Press Releases

SG/SM/8246
AFR/414
21 May 2002

Marking Africa Day, Secretary-General Hails Launching of African Union, Growing African Cooperation in Struggle for Development, Human Rights

NEW YORK, 20 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the occasion of Africa Day, 25 May 2002:

Every year on 25 May, Africa Day marks the anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity, which for nearly four decades has been Africa's voice on the international stage and an advocate at home for progress and peace.

This year's commemoration occurs at a crucial juncture. African leaders have launched the African Union, a grand project of integration with the potential to provide the framework, tools and common purpose needed for the continent to achieve its goals. Another dynamic initiative -- the New Partnership for Africa's Development -- (NEPAD) is taking shape. Indeed, the struggle for democracy, development, human rights and good governance in Africa may well be reaching what has been called a "tipping point."

Africans are addressing the conflicts in their midst by coming together as African leaders determined to solve their own problems. Earlier this month, for example, Sierra Leoneans went to the polls in a successful electoral process that should help consolidate peace in that previously strife-torn country.

Africans are also confronting the scourge of AIDS with innovative programmes and relentless campaigns of public education -- often led by the very men, women and orphans who are the victims of the disease.

And with initiatives such as the NEPAD, they are deepening the process of political and economic reform and building productive ties with each other and with the international community.

In short, Africans are moving steadily towards democratic and economic empowerment, and 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.

On Africa Day, let us all -- Africans and their partners throughout the world -- pledge to do all we can to help millions of men and women 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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