Press Releases

    ECOSOC/5977
    19 July 2001

    ECOSOC CONCLUDES HIGH-LEVEL SEGMENT ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA

    Adopts Ministerial Declaration Expressing Concern about Health Crisis
    Affecting Africa, Urging UN to Help African Countries Manage External Debt

    (Reissued as received.)

    GENEVA, 18 July (UN Information Service) -- The Economic and Social Council this afternoon wrapped up its three-day high-level segment on the role of the United Nations in supporting African nations achieve sustainable development by adopting a Ministerial Declaration that, among other things, expressed concern about the health crisis in Africa and urged the United Nations to help African countries monitor and manage their external debt.

    The Ministerial Declaration expressed deep concern that Africa's efforts to reverse its low human capital developments were being severely challenged by a worsening health crisis, including HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. It called on all funds, programmes and agencies which had not yet done so to mainstream AIDS prevention into their activities. The Declaration also said the Council was gravely concerned that if current economic trends continued, the majority of African countries would be unable to achieve international development goals. Among the suggestions was that the United Nations system should strengthen the capacity of African countries to monitor and manage their external debt.

    The Council, in the Declaration, invited the Secretary-General to take the requisite measures to ensure an effective and coordinated response of the United Nations system to the New African Initiative. The Council also recognized that the support of the international community was necessary to maximize the impact of the actions of the United Nations system. Thus, it called for strengthened efforts by developed countries to meet as soon as possible the official development assistance (ODA) targets of 0.7 per cent of GDP, and the effective and improved coordination of the delivery of ODA by all development partners.

    ECOSOC President Martin Belinga-Eboutou said the Council would spare no effort to mobilize the United Nations system and Member States to ensure the implementation of African development objectives that were detailed in the Declaration. Summarizing the debate at the high-level segment, he said the economic situation of Africa was closely linked to the economic situation in the developed countries, and it was feared that the slowdown in the industrialized countries was certain to have a negative effect on African nations, and hence it was vital to ensure that heightened and consistent support was provided to Africa to ensure that development efforts continued.

    Several national delegations and international organizations addressed the session, imploring the global community to better coordinate poverty eradication programmes in Africa, and to create an economic climate in the continent that would make it an attractive investment option for foreign financiers.

    Other speakers told of the need to improve disaster management policies in the African countries. Disasters -- among them, drought, floods, famine -- hampered development, and could wipe out the hard-won results of decades of work in a very short time, said Ibrahim Osman, the Director of the Monitoring and Evaluation Division of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

    Still others maintained that among the most pressing issues was the cessation of the various armed and internal conflicts afflicting Africa. There was a direct link between peace, security, good governance and development, they said, and if that interrelationship was not realized, there could be no meaningful or sustained human-centred development in Africa. Saara Kuugongelwa, the Director-General of the Planning Commission of Namibia, said peace and security were prerequisites for development. Continued United Nations support in these areas would therefore help in creating an environment for growth and sustainable development, Ms. Kuugongelwa continued.

    Other speakers contributing to the debate were Algeria, Madagascar, Poland, Suriname, Australia, Kenya, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, the United Nations Population Fund, the World Food Programme; the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements; the Organization for Industrial, Spiritual and Cultural Advancement; the Centro di Ricerca e Documentazione Febbraio 74; the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions; and Angela King, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issue and Advancement of Women.

    The Council will return to session on Thursday, 19 July at 9:30 a.m. for a panel discussion about the "Charter for Public Service in Africa" before opening its general segment and discussing its agenda item concerning integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits.

    Ministerial Declaration

    In a Ministerial Declaration (E/2001/L.20), the Council noted with appreciation the priority accorded to Africa in various United Nations initiatives and conferences in recent years and the emphasis placed on meeting the special needs of the continent in the United Nations Millennium Declaration. In this context, it recalled that there would be support for the consolidation of democracy in Africa, and assistance to Africans in their struggle for lasting peace, poverty eradication and sustainable development, thereby bringing Africa into the mainstream of the world economy. Thus, it resolved to give full support to the political and institutional structures of emerging democracies in Africa; to encourage and sustain regional and subregional mechanisms for preventing conflict and promoting political stability, and to ensure a reliable flow of resources for peacekeeping operations on the continent; to take special measures to address the challenges of poverty eradication and sustainable development in Africa, including debt cancellation, improved market access, enhanced official development assistance (ODA) and increased flows of foreign direct investment, as well as transfer of technology; and to help Africa build up its capacity to tackle the spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and other infectious diseases.

    It called on the General Assembly to improve the process of assessing and monitoring progress in the implementation of commitments on Africa made in the Millennium Declaration, as well as major United Nations conferences and summits, and it requested the Council to play its full part in the process. It recognized the efforts of the African countries to promote sustainable development through the implementation of economic and political reforms in the past two decades, and noted with appreciation the support of the United Nations system for these efforts. However, in spite of these combined efforts, African countries still faced multi-faceted sustainable development challenges. It recognized the need to promote the role of women in social and economic development, including by ensuring their participation in the political and economic life of African countries. It further recognized the need for an increased focus on the rights and well-being of children, in particular their health and education. The Council invited the Secretary-General to take the requisite measures to ensure an effective and coordinated response of the United Nations system to the New African Initiative.

    The Council considered it crucial to recognize the critical links between peace, democracy, national efforts towards the promotion of good governance, respect for all internationally-recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development, and sustainable development in Africa. The United Nations was called on to mobilize political support and resources for implementing the various United Nations poverty eradication initiatives and programmes for Africa through strengthened partnerships with African governments, bilateral donors, the Bretton Woods institutions and civil society organizations; strengthen the capacity of African governments to make the linkages between economic and social dimensions of poverty-reduction strategies; support African countries in promoting economic and social policies that were pro-poor and gender-sensitive; combine peace-building, emergency assistance and longer-term development support measures; and explore the feasibility of creating a subregional United Nations coordinating capability. The Council also requested the Secretary-General to seek views of Member States and to present a report with proposals on the mandate, composition and modalities of work of such an advisory group.

    The Council was deeply concerned that Africa's efforts to reverse its low human capital development were being severely challenged by a worsening health crisis, including HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. It called on all funds, programmes and agencies which had not yet done so to mainstream AIDS prevention into their activities. It also urged the relevant organizations to assist in building national and regional capacity to tackle malaria, tuberculosis, and other major diseases afflicting the region. High importance was assigned to achieving universal primary education, eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieving gender equality in education by 2015. The Council encouraged the replication in low-enrolment countries in Africa of successful United Nations programmes designed to ensure the attendance and retention of children in school; the implementation of the Dakar Framework for Action on Education for All, and enhanced assistance to African countries in implementing and integrating Education for All into their national development and poverty-eradication strategies; expansion of subregional capacity training programmes and advocacy for regional specialization of academic training in order to maximize synergies and resources; concerted efforts to facilitate rapid and cost-effective development of human capital through increased, innovative and effective use of information and communication technologies in training, institutional capacity-building and education, including distance learning, technical, vocational and tertiary education; and assistance to Africa countries to undertake an audit of human capital development capacity needed to devise strategies for addressing them in order to achieve the international development goals.

    The Council recognized the importance of the integration of environmental concerns into policies designed to support economic and social development. It called for strengthened measures by and enhanced assistance to African countries in their fight against land degradation, drought and desertification; accelerated implementation of all water-related operational activities of the United Nations system related to increasing access to safe drinking water for household and agricultural use; the support for and replication of success stories being coordinated and implemented by the United Nations system; advocacy by the United Nations system for trade rules that promoted food security; due priority in domestic and external resource mobilization for agricultural and rural development; promotion of measures to increase food production and access to food, land, credit and technology; support for the efforts of Governments to review their ongoing national food security policies with a view to filling gaps, identifying and removing obstacles and taking adequate measures; and reaffirmed the goal to halve the number of those suffering from hunger by 2015, and included the goal as part of poverty eradication programmes and relevant initiatives for Africa. The Council recognized the role that increased diversification and competitiveness of economies could play in promoting sustained economic growth and sustainable development and poverty eradication in African countries. It called for support for the development of enterprises in the manufacturing, services and other sectors; further support for the implementation of Africa's industrial strategies; promotion of effective linkages between manufacturing industries and agriculture; and further actions to address high transaction costs.

    The Council was gravely concerned that if current trends continued, the majority of African countries would be unable to achieve the international development goals. Therefore, the United Nations system should provide policy advice on appropriate domestic strategies; strengthen the capacity of African countries to monitor and manage their debt; assist African governments in expanding the formal sector of their economies; develop joint programmes for assisting African countries in the formulation and implementation of national and subregional diversification strategies that would lead to the expansion of trade and increase export earnings; support the efforts of African countries to overcome supply-side constraints; expand its network of partnerships with the private sector and foundations to secure additional sources of funding for poverty-eradication programmes; and assist African countries in enhancing their absorptive capacity for international development assistance, including ODA. The Council also recognized that the support of the international community was necessary to maximize the impact of the actions of the United Nations system. Thus, it called for strengthened efforts by developed countries to meet as soon as possible the ODA targets of 0.7 per cent of GDP; the effective and improved coordination of the delivery of ODA by all development partners; the implementation of recommendations on the untying of aid to Least Developed Countries; the full, speedy and effective implementation of the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative for eligible African countries through new and additional resources; advance the development dimension of international trade and accelerate the beneficial integration of African countries into the global economy; and the paying of particular attention to the special needs of Africa in the International Conference on Financing for Development.

    Statements

    IBRAHIM OSMAN, Director of the Monitoring and Evaluation Division of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the mechanisms for consulting between governments and the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement were in place. Strengthening cooperation had also been agreed upon. The Red Cross or Red Crescent societies could serve as a bridge at the national level, and could bring local civil societies and governments closer together. That could enhance and broaden national cooperation on development issues. The HIV/AIDS pandemic was an unprecedented challenge to development. It was in Africa that the magnitude of the destruction that followed in its path could be seen distinctively. The pandemic was pillaging the productive and reproductive forces of society. In the hardest stricken countries, the people who should be the agents of development -- teachers, engineers, accountants, agricultural workers and nurses -- were notably fewer. And there were fewer breadwinners and providers of care. Development strategies should address HIV/AIDS, and should include measures that prevented further spread of the virus. The fight against HIV/AIDS was a top priority for the International Federation. To maximize the effects of the work and ensure coordination, the Federation was forging strong partnerships with other agencies and civil societies, both globally and regionally.

    Another issue, he said, was disaster management. Disasters -- drought, floods, famine – hampered development, and could wipe out the hard-won results of decades of work in a very short time. The International Federation maintained that disaster response and disaster preparedness should be approached at the same time, and within a development framework. National development plans should include measures for improving the preparedness of disaster-prone areas. The building of societies that were truly disaster resilient had to be a shared objective. The International Federation was working with African national societies to strengthen their disaster preparedness programmes. The cooperation addressed the need for better and more timely information, and pre-positioning of relief supplies close to particularly disaster-prone areas. To enhance the local crisis management and disaster response capacity, various training opportunities were offered to workers from the International Federation, from public administration and from other humanitarian agencies.

    MOHAMED-SALAH DEMBRI, Permanent Representative of Algeria to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said the adoption of the New African Initiative had been born from the ambition to build a new Africa that would face its challenges and meet the aspirations of its people. The intent was African renewal, and the main parameters to that end were establishment of the necessary political and economic environment; the ending of persistent conflicts; the consolidation of democracy; and the strengthening of good governance. Africa wished to assume all its responsibilities, and the initiative considered development as having comprehensive economic and social aspects. Moreover, it was vital for Africa to develop its human resources and for African countries to diversify their economies, to overcome their backwardness in infrastructure, and to attract massive foreign capital.

    Mobilization of financial resources for carrying out the Initiative was necessary, and major international help and partnership was needed for that to happen. There should be an appropriate solution to the debt problem, to trade restrictions, and to barriers to increased foreign investment in Africa.

    SAARA KUUGONGELWA, Director-General of the Planning Commission of Namibia, said poverty eradication remained a critical area of focus for many nations. It was, therefore, crucial that support was provided to African countries in formulating poverty eradication strategies. The United Nations should continue to support African countries in identifying existing opportunities in their economies that could support poverty eradication and specific challenges which had to be confronted in order to succeed in the battle against poverty. For a number of countries, inadequate capacity constituted a major obstacle to poverty eradication. In Namibia, for instance, inadequate capacity remained a critical impediment in its socio-economic development efforts. A national capacity assessment undertaken three years ago with the support of the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank concluded that inadequate capacity posed the greatest challenge to Namibia's development efforts.

    Peace and security was a prerequisite for development, she said. Continued United Nations support in these areas would therefore help in creating an environment for growth and sustainable development. In this regard, recognition had to be given to the role Africans could play in resolving conflicts on the continent. Any support in augmenting African efforts and resolving conflicts on the continent should aim first and foremost at strengthening the capacity of Africans to better deal with these issues in order to ensure durable peace and security. The inter-relationship between peace, security and good governance had to be recognized if there was to be meaningful and sustained human-centred development in Africa.

    MAXIME ZAFERA, Permanent Representative of Madagascar to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that while the gross national products (GNPs) of other developing countries had increased by a third over the last decade, the GNPs of African nations had gone down, although there were a few encouraging exceptions. ODA had to be increased and foreign debt burdens reduced; foreign direct investment needed to be expanded and barriers to international trade eliminated. Solutions to Africa's problems had to be found first of all, by African countries, and they had shown their commitment through enormous efforts at promoting economic integration and fortifying democracy. The New African Initiative was a coherent policy aimed at promoting development on the continent.

    The task to be achieved was so immense, bearing in mind the multiple challenges facing Africa, that international help was indispensable. More was needed from the United Nations system and from developed countries to back African undertakings. Madagascar had always received United Nations support to those ends, and was grateful and satisfied, yet it felt that United Nations agencies should unite to support African-led and African-managed efforts. The time had come to stop talking and get down to action.

    KRZYSZTOF JAKUBOWSKI, Permanent Representative of Poland to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said one of the biggest challenges before this session of ECOSOC was to strengthen the instruments at the international community's disposal to be more effective in the framework of international policy aiming at supporting Africa in the fight against poverty. Poland was sure that the outcome of the LDCs Conference in Brussels in May was a good example of increased consciousness of the difficult social and economic situation in many African countries. It believed that the challenge of poverty alleviation was an ongoing process requiring constant reappraisal of strategies. No doubt a greater synergy among efforts by all stakeholders was required to create an enabling environment both at the national and international levels. Governments especially could do much more to influence public debate to increase awareness of the social benefits of pro-poor public actions. They could also build political support for such actions.

    Development cooperation, he said, was becoming an integral part of Polish foreign policy. It was believed that an active participation in efforts to resolve global development problems of Africa was a moral and political duty, especially to the inhabitants of the poorest African countries, as well as those who struggled with economic and social problems, or were victims of conflicts or natural disasters. In Polish universities, a large number of students -- both for Masters and Doctoral degrees -- were from African countries. Poland was committed to further expanding scholarships and other programmes of assistance to Africans. Poland supported the ongoing efforts to simplify and harmonize United Nations procedures in economic and social fields within existing resources. The successful fulfilment of that goal was essential in the interests of sustainable and equitable development around the world.

    IRMA E. LOEMBAN TOBING-KLEIN, Permanent Representative of Suriname to the United Nations at New York, said necessary steps had to be taken against the serious epidemic of HIV/AIDS; it was clear that the African and Caribbean regions belonged to the most affected parts of the world and that optimal participation of both regions in global financial and other structures to fight the disease was crucial. Suriname felt it was important to recognize the essential role of information and communications technology (ICT) as a way of providing opportunities for all countries to participate in the globalized economy. It was proud of its national ICT initiative. Suriname similarly felt that the interdependence of human development, peace-building, poverty reduction, broad-based economic growth and conflict prevention should be acknowledged.

    Also vital were human rights education and a wide, persistent commitment to implementing the goals of various world conferences and summits held in recent years. Suriname believed that it would be impossible to improve the situation of people around the globe unless those commitments were taken seriously and were followed by concrete actions.

    LES LUCK, Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said Australia was not a major donor in Africa, although it had contributed in significant ways to the development aspirations of the continent over many years. In an effort to ensure that Australia's finite development resources were directed to where they were best able to deliver development results, Australia's aid programme focused on the approximately 800 million people living in poverty in its own region. That said, it recognized the complexity of the economic and social development challenges facing Africa -- a region containing many of the poorest and least developed countries in the world – and supported the Secretary-General's call for a renewed international partnership between Africa and the international community. Through its own aid programme to Africa, Australia aimed to build partnerships with selected African countries and communities in a mutual effort to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development.

    Mr. Luck said ODA played an important role in supporting the efforts of African countries. However, ODA was but one part of the framework for financing development. The Secretary-General's report correctly identified trade as a critical tool for enhancing development and said that much more needed to be done to improve access to markets for African countries -- indeed, for all developing countries. Australia strongly supported and encouraged further efforts to provide free and open access to international markets bilaterally, regionally and globally through the World Trade Organization. Agriculture was a particularly important sector for Africa, and it was regrettable that industrialized countries continued to spend on agricultural subsidies more than 20 times the amount of ODA provided to sub-Saharan Africa.

    Australia acknowledged ECOSOC's call for donors to raise their voluntary contributions to United Nations funds and programmes for their activities in Africa. It made substantial contributions to the programmes of various United Nations organizations -- many of which operated in Africa. In 2000-2001, Australia provided $78 million in contributions to United Nations development and humanitarian organizations. It would continue to pursue opportunities for collaboration, particularly within its geographical focus on southern Africa. At the same time, Australia looked forward to continued progress with United Nations reforms, and their translation into improved aid delivery in the field.

    MICHAEL A. O. OYUGI (Kenya) said African countries had remained underdeveloped despite the many initiatives that had been put in place. Despite having some of the most liberal trade and investment regimes, African countries were still heavily reliant on exports of a few commodities that were continually affected by adverse terms of trade. External debt burdens afflicted African countries and adversely affected budget allocations for such essential services as health and education.

    The upcoming World Trade Organization Doha Ministerial Conference should be used by the international community to reaffirm the potential contribution of international trade to economic growth. Ongoing negotiations on agriculture and services needed to result in genuine improvement in market access for African exports while maintaining the flexibilities accorded to developing countries. Agriculture was the mainstay of African economies and genuine efforts must be exerted to eliminate distortions in agricultural trade, the most prominent being the $1 billion per day spent by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries on agricultural support. Poverty in Africa had to be effectively eased, the HIV/AIDS crisis effectively confronted, and peace and security enhanced throughout the continent.

    JEAN FEYDER, Director of Cooperation and Development of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg, said the African continent had been ravaged by too many wars and too many ethnic and internal conflicts. Military expenditure represented a multiple of total ODA. What progress could have been achieved by using that money for social purposes? Without peace, Africa would know no development. The New African Initiative adopted last week at Lusaka represented the political will of all African leaders to make development the centrepoint of their concerns. It was hoped that this would take the form of a single strategy, and that there would be regional and subregional cooperation. The Secretary-General's report pointed out the measures to be taken to eradicate poverty, to end conflict, to ensure food and to guarantee good governance. Progress would be the result of interaction in all of these sectors. The international community's role was to give support to the measures proposed by the Secretary-General. The problems that restricted African growth could not be ignored.

    Mr. Feyder said that Luxembourg had achieved the 0.7 per cent of GDP -- the ODA goal -- last year. It was still working towards reaching a goal of 1 per cent, and it was supported by the entire political spectrum of the country. Most of Luxembourg's African partnerships were with Least Developed Countries. Its aid was mainly unconditional, which enabled the money to go to programmes that were run by local enterprises. More than 60 per cent of its operational budget went to the social sector, including education, basic health, and water. Luxembourg stressed the importance of training for management and for professional capacity building. This was to ensure that its actions would have a certain duration, and its partners would later take them over. Luxembourg pledged to continue dialogue with the governments and civil society. Multilaterally, it was involved in the fight against epidemics, especially AIDS. Luxembourg intended to contribute one million euros to the global fund for AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Similar amounts would be earmarked for 2002 and 2003. The poorest men and women in Africa were generally found in rural areas. Their income was unstable because prices depended on global prices and global markets where their products competed with the Northern farmers. African workers needed to be able to have income that would let them live from their work.

    VASSILY TAKEV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, said that since the 1960s, Bulgaria had undertaken hundreds of industrial and agricultural projects in Africa and had involved thousands of Bulgarian experts in contributing to the development of the majority of African States. Recently it had reformulated its priority areas of cooperation and assistance to make sure they complied with reality in Africa -- interest now was being focused on such matters as agriculture, health, and education.

    Bulgaria was equally committed to intensifying its relations with Africa in a multilateral context; its active participation in European structures and candidacy for European Union membership enhanced its capacities to strengthen and diversify its cooperation with African countries. Bulgarian civil and military observers were involved in international peacekeeping missions in Africa, and Bulgaria had established contacts with leading regional organizations on the continent. As a country that had gone through difficult political and economic reforms, Bulgaria had become a stabilizing factor in South-Eastern Europe and aimed to further its responsibilities in promoting peace, democracy and development on a global scale.

    ANGELA KING, Assistant Secretary-General and Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, said the launch at the Lusaka Summit last week of the new African Union and a New African Initiative gave much hope. The prospect of stronger economies and more robust democracies was emerging throughout the continent. The two past decades had seen major advances in education, health care and life expectancy. But the reality was that the continent faced endemic poverty, persisting armed conflicts, HIV/AIDS, environmental degradation, unacceptably high levels of maternal mortality, growing food insecurity, peripheral involvement in information technology, and the less than positive impact of globalization, particularly on women. Women could help stave off these challenges. The total involvement and empowerment of African women, who represented more than half the population, could strengthen the continent in its quest for prosperity, peace and democracy.

    Ms. King said women were affected by poverty differently than men. Africa was no exception to the "feminization of poverty". Gender-specific programmes and policies were needed to eradicate poverty. There was a need to expand women's access to credit, to property and land, and to link these activities with a country's microeconomic policies and to factor them into the overall global policies of financing for development. HIV/AIDS was the primary cause of death on the continent. Women bore the brunt of the pandemic, not only because they were more susceptible to the virus, but because they lacked information on how to prevent infection and lacked the power to negotiate safe sex with their partners. In addition, they were often over-burdened by the care of remaining relatives, the sick and the orphaned. The focus on gender equality could make a major contribution to the debate on justice and human rights and move the international community forward in fulfilling the United Nations Charter's promise of equal rights for women and men. A vision of human rights encompassing the aspirations of women and men in the context of freedom from want, freedom from fear and full access to decision-making, should be the goal in the African context.

    KUNIO WAKI, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said the UNFPA believed that a new page of hope had been turned in Africa's development journey. The UNFPA recognized the inextricable links between population and reproductive health issues, poverty eradication and sustainable development, and looked forward to working with all its partners within the frameworks agreed to by African Governments. In Africa it focused its activities on reproductive health, including family planning and sexual health; population and development strategies; and advocacy.

    While dealing with the problem of HIV/AIDS, the UNFPA had concentrated in particular on preventing HIV infections among young people. The UNFPA also provided substantive leadership under its Global Strategy for Reproductive Health Commodity Security to aid African countries, which still relied heavily on external donors for such commodities, and it worked closely with governments to meet their needs to achieve universal access to high-quality reproductive health information and services by 2015. In addition, the UNFPA was active in providing reproductive health services during crises and emergency situations, and in assisting countries to integrate population factors and concerns into development policies.

    NAMANGA NGONGI, Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), said Africa had been at the centre of international attention for more than a decade and many plans of action had been adopted. However, economic and social development had slowed or stagnated in most countries and in many others, there had been significant declines in standards of living of the population. Emphasis had been placed on long-term macro-economic policies at the expense of short- and medium-term programmes to develop the region’s human capacity. Instability and civil strife had undermined development efforts in many countries and had drained both internal and external financial resources that could have assisted development efforts of the countries concerned. Many African countries had been negatively impacted by large outflows of refugees from countries in crisis. It was time that the international community focused on Africa's immediate problems and challenges that constrained its social and economic development.

    First and foremost, he continued, there should be peace. Over the last decade, more sub-Saharan countries than ever before had experienced violent conflict. Armed conflicts continued to generate humanitarian disasters, displace millions of people, and waste precious human, financial and natural resources. HIV/AIDS was an urgent crisis. It was a well-known fact that Africa had been most affected by this pandemic. It was taking away so many lives at such a devastating scale and rate that the region's productive capacity was being rapidly drained. Since most African countries were agriculture-based, this translated into a significant decline in agricultural productivity, leading to food insecurity. HIV/AIDS and malnutrition often operated in tandem. It was estimated that 40 per cent of the population did not have access to adequate food. For young children, malnutrition put them on the path to becoming unproductive adults. Many African children did not live long enough to become adults. Infant mortality in the region was the highest in the world. In some countries, especially those at war, more than 250 out of 1,000 children died before age 5, mostly from malnutrition. Nutrition and education were also closely linked. One reinforced the other, and only when the two elements were satisfied could the full potential of people be realized. A hungry child could not concentrate on his or her lessons, and an uneducated person could not put his or her nutritional intake to the best productive use. Should all of these constraints be lifted, Africa would be in a position to use its vast natural resources and human potential to assure its own development in a sustainable manner.

    ALIOUNE BADIANE, Director of the Regional Office for African and Arab States of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), said most African cities were far from achieving their potential as major engines of economic growth. This was due to poor urban planning and management practices as well as lack of administrative, financial and technical capacity. The seriousness of the urbanization challenge had not been fully realized, for although African populations were still mostly rural, there was an alarming urbanization process under way. Problems included lack of water, sanitation and electricity.

    Habitat, through its technical cooperation activities and various projects and programmes such as Water for African Cities, the Urban Management Programme, the Community Development Programme, the Safer Cities and Disaster Management Programme, the joint Sustainable Cities Programme, the Cities Alliance Initiative, the Local Leadership Programme, the Urban Indicators and the Local Agenda 21, was currently working in over 40 African countries. Two global campaigns on secure tenure and good urban governance were already being launched in such leading countries as South Africa and Nigeria. And Habitat was establishing a broad, multi-dimensional perspective on urban poverty reduction in Africa.

    FIUMIO KITSUKI, of the Organization for Industrial, Spiritual and Cultural Advancement (OISCA), said the United Nations should commit to ensuring greater coordination of its activities with African governments and NGOs, so that the latter would be more supportive and would learn how to implement projects. The United Nations should also commit to building up a system of local procurement of relief food by consultation with African governments, to better contribute to the self-reliance of rural communities; to altering the United Nations funding system to make more resources available to international NGOs; to supporting environmental African grassroots organizations; to strengthening the capacity of donor countries to respond effectively to the emergency requests of African countries; to including in long-term goals such humanitarian developments as the emergence of public authorities; to fostering harmony among communities to avert armed conflicts; to nurturing spiritual values, infusing altruism through education, and providing opportunities for "soul searching", so that peaceful minds could be developed; to paying attention to the significance of such projects as international exchange programmes that could broaden the subjective experience of ordinary people; and to promoting experiential environmental education programmes to help people learn how to establish harmonious relations with the natural world.

    The OISCA had implemented the Children's Forest Programme, whose basic structure was quite simple. Children of elementary and secondary schools were taught about the variety of benefits that forests provided humans, and were invited to join in the experience of planting tree saplings. Further, they were helped to protect and raise the saplings by watering and cutting grass. This programme had now extended to 23 countries, and involved nearly 2,500 schools creating thousands of groves near school grounds. This programme was not only for children, as their teachers and parents participated in the planting together. It was hoping that this programme would be introduced and implemented further in many countries in order to promote various kinds of community programmes in the future with the cooperation and support of the United Nations.

    ALFONSO ALFONSI, of Centro di Ricerca e Documentazione Febbraio 74 (CERFE), said the CERFE, an NGO, had conducted research, training and capacity building in the field of development for 20 years, including in 36 African countries. It worked hard to provide decision-makers, including the United Nations, with reliable information. Recently it had organized in New York a panel on "the people of the United Nations facing up to the challenge of eradicating poverty". The CERFE focused on the essential factor, often underestimated, of human resources, which increasingly appeared to be the major factor in achieving sustainable growth.

    To eradicate poverty in Africa would require commitment from many actors, starting with African Governments; but the industrialized countries also had to show clear will and commitment in supplying the resources necessary. Also the civil society of the North must supply additional resources and must support the efforts of African civil society to advance. Poverty should not be considered a homogeneous phenomenon; policies to combat it must be differentiated to take into account the diverse levels of poverty and the different kinds of poor affected. Preventive strategies also had to be developed to protect groups most exposed to social risk.

    DAN CUNNIAH, of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, said a recent study showed that when South Africa was excluded, the region's income was the lowest in the world -- just over $315 per capita. The continent's total income was just over that of Belgium. In sub-Saharan Africa, well over 50 per cent of the population still lived on less than $1 a day. Average income per capita was lower than at the end of the 1960s. Almost half of sub-Saharan Africa's 640 million people lived on no more than 65 American cents a day. The average GNP per capita for the region was $492, but in 24 countries, GNP per capita was under $350. This was absolute poverty. The Economic Commission for Africa's "Africa Economic Report 2000" showed that, for five years in a row, Africa's GDP had grown faster than its population, reversing the falling living standards of the previous 15 years. Still, poverty was higher in Africa than in any other region of the world. Two out of five Africans subsisted below a poverty line of less than $20 per month. The majority of these were women. Africa had the most unequal distribution of income in any region in the world. And half of Africa's school-age children were out of school -- this was even lower in rural areas, and among girls.

    The international community should reiterate its determination and duty to eradicate poverty, promote full and productive employment, foster social integration and create an enabling environment for social development in Africa. The maintenance of peace and security within and among nations, democracy, the rule of law, the promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the rights to development, effective, transparent and accountable governance, gender equality, full respect for fundamental principles and rights at work and the rights of migrant workers were some of the essential elements for the realization of social and people-centred development.

    Concluding Statement by ECOSOC President on High-Level Segment on Africa

    MARTIN BELINGA-EBOUTOU, President of ECOSOC, summarizing the Council's three days of debate on African development, said the economic situation of Africa was closely linked to the economic situation in the developed countries; it was feared that the slowdown in the industrialized countries was certain to have a negative effect on African nations, and hence it was vital to ensure that heightened and consistent support was provided to Africa to ensure that development efforts continued. The international community had to assume a responsible approach based on solidarity, rather than simply falling back and withdrawing from development initiatives; it was vital to keep the objectives set in the Millennium Declaration, particularly those concerning Africa.

    The New African Initiative recently adopted at the Organization of African Unity Summit in Lusaka was laudable, Mr. Belinga-Eboutou said; it was designed to make the African continent competitive and to ensure that it took its place in a high-tech world; especially important was the commitment of African governments to advance democracy and to ensure sound and transparent economic management. Also vital was the commitment voiced to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic. All the aims of the Initiative would require substantial support from the international community, along with better adapted policies and behaviour by international institutions, taking into account to a greater extent the judgement and priorities set by African governments. That the continent sought to set up an African Union -- an economic community -- was proof of the commitment of African countries to achieving lasting development.

    A well-coordinated and efficient approach had been called for by the international community in response to the New African Initiative, Mr. Belinga-Eboutou said. But it was clear that it also was necessary to open international markets to African exports. The ECOSOC and all development partners placed great hope in the conference on financing and development scheduled to take place next year in Mexico. The ECOSOC would spare no effort to mobilize the United Nations system and Member States to ensure the implementation of African development objectives.

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