African leaders put case for new development initiative to General Assembly
Addressing a high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly today, numerous African heads of State and government emphasized the importance of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) as a home-grown initiative, saying its success would be a victory for all humanity.
Responding to those critics who would question what difference the new initiative would make, President Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia said NEPAD was a holistic, comprehensive and integrated strategic framework developed by African leaders themselves. But although it was an African initiative, he reminded the Assembly, the continent still needs debt relief, foreign direct investment and official development assistance (ODA). African countries themselves must also mobilize their domestic resources, he added.
President Mwanawasa spoke as the Assembly considered how to support NEPAD in the context of its final review of the decade-long implementation of the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s (UN-NADAF).
Botswana's President, Festus Mogae, pointed out that NEPAD was being criticized even from within Africa, and called this yet another manifestation of the democratic tide sweeping the continent. Noting that some of the criticism would contribute to sharpening NEPAD's programmes, he challenged dogmatic opponents of the initiative to come up with viable alternatives. He added that it is unrealistic to expect all countries to attain the same goals overnight and unfair to hold NEPAD hostage on account of developments in a few countries.
President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal said NEPAD was not just another plan, but a new vision of Africa's future, conceived by Africans themselves, which aims to achieve good governance, large private sector inputs, and the region's integration instead of its present division into many States too small for optimal economic performance. Recognizing that the Group of 8 industrialized countries and the private sector had made a true commitment to Africa, he said the continent's corresponding efforts to achieve good governance and fight corruption should be noted.
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said that the development of an African Peer Review Mechanism marked a revolutionary innovation aimed at increasing the transparency and accountability of African governments. Detailing NEPAD's way forward, he said the first phase of its Plan of Action involves a three-pronged strategy to create the conditions for sustainable development and strengthen regional cooperation speed up African integration and mobilize both internal and external resources.
President John Agyekum Kufuor of Ghana exhorted African leaders to commit themselves to ensuring that the Peer Review Mechanism worked, stressing they would not be allowed to hide under the umbrella of solidarity or any other excuse when they failed to measure up to the principles underlying NEPAD. A transition period might be needed for some States to fully implement NEPAD's principles, he noted, cautioning that care should be taken not to impose sanctions on them that might gravely destabilize entire communities, regions and neighbouring countries.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria underscored the need to improve the investment environment by completing the necessary banking, customs and fiscal restructuring as well as creating and developing financial markets. Africa's partners should contribute to the fulfilment of an integrated approach embracing trade, ODA and investment. That would make the lifting of barriers in terms of access to world markets attractive to investors, he added.
South African President Thabo Mbeki, widely considered to be one of the prime movers of NEPAD, described the partnership as the way towards the realization of Africa's renaissance. He said it would result in a move away from Africa's current relationship with donor countries and translate despair into hope. NEPAD was the means by which the continent would be able to extricate itself from its long night of misery.
Omar Bongo, the President of Gabon, said that with NEPAD, Africa was giving the international community the means to participate in the continent’s development in a mutually beneficial way. In the era of globalization, sharing, partnership and solidarity must become the watchwords of relations among the world’s peoples, he said, adding that everyone must work together to achieve sustainable development.
Prime Minister Pakalitha Bethuel Mosisili of Lesotho emphasized that NEPAD is based on the concept of a genuine partnership between African countries and the international community, saying that partnership must be based on shared responsibility and the mutual interest of all parties. In the long run, NEPAD sought to reverse Africa's marginalization from the globalization process and the social exclusion of its 340 million people who were currently living on less than $1 per day.
Cape Verde's Prime Minister, Jose Maria Neves, said that involving civil society in the NEPAD initiative would engender a sense of ownership in the process among the African people. He also stressed the need to involve South-South cooperation as an element of the NEPAD development process. In addition, he said, small island developing States must be integrated into the global economy, as their extreme vulnerability excluded them from the world marketplace.
Canada's Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, said that G-8 leaders had identified much-needed resources that could aid Africa's development. Emphasizing that the time for talk had passed, he recalled that immediately after the G-8 Summit held in Canada last June, his country had committed $6 billion for that purpose. From 1 January, Canada would eliminate tariffs on goods from developing countries, he added.
Today's high-level meeting also heard statements by more than 60 Foreign Ministers and heads of delegation.