Press Releases

    SG/SM/8366
    AFR/475
    5 September 2002

    EDUCATION SHOULD BE AT FOREFRONT OF ALL DEVELOPMENT
    PLANS FOR AFRICA, SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS
    IN REMARKS TO CIVIL SOCIETY LEADER

    Also Addresses Issues of Peace, Democracy,
    HIV/AIDS, Sustainable Development

    (Delayed in transmission.)

    NEW YORK, 4 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at a meeting with civil society leaders in Maputo, Mozambique on 29 August:

    Let me thank you for the nice words you said about me and the United Nations and also for reminding me and the audience that my career and the Mozambican freedom movement started in the same year. I think we are both doing well; the freedom movement is now mature and is a government, and I think I haven’t done too badly in my career. So I hope we both continue in that way.

    And you, Mr. Rector, let me thank you and the other professors here for the work you are doing to prepare the future leaders of our continent. Education is absolutely essential for this continent if we are to develop our countries and our economies. We need to have a well educated work force, and this is why emphasis on education should be at the forefront of all development plans that African countries come up with.

    But let me start, Mr. President and Mr. Rector, to tell you how delighted I am to meet you all today. I am really excited -- and my wife can attest to this -- to pay my first visit to Mozambique as Secretary-General of the United Nations, all the more so because I have been wanting to come here for such a long time. I am now here during such an important anniversary year for Mozambique -- the tenth anniversary of the agreement that brought peace to this country.

    In fact I understand that in this special year -- just over a month from now, on 4 October -- you will be celebrating for the first time a national holiday called Peace and Reconciliation Day. So let me convey my congratulations in advance to all the people of Mozambique on that happy day.

    The triumph of Mozambique will long be remembered as one of the biggest success stories. We at the United Nations are happy to be associated with it. I am happy to note that Mozambique’s approach to peace did not end with the conclusion of the peace agreement.

    Your country has kept consolidating peace by observing, respecting and safeguarding the democratic electoral process.

    You have understood that for democracy to prosper, it needs sustained and effective attention -- from the Government in power, from political parties, and, above all, from a dynamic and vigilant civil society.

    You have understood that such a vigorous approach constitutes the best guarantee of the fulfilment of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.

    And you know that the work for peace and democracy is not done in isolation. It is inextricably linked with the work for development. Democracy is much stronger when people can see that poverty is being reduced, that society is becoming more just, and that these gains can be sustained in future and over time.

    Today, the dividends of Mozambique’s decade of peace are plain for all to see -- from the continuing recovery of the economy, to the reconstruction of the country and of this capital city.

    Your country has confronted difficult challenges with a great deal of courage and determination. That was the case two years ago, when the floods took such a devastating toll on your country. And it is the case today, in the face of the HIV/AIDS crisis and the more recent threat of a drought.

    The climate of trust which Mozambique has generated in the international community has helped to forge a successful and enduring partnership for development with donors.

    In that work for development, you, as civil society representatives -– and I know many of you who are here in this room -- play a crucial role, as advocates and as allies in the work on the ground -- whether in health or education, poverty alleviation, the fight against HIV/AIDS or the empowerment of women.

    As such, all of you are vital partners of the United Nations. For us in the United Nations to succeed in any of our endeavours, partnership with civil society is not an option -– it is a necessity.

    Let me now turn and address some of the other issues that face our continent. I think the President mentioned Angola. I have just come from Angola, and I left the country very encouraged by what I saw. I think we can see that the war is over. It is now important to begin to get the people to feel that there is peace and that peace is going to make a change in their lives.

    I think that Angola has the natural resources and the human resources to count on but it will need international support. I am determined to work on getting this international support for Angola to ensure that peace is consolidated.

    But I hope that it is not only in Angola where we are going to see peace. I think with determined effort we should be able to make a breakthrough in the Democratic Republic of the Congpo as well as in the Sudan. There are hopeful signs there too. If we can resolve these three conflicts -- Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sudan -– I think we can realistically say that Africa has been pacified. There are so many countries involved in the fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that it has, as you know, been described as Africa’s world war.

    The international community is prepared to work with us on this. We would all recall that at the G8 summit in Kananaskis. The G8 indicated that they are prepared to work with African leaders to resolve the conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sudan and to solidify and strengthen peace. And they indicated that they were prepared to work with us on reconstruction. I think this is an opportunity which we as Africans must seize.

    I have said time and time again that no African State, no African leader or African citizen can remain indifferent to the conflicts that affect our continent. It affects all of us. It affects us in many ways. It affects our image abroad. When they talk about Africa, they see a continent in crisis, and sometimes they don’t go beyond that image of a continent in crisis to determine which countries are doing well. And therefore we all suffer. We all seem to be high risk and we can’t attract investors the way we want to, despite our abundant natural resources and in many instances our human resources. So let’s resolve in the next 12 to 18 months to work hard to resolve these conflicts.

    When I look at the situation here in Mozambique and what peace and stability have done for your country, and the economic development that has taken place -- obviously there is the issue of poverty that the President and I have discussed and we are trying to deal with it. This is an issue that affects most African countries. That is why I was particularly pleased with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) initiative, which was an African initiative to build strong institutions, to build societies based on the rule of law, to respect democratic institutions and human rights.

    Some argue that NEPAD is an imposition by outside forces -– I disagree. It is something that Africa needs whether we have problems needing assistance or not. We need to develop a sound basis to be able to build a prosperous, stable and sustainable future.

    I think the leaders must reach out to the public, to civil society and pull them in. In my discussions with civil society organizations it is clear that they feel left out. They say "We hear about NEPAD, our leaders meet and talk about it, but we are not part of it." So I would urge African leaders to bring the civil society groups in.

    Of course the G8 at their summit in Kananaskis also came up with an action plan of what they would do to assist us, and honoured the commitments we have undertaken, freely, willingly, by ourselves on NEPAD. They have indicated that they would be prepared to offer additional assistance and they would work for direct foreign investments into Africa.

    Finally, a word on HIV/AIDS, which is wreaking such havoc on this continent of ours. But it is not just an African problem. Yes, Africa is the hardest hit but it is a global problem -- we all have to fight this epidemic. It is spreading very fast in Asia, in Eastern Europe and the Caribbean. We really need to make the resources available. The resources exist, the medication exists. What we need to muster is the will to do something about it.

    I have indicated that we will need between $7 to $10 billion a year. As of today we have got about 2 billion. It is a beginning, an important beginning, but it is not enough. I will continue pressing those with the capacity to give, to give generously for the sake of all of us.

    I believe that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is not just a health problem. It is also a development problem. It is killing productive men and women who could have made a vital contribution to society. We need to stop the haemorrhaging now and help those who are already affected, and give information to those who are not able to protect themselves, and sustain our own economies. I would urge all of us to join in this essential fight against HIV/AIDS. It is a fight for our future.

    I am sure when we meet in Johannesburg on Monday, where the President and I will be along with other leaders, the issues of water and sanitation, health and agriculture productivity, energy and biodiversity will be very much on the agenda.

    I know some are sceptical about the conference but we are going to confound the sceptics and come up with a successful summit that will show the world what needs to be done to sustain global development without destroying the environment.

    There is an African proverb which says the Earth is not ours but is a treasure we hold in trust for our children and their children. Let those of us who are in leadership today be worthy of that trust.

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