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    Press Release No:   UNIS/GA/1623
    Release Date:    8 March 2000
     Assembly President Calls for Focus, Speed and Resource Mobilization
    For Implementation of Secretary-General’s Recommendations on Africa

     NEW YORK, 7 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of a statement delivered today at Headquarters by General Assembly President Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia) at the opening of the first session of the Open-Ended Ad Hoc Working Group on the Causes of Conflict and the Promotion of Durable Peace and Sustainable Development in Africa:

     During the 1990s, major changes have taken place in the patterns of conflicts in Africa and in the international community’s response to them.  Today, intra-State wars are the main characteristic of these conflicts.  Civilians and, more often than not, entire ethnic communities are their main victims.  More than 90 per cent of armed conflicts take place within, rather than between, States.

     It is in this complex political context that the Secretary-General submitted his 1998 report on “The Causes of Conflict and the Promotion of Durable Peace and Sustainable Development in Africa”.  Since then, significant efforts have been made by the United Nations and the rest of the international community to enhance ways and means towards further strengthening peacemaking, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and post-conflict peace-building in Africa.  The United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) continue to augment mutual mechanisms for more effective consultation and cooperation in the field of preventive diplomacy and exchange of high-level visits between their offices.

     On their part, African leaders have redoubled their resolve to effectively end military coups and political conflicts on the continent, on the basis of the Algiers Declaration they adopted in July 1999.  It is significant to note, in this connection, that 21 African States are currently participating in various United Nations peacekeeping operations, including in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

     As you all know, the General Assembly in its resolution 54/234 (1999) mandated the establishment of this Ad Hoc Working Group.  Its purpose is to monitor the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report referred to above.

     In addition, the Working Group is also mandated to monitor the implementation of the proposals made by the Economic and Social Council.  These proposals deal with the coordination of the policies and activities of the specialized agencies and other bodies of the United Nations system.

     In essence, the said proposals emphasized the theme:  “Development of Africa:  implementation and coordinated follow-up by the United Nations system of initiatives on African development and Economic and Social Council decision 1999/270, as well as poverty eradication, debt relief, HIV/AIDS and support to countries in post-conflict situations.

     The Secretary-General underscored the interrelationship between peace and development.  He observed that “development that neglects social and political factors is often derailed by conflict and, conversely, conflict prevention and post-conflict peace-building are meaningless unless they enable a society to develop”.  I agree with him fully.

     Thus, we need a focus, speed and resource mobilization worldwide for the implementation of the Secretary-General’s recommendations.  This is where this Working Group comes in.

     All the recommendations contained in the report of the Secretary-General are necessary and important.  I, however, believe that the Working Group will best serve the purpose by mainly concentrating on the following four topics.  They are:  (1) poverty eradication; (2) refugee crisis; (3) debt cancellation; and (4) financing for development.

     The implementation of the recommendations is an ongoing process which requires continuous monitoring, as well as the sustained support and commitment of the entire international community.

     In this regard, the General Assembly, through this important Working Group, has a critical role to play.  We must strive to maintain the momentum and ensure that the central issues become matters of deep concern that call for action by the United Nations and the international community.  The imperative need to treat the political and economic dimensions of the report will underscore the point that peace and development are closely linked and must be tackled together throughout.

     Last, but not least, I am happy to confirm here that, in line with General Assembly resolution 54/234, I have appointed the Ambassadors of Singapore and Spain as the Vice-Chairmen of the Working Group.  I hope that you will extend to them all the necessary assistance to help steer the business of this Working Group to a successful conclusion.

     In addition to the two Vice-Chairmen, I have also publicly stated my wish to involve the following role players closely in the work of the Bureau.  They, particularly, include:  the representative of the current Chairman of the Organization of African Unity; the current Chairman of the African Group; the Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement; the Chairman of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China; and representatives of donor countries and organizations.

     Let us now begin the work and go forward with heightened will and determination to succeed.

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