United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on Africa's leaders to work for the twin goals of renewing the world body and providing hope to the continent.
“Africa has an indispensable contribution to make in ensuring that 2005 becomes a turning point for the continent, the United Nations and the world,” Mr. Annan said in an address that focused on the importance of two major recent reports – one by a high-level panel on threats, challenges and change and the other on progress towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of global anti-poverty targets.
Speaking to the fourth African Union Summit in Abuja, Nigeria, the Secretary-General looked towards a planned September meeting marking the sixtieth anniversary of the UN, where national leaders from across the world will face crucial questions on poverty and security. “The answers to all these questions will be of decisive importance for the future of this continent,” he said.
Acknowledging the need for “far-reaching steps to adapt both our policies and our machinery,” he said African countries “make up an important voice” in the discussions on the UN's future.
He emphasized that Africa, more than any other region, would benefit from action on recommendations put forward in the high-level panel's report, which argues that security and development are inextricably linked. “It is our job as Africans to make this point more widely known and understood, and to act on it,” the Ghanaian-born Secretary-General said.
A true partnership between developed and developing countries could help Africa to achieve the millennium targets, he emphasized. “No new promises are needed and we don't ask for new ones to make this happen – just follow-through on existing ones.”
The MDG report offers recommendations for action, including some that will be discussed at the September UN summit. But others, Mr. Annan noted, can be implemented immediately, such as its calls for the free mass distribution of malaria bed nets, the expansion of school meal programmes using locally produced foods, and an end to user fees for primary schools and essential health services.