of funds for priorities identified by NEPAD, there is enough interest among our Governments, the donors, and the private sector for NEPAD to get started. Let us encourage some practical, doable public and private investments and let us call this a testing period for NEPAD. It is important that we get started. We can test out the NEPAD mechanisms to improve them through experience. We can become more credible by taking concrete actions.

Fourth, we should take seriously the dialogue process authorized by the G-8. In fact we should strive to be a permanent part of the G-8 agenda. We need to continue to work with our friends in the G8 who are keeping Africa as a key issue. But we must also remember our non G-8 partners - such as The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden - who, in percentage terms, provide more ODA and are among Africa's strongest partners.

Fifth, I want to underscore that insofar as HIV/AIDS is concerned, we either become a community together or we will die. At the political level, as a region, we have not yet made AIDS an appropriate priority. Our upcoming Summit and the Johannesburg Summit are key occasions to correct this. The same population planning programmes will save lives from HIV/AIDS while reducing the pressure on our resources through promoting smaller families.

The Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis is overwhelmed with proposals and requires bold replenishment to save millions of our people from certain death. I appeal to you to help make this case boldly, clearly and without hesitation.

Finally, I come to our African Union. Last March ECA in full cooperation with OAU, held two back-to-back events to help define priorities for regional integration. One was a symposium on the African Union organized by the InterAfrica Group. The other was our flagship African Development Forum involving 1,000 leaders from Africa's public, private and non-profit sectors. All of our countries were represented at the Forum with official delegations, several headed by Ministers present here. I am very pleased that recommendations from these meetings have contributed to the recommendations for the African Union that my colleagues and dear brother, Amara Essy, the Secretary-General of the OAU, has placed before you. We at ECA are invested in the African Union and will do all we can to help make it a major success.

Honourable Ministers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


Just as we are coming to the end of a series of international meetings creating added solidarity with Africa, we are also entering a new era of internal solidarity. In this amazing and critical period, when the agenda has become so complex, the work of Foreign Ministers has correspondingly grown more complex. My ECA colleagues and I are at your service.

I wish you well in your important deliberations.

Thank you.



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Updated on 04 July 2002 15:16:10 +0200