Africans ready to develop their continent, but need more support: Annan

Africans ready to develop their continent, but need more support: Annan

Kofi Annan addressing ECOSOC in Geneva
Arguing that Africans, including African leaders, are now much less disposed to blame all their troubles on outsiders and more determined to take responsibility for their own future, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for greater international backing for the continent and stressed that the UN system had a crucial role to play in mobilizing and delivering that support.

Arguing that Africans, including African leaders, are now much less disposed to blame all their troubles on outsiders and more determined to take responsibility for their own future, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for greater international backing for the continent and stressed that the UN system had a crucial role to play in mobilizing and delivering that support.

"We must make ourselves Africa's advocates, not only for improved market access, but also for the reduction of the subsidies paid by rich countries to their farmers, which currently amount to $1 billion a day," Mr. Annan told the High-Level Segment of the 2001 substantive session of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which this year focuses on African development. "This lowers world prices, leading to lower incomes and poverty in Africa."

The Secretary-General called on the UN system to become Africa's advocate for a wide range of measures, including increased development aid, deeper and faster debt relief and a larger share of private investment. He also stressed the need to make greater efforts to "listen to the people on the ground" and be more constructive in finding ways to support local, African initiatives.

"This could be a turning point in Africa's history," he said, referring to the adoption of a new Africa recovery plan at the recently concluded Organization of African Unity Summit in Lusaka, Zambia, at which African leaders also committed themselves to forming an African Union, along the model of the European Union.

On the subject of trade talks, he said that in order to restore momentum to open markets, there should be a "true Development Round" of global trade negotiations, giving genuine priority to the concerns and interests of developing countries. "The greatest danger in times like these," he said, "is that people will listen to the sirens of protectionism."

After spending the full morning in the ECOSOC session, the Secretary-General then had three bilateral meetings with the Foreign Minister of Morocco, Mohamed Benaissa; the Chairman of the Group of 77, Ambassador Bagher Assadi of Iran; and the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, Dr. Alwi Shihab.

Later in the day, Mr. Annan went to the International Labour Organization (ILO), where he convened a high-level panel on the Youth Employment Network, made up of leaders from private industry and civil society who create job opportunities for young people. The Network was one of the key initiatives to emerge from the Millennium Summit and is designed to address the fact that there are an estimated 66 million unemployed youth today, up 10 million from 1995.

Speaking at a press conference after the visit, the Secretary-General stressed that unemployment early in life "takes a heavy and enduring toll on the individual" and could lead to a circle of despair, poverty and social instability.

"We cannot afford to let this vicious circle continue any longer," Mr. Annan said. "Youth is our most valuable asset -- they are the leader of the future, they are the future."