Press Releases

     

    SG/SM/8778
    AFR/660
    11 July 2003

    IN ADDRESS TO AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT, SECRETARY-GENERAL
    OUTLINES MAJOR CHALLENGES, URGENT AREAS WHERE
    AFRICA MUST “DEMONSTRATE OWNERSHIP THROUGH ACTION”

    NEW YORK, 10 July (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the statement delivered by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the African Union Summit in Maputo, Mozambique, on 10 July:

    Let me first thank our hosts, President Joaquim Chissano and the people of Mozambique, for their wonderful welcome and generous hospitality.  Equally, let me say a special word of gratitude to President Thabo Mbeki for his hard work and leadership during the first -- and highly challenging -- year in the life of the African Union.

    I should also like to pay tribute to Mr. Amara Essy, First Chairman of the Commission of the African Union, for his dedicated service and for the leadership he has provided in helping lay down foundations for the Commission of the African Union.

    One year ago, you, the leaders of Africa, launched this Union with a call on all Africans to redefine their destiny; to build a better life for all the people of this continent; to enable Africa to assume its full role and responsibility in global affairs.

    Indeed, the birth of your Union, 40 years after the creation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), reflected an historic reaffirmation that Africa itself bears the primary responsibility for shaping its fate and future; and that the best way -- the only way -- for Africa to carry out that mission is to unite around the needs and aspirations of your people.

    The theme of this Summit -- ensuring the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) -- shows that you mean to pursue that mission with the seriousness and focus it requires.

    It shows you are determined that the African Union must play a central role in the work to achieve the strategic goals of NEPAD -- in the areas of peace and security, democracy, good governance, poverty reduction and sound economic management.

    The rest of the world is recognizing your determination to take your own challenges in hand.  We can see it in the commitments made by the Group of Eight in their Plan of Action for Africa, as well as in initiatives by the President of the United States and by the European Union to increase funds to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa.

    We in the United Nations will keep supporting you as advocates, to convince developed countries to do more -- such as provide more official development assistance; lift tariffs and subsidies; offer greater debt relief; provide yet stronger support for the struggle against AIDS.

    Indeed, here at this Summit later today, the United Nations Development Programme is launching its new Human Development Report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  The Report sets out a number of fresh ideas on how to achieve these critical Goals across Africa and the rest of the world.  It calls on donor countries to back reforms in developing countries with more resources and trade opportunities.  And it urges rich and poor nations to put the MDGs at the centre of national and global decision-making.  Mutual accountability is the key -- accountability of governments to their people; accountability of developed and developing partners towards one another.

    The more decisively Africa pursues its commitment to reform, the greater our chances of success in the work to reach the MDGs.  In that work, NEPAD, and a truly effective use of its Peer Review Mechanism, have a vital role to play.

    As African Finance Ministers stated at their conference last month, Africa’s partnership with the rest of the world must be based on monitoring both donor and recipient performance, on policy coherence, a shared responsibility for making development happen, and a reciprocal sense of trust.  I would add that this partnership should also justify the trust that your own peoples have placed in you.

    We all now recognize that this sense of African responsibility must be applied to all the challenges facing the continent.  Allow me to highlight some of the challenges that I believe are especially important.

    Armed conflict continues to take an unconscionable toll on African men, women and children, and on the development of our continent as a whole.  Recently, we have seen progress and the promise of peace in some countries, including Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire and the Sudan.  Let us hope that we will soon witness similar progress in Somalia.  And there have been significant achievements in the peace process of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, although much remains to be done.

    These are heartening examples of conflict management and resolution, where African leadership has been the decisive ingredient.  And nowhere can we find a more shining example of the rewards of such leadership than right here in Mozambique.

    But we continue to witness heartbreaking events in Liberia, as well as in the beleaguered regions of Ituri and the Kivus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Unspeakable horrors have been perpetrated which should fill every African, every human being, with a sense of shame.  They make it painfully evident that Africa has nowhere near the effective mechanisms it needs to prevent the outbreak of conflict or enforce basic international humanitarian law.

    The United Nations and the rest of the international community can appoint envoys, urge negotiations and spend billions of dollars on peacekeeping missions -- but none of this will solve conflicts if the political will and capacity do not exist here, in Africa.  That is why this Union, and all its members, must work for an integrated strategy of peaceful settlements.  I hope that every one of you, as African leaders, will make it your personal mission to convince the young people of the continent that the lives and safety of their fellow Africans are sacrosanct, and that there can be no substitute for the fruits of peace.

    I salute those African leaders who have already shown such energy, imagination and perseverance in dealing with conflicts -- especially within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) and the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), as well as your outgoing Chair, South Africa.

    Lasting peace is far more than the absence of war.  It is sustainable only if accompanied by democratic transformation and good governance.  We know that democratic countries usually do not declare war on each other.  The more we expand the number of countries built on democracy, the greater our chances for sustainable peace in the region as a whole.

    Democracy also means alternating government.  The value of peaceful and periodic change in government has been proven time and again, in all parts of the world.  Democracy is a constant struggle -- but a struggle by peaceful means.  If term limits are necessary to make this possible, so be it.

    So let us press ahead with democratic transformation.  Many African countries are making the transition to genuine multi-party democracy, or have already done so.  For others, this remains a challenge.  But democracy means more than holding elections.  It requires respect for the rule of law by all, including the Government and the party in power.  It requires viable institutions to promote respect for all human rights of all our people, including minorities.  It requires sustained and effective attention from a dynamic and vigilant civil society.

    And it must go hand in hand with the work for poverty reduction and development.  That means a wholehearted investment in education and the empowerment of women, the most effective development strategies we know.  It also means a focus on employment creation.  Work is the source of personal dignity, family stability, peace in the community and, ultimately, political credibility.

    And while progress in trade depends greatly on developed nations dismantling subsidies and tariffs, Africa still needs to make efforts of its own:  by striving for more competitive economies; by promoting intraregional trade to overcome the constraints of market size; by strengthening its capacity to participate in global trade negotiations.

    At the same time, an agricultural transformation is needed to break the pattern of recurring food crises.  The latest famine in Ethiopia and Eritrea is a tragic reminder of the desperate need for Africa to develop the capacity to feed itself -- to bring about the kind of Green Revolution we have seen take hold elsewhere.  Achieving this will require radical approaches on multiple fronts, based on both new and existing technologies, as well as far-sighted land and water management.

    And it will require addressing the inextricable link between food insecurity and the biggest threat facing Africa today -- the continuing spread of HIV/AIDS.

     

    The lethal impact of AIDS on food security has become devastatingly obvious.  But the killing fields of AIDS stretch far further than that.  Just as Africa seeks to focus on the future, some parts of it can barely hang on to the present.  Africa’s efforts are being systematically undermined -- by a virus so cruel that it strikes young adults as they are poised to enter their most productive years, and assume the mantle of leadership.  A virus which robs children of their parents, or forces them to drop out of school, leaving a generation without care or education -- and, therefore, itself more vulnerable to HIV.  A virus that strikes more and more against women -- who hold together the African family, who sustain the African continent, who make up Africa’s lifeline.

                                                                                                                                                 

    That is why the fight against AIDS is vital not only for its own sake.  It is vital to all our efforts to build a stronger Africa.  Only if we work towards the goal of halting the spread can we hope to make progress towards meeting all the other Millennium Development Goals.

    Spending on the fight against HIV/AIDS by African governments, the United States and the European Union has risen significantly, but it is still not enough.  Twice as much is needed, this year, next year, and every year, for the foreseeable future.

    Greater efforts are also needed from all of you.  As our host, President Chissano, said in advance of this Summit:  “We as leaders will need to do more to fight and defeat AIDS.  We have to show great commitment and significant actions in dealing with a disease that could wipe out our populations and set us back many years in development.”

    We know from experience that the spread can be turned back.  Some African countries have, indeed, done so.  But it cannot be done piecemeal.  It requires a coordinated response from all sectors of society.  It requires leadership -- in governments, in schools, on the streets, in places of worship, in families, among people living with HIV/AIDS and in the most affected communities.  It requires empowering young people to be at the forefront of change -- especially through the education of girls -- so they have the knowledge, confidence and means to protect themselves against the virus.

    It requires all of you to show the way by example:  by breaking the deadly wall of silence that continues to surround the pandemic, and by making the fight against AIDS a priority second to none.  I have made it mine; I know several among you have made it yours.

    I have outlined a few areas of particular urgency where -- in my view -- Africa needs to demonstrate ownership through action.

    The United Nations family will keep working in close partnership with you across the full range of those challenges:  at the country level -- from education to governance, from agricultural development to the fight against AIDS; and at the level of the African Union, by supporting the development of key African Union institutions.  We will keep working with you to strengthen African peace-building and conflict-resolution capacities.  And we will keep working with you to help ensure that the new peace and security architecture for Africa benefits from enhanced African peacekeeping capabilities, as well as active United Nations engagement.

     

    President Chissano, a while ago you gave a speech about the meaning of the word partnership -- a word which seems to have become the catch-all expression of our age.  (I confess to having used it five times today!)  Mr. President, you admitted in that speech that you did not consult the Oxford English Dictionary for a definition of the word.  But you did describe what it took for the developed countries to be true partners of Africa.  They would be true partners, you said, when “they care about our gains as they do about theirs”.  When they “respect, acknowledge and accept that we Africans have a contribution to make to our own development and to the development of all humanity”. 

    Through this Union, you, the leaders of Africa, have the opportunity, the right and the responsibility to make that contribution plain for all the world to see.  If you do, the world will owe you an equal contribution in return.

    Thank you very much.  Je vous remercie.  Choukran Jazeelan.  Muchas Gracias.  Muito obrigado.

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