As the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) moved into its third day of high-level debate on African economic advancement and poverty eradication, government officials today emphasized that African "ownership" of development programmes was vital to the lasting success of these activities.
Several speakers at this morning's session noted that it was timely that the Organization of African Unity (OAU) last week in Lusaka adopted a New African Initiative, which underscored the need for development projects to be conceived and run by Africans. The Initiative also called for increased financial support by the international community for these efforts as well as the elimination of trade barriers and reduction of the foreign debt of Africa's least-developed nations.
Many government representatives at the forum also underscored the urgency of addressing such problems as the HIV/AIDS epidemic and external debt.
These concerns were echoed by officials from UN agencies. N. Tijani-Serpos, Assistant Director-General for the Africa Department of the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said the proliferation of uncoordinated programmes and action plans developed by the international community had largely remained ineffective and unfulfilled. The New African Initiative just adopted by the OAU Summit showed that the leadership and vision for sustainable development existed through following the "African way."
Ebrahim Samba, Regional Director for Africa of the World Health Organization (WHO), said the continent was facing the greatest burden of disease in its history. In addition to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, infectious disease in Africa continued to devastate the continent, already plagued by war, conflict, natural disasters and the pressure of 10 million refugees and 30 million internally displaced persons. The health crisis in Africa was the single most important barrier to all socio-economic development on the continent and the greatest obstacle to any progress or hope for the future of its peoples, he said.