Press Releases

    SG/SM/8209
    26 April 2002

    AFRICA’S "NEW SPIRIT OF DEMOCRATIC EMPOWERMENT", CONTINENT’S SOBERING CHALLENGES HIGHLIGHTED BY SECRETARY-GENERAL IN ADDRESS AT
    HARVARD’S KENNEDY SCHOOL

    NEW YORK, 25 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the Godkin Lecture delivered by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, on 25 April:

    Thank you, very much Larry, for that warm and kind introduction. I am pleased and honoured to deliver the annual Godkin Lecture. I am also delighted to join Joe Nye in welcoming John Ruggie to the Kennedy School, though I do so with mixed emotions. We greatly miss you John in New York, and I know you will all benefit from his scholarship and energy.

    Like so many people everywhere, you at the Kennedy School have been grappling with globalization and its discontents in recent conferences and meetings, as well as in your classes. You appreciate that globalization as we know it today is not sustainable. It needs to be less disruptive and more equitable. It needs to support not only private wealth but also public goods. We have learned that managing the adverse consequences of globalization -- while still reaping its benefits -- requires not less governance, but better and smarter governance.

    So it is a special pleasure for me to address you on the issue of governance. This is a critical area of the United Nations’ mission in the twenty-first century.

    All our work for development and peace has taught us that if the issue of governance is neglected, then we are building on sand. No amount of aid, and no degree of diplomacy, can produce lasting progress if it is not rooted in legitimate, rule-bound institutions responsive and accountable to the people.

    Africa has had a strained relationship with globalization. As a continent, it is less integrated into the global economy today than a decade ago. In so far as it is, it is largely through commodity exports, which works to the disadvantage of African countries as commodity prices have fallen steadily.

    Half of all Africans have never made or received a phone call. And less than one per cent of Africans have ever logged onto the Internet. Nowhere is it more important, therefore, to ensure that the benefits of globalization are shared at every level of society. Governance is at the heart of this challenge, and today I want to talk to you about how Africans are placing governance at the heart of their efforts to renew their societies and reform their economies.

    The struggle for democracy, development, human rights and good governance in Africa may well be reaching what has been called the "tipping point."

    Important progress has been made not only in practical terms, but also in the determination of Africans to see their countries share in the opportunities that a globalized economy can provide. Citizens throughout Africa are demanding the rights and obligations of free men and women, and they

    are being heard today perhaps more than ever. African leaders are engaged in a serious effort to learn from past mistakes, and to chart a future based on the rule of law and good governance.

    We are all tempted to talk and think about Africa in monolithic terms -- and yet the reality is far more diverse and complex. There are immense differences among African countries -- in progress and political development, as well as social and economic reform. While some remain mired in the ways of the past, many others are being transformed by new public demands and responsive political leadership.

    We are today seeing important progress in resolving long-standing conflicts, from Sierra Leone to Angola, to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Eritrea Ethiopia -- all of which are necessary to create the space for political and economic reform.

    Increasingly, African societies are led by democratically elected leaders accountable to their peoples and guided by the public interest. The military has returned to the barracks in most countries, and attempts to undermine democratic gains have been met with resistance from the people determined to see their rights respected. And several years ago, the Organization of African Unity, at the summit level passed a resolution indicating that they will not accept or welcome into their midst any leader who took power by force. And it was so refreshing to hear the African leaders talk in terms of each game has its rules. And even in soccer, if someone misbehaves, you show them the red card and you don’t entertain them, and we should not do this, and it has made a difference on the continent.

    What all this amounts to, in my view, is a new spirit of democratic empowerment throughout Africa -- a spirit that can sustain belief in progress even in the most difficult of times.

    Today, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the principle of democracy is universally recognized. The right of all people to take part in the government of their country through free and regular elections is not peculiar to any country. Throughout Africa, we are seeing people demand the right to choose their leaders, to hold these leaders accountable, and to demand efficiency and transparency from their government. Africans are demanding genuine democracy -- meaning, not least, that elections, when held, should be free and fair, so that they can be relied on to reflect the genuine will of the people.

    However, Africans, and not just outsiders, are beginning to say that for democracy to succeed in Africa, an electoral mandate alone is not enough. For elections to be genuinely free, and for the people to feel genuinely represented in government, much more is needed: institutional checks and balances, an independent judiciary, viable political parties, a free press and the freedom of each individual to express his or her ideas without fear of retribution.

    Africans have seen in the past how democracy is betrayed, even if its forms are respected, when elected governments allow corruption to thrive, and fail to address the basic needs of the population. Indeed, some institutions of democracy -- in developed as well as developing countries -- can be abused to harm human rights, especially when minorities are excluded or marginalized -- whereas inclusive democracy is the best mechanism for advancing and securing human rights.

    In Africa, as elsewhere, we have learned from painful experience that authoritarian and highly personalized forms of governance, ethnic discrimination, and violations of human rights have been the root causes of conflict. Conversely, Africans, like others, have also learned that only democratic governance -- by protecting minorities, encouraging political pluralism, and upholding the rule of law -- can channel internal dissent peacefully, and thus help break the cycle of conflict and poverty.

    What is encouraging about recent developments in Africa is that the pressure for good governance is no longer coming from one side or the other, but from peoples and leaders alike. The spirit of democratic empowerment is challenging all leaders to live up to the ideals of independence, and to deliver the freedoms, the rights and the opportunities that their peoples deserve.

    The spirit of democratic empowerment that I referred to earlier cannot, of course, on its own transform Africa’s prospects. Just as important is the fact that Africa’s new resolve begins with a sober and realistic assessment of the social and economic challenges facing the continent.

    First, poverty in Africa is widespread and severe. Africa is now the region with the largest number of people living below $1 a day. Although the average economic growth rate in Africa did increase in 2000 to 3.1 per cent, that is still far short of what one African needs if it is to meet the Millennium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015.

    Second, too many African countries remain caught up in conflict, or have only recently emerged from periods of violence and instability. From the destruction of infrastructures and roads to the mass displacement of some 17 million people, Africa’s search for development continues to be impeded by war and conflict.

    Third, while many African countries still depend largely on official development assistance (ODA) for their hopes of development, that assistance has declined dramatically in recent years. In 1999 alone, aid to Africa dropped by $1 billion compared to the year before. The decline in ODA to Africa applied not only to countries in conflict, but also -- and perhaps most distressingly -- to those acknowledged to be making determined efforts to improve their policies.

    The recent announcement of increases in ODA by the European Union and the United States at last month’s Monterrey Conference offers some hope that this downward trend will be reversed.

    The Monterrey Consensus recognized that Africa needs additional assistance to be given a hand up -- through capacity building and additional ODA, debt relief, market access and foreign direct investments. This is particularly important since Africans would much rather trade their way out of poverty, rather than live on a handout. They want economic empowerment as much as political empowerment.

    African countries urgently need increased access to markets of developed countries if they are to diversify their economies, and create jobs for the soaring number of the unemployed. Yet too often their access to the markets of the developed countries remains blocked by a combination of continued protection, subsidies paid to producers from the developed countries, and technical standards imposed by importing countries.

    It was, therefore, encouraging that an agreement was reached in Doha to negotiate substantial improvements in market access, allowing poor countries to compete on a fair basis. Doha has a promise. Doha also recognized that an open door is not enough. Poor countries need assistance to build the capacity to benefit from trade opportunities.

    I believe that the Doha and Monterrey conferences have put new life in international economic cooperation for the eradication of poverty -- cooperation that is bound to benefit Africa, the continent that faces the greatest development challenge of the twenty-first century.

    Finally, the almost overwhelming challenge of HIV-AIDS that we heard President Summers talk about. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region most severely affected by HIV/AIDS. In 2001, according to UNAIDS, approximately 3.4 million infections occurred in Africa -- bringing the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the region to 28.1 million.

    The pandemic is affecting the demographic structure, and has placed increased demands on the already overstretched public health services and facilities. And I would recommend the study done by Jeffrey Sachs on health and development, and I think that drives home the point. Even more devastating is the fact that HIV/AIDS is claiming the lives of many of the most productive and creative people on the continent.

    It is clear from what I have described that in Africa today challenge and opportunity are two sides of the same coin. Africans are more aware of this than ever before, and are genuinely engaging these issues on their own terms.

    First, they are addressing the conflicts in their midst by coming together as African leaders determined to solve their own problems. In Burundi, we have seen a process led by the late President Nyerere and then by former President Mandela; in Sierra Leone, regional leaders in cooperation with the United Nations are stabilizing that country; and they have elections in May this year. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, President Mbeki of South Africa has invested great efforts in promoting the inter-Congolese dialogue, led by former President Masire of Botswana; and in Eritrea-Ethiopia, a conflict that killed 80,000 people, an African-led mediation effort ended a war, and led to the introduction of a UN peacekeeping mission.

    Since then, the two countries have accepted a boundary commission’s findings on delimitation. Over the coming months, the border will be physically demarcated on the ground with a United Nations assistance team. These are examples of constructive cooperation on which Africa must build, and the African leaders must continue to work as they confront the crises of the future -- whether they are emerging conflicts or threats to the democratic process.

    Second, Africans are confronting the scourge of HIV and are deeply conscious of the threat it poses to the very future of the continent. Several countries in Africa have been at the forefront of the social mobilization against it.

    They have fought back with innovative national AIDS programmes and community initiatives for both care and prevention, including relentless campaigns of public education that reach every man, woman and child. And I think the rest of the world is beginning to take notice. And each time I meet an African leader, I challenge him to speak up on this, because silence in this case -- silence on AIDS is death. And more and more of them are speaking up. I recall not very long ago an African head of State was giving a speech to read out and one of the paragraphs talked about the use of condoms. It took them two weeks to convince him to agree to talk about condoms. He said, "I am the father of the nation I cannot encourage the children to be promiscuous". He couldn’t see the point immediately that he was also saving lives and protecting future generations. In the end he did and is much more relaxed about it now and he talks about it quite often.

    Third, Africans are developing new initiatives aimed at securing lasting development and economic integration. One such initiative is NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development -- a partnership whose principles can pave the way to a brighter future for Africa.

    The significant innovation of NEPAD is its belief in partnership -- within Africa and between Africa and its partners. It calls for a new partnership between Africa and the rest of the international community, especially the highly industrialized countries, to overcome the development chasm that has widened during centuries of unequal relations. It calls for a relationship based on the understanding that development is a process of empowerment and self-reliance.

    This partnership is also to be based on accountability for agreed development goals, including peer review and performance-monitoring both among African countries, and between them and their international partners.

    These efforts at accountability reflect the desire of African leaders to be judged on their performance, and to help each other before asking for help of their international partners.

    To reinforce democracy and governance, and facilitate effective implementation of the various standards and codes, NEPAD’s leaders have also committed themselves to strengthening parliamentary oversight, promoting participatory decision-making, adopting effective measures to combat corruption, and undertaking judicial reforms.

    What is important about every one of these challenges facing Africa is that they are being met with African-led initiatives which emphasize responsibility and ownership on the part of African leaders and citizens. The partnerships and programmes that will succeed in responding to Africa’s future needs must focus on helping Africans improve their own capacities and institutions.

    Although capacities are improving in African countries, much needs to be done -- for instance there is a need to strengthen parliaments, judiciaries, systems of public finance, and institutions of higher learning.

    And the academic community can do so much to help. Beginning with the pioneering work and the scholarship of W.E.B. DuBois, Harvard graduate who played a very important role in deepening our appreciation of Africa’s history, and our understanding of its future prospects.

    I hope you will pay more attention to Africa in your planning and in your own research programmes, which can contribute to solving Africa’s problems, and by establishing links with African educational institutions, and I hope you would also help Africans build up their capacity to solve their problems. Many African universities were once famous centres of excellence, but most of it is all gone now. We have a situation where older professors are retiring, young ones are not going to teach in academia and we need to find ways of rejuvenating the faculty -- renewing the faculty. And I think about four foundations led by Carnegie have come together trying to raise $100 million to focus on this effort, and whatever you can do from here to help would be extremely helpful.

    And I believe NEPAD would also offer us an opportunity through which we can re-invigorate these institutions, and networks of specialized research and higher education can also be promoted, and I hope we can count on you. I cannot think of a better institution of higher learning in the developed world than Harvard and the Kennedy School to launch this kind of partnership.

    Africa’s future will be determined by Africans enabled and empowered to build a future of democracy and prosperity based on the rule of law and good governance. To build this future, to defeat conflicts, cure the diseases and alleviate multiple hardships that have held the continent back, Africa will need to summon all the wisdom, political courage, will and creativity that it can muster.

    But it will also need the support of the developed world in an effort that is grounded, as I said earlier, in a sober and realistic assessment of how to achieve lasting progress. The reality of globalization has made it clear that we cannot ignore the challenges and crises of other parts of the world, and if we do, we do so at our own peril.

    Even more, it’s become clear that opportunities for growth and innovation exist everywhere -- as long as we end conflicts and create the structure of governance that can sustain lasting development.

    Africans today are showing courage, determination and responsibility in their struggle to lift their countries out of war and poverty. Supporting these efforts has never been more vital to the interests of the developed world and the international community. Let us, together, do all we can to help millions of people throughout Africa to improve their lives, so that a continent so rich in human and natural resources can truly fulfil its great promise.

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