London attacks will not sway G8 focus from Africa – UN Political Affairs chief

London attacks will not sway G8 focus from Africa – UN Political Affairs chief

Ibrahim Gambari
Long-term aid for Africa must remain at the top of the agenda for Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair and the leaders of the world's other industrial powers meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland, despite the "barbaric" terrorist attacks in London earlier this morning, the new United Nations Political Affairs chief said today.

"If the intention of the terrorists was to undermine [the G8 leaders'] resolve, then I believe they have failed," Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari of Nigeria, told reporters during his first press conference since his appointment last month.

Mr. Gambari, formerly Mr. Annan's Special Adviser on Africa, said that he had held several meetings and briefings with his new staff in the Department of Political Affairs and was eager to get down to work.

While he planned to discuss his agenda in more detail in the near future, he felt that today, in light the brazen attacks in London and all the current focus on the G8 Summit, he should spotlight Africa and what he saw as a genuine effort on the part of world's richest nations to help the troubled continent – home to 13 per cent of the planet's population and nearly a third of the people in extreme poverty – become self-sufficient.

Looking at the G8, Mr. Gambari said that it was very important that Britain was currently holding the chairmanship of that Group as well as of the European Union (EU). Prime Minister Blair had placed Africa at the top of the agenda and was pushing for other world leaders to do more. The EU had already taken very important steps to meet the agreed 0.7 objective of official development assistance (ODA). He added that Japan had doubled its ODA and the United States had announced similar initiatives to increase assistance to Africa.

"I am encouraged by how much attention is being paid to Africa after so many years of neglect," Mr. Gambari said, stressing that while he was confident that the outcome of the G8 summit would point to a "real commitment" to build effective partnerships for Africa, the continent was making some significant strides on its own.

Despite the troubling situations in Sudan's Darfur region and parts of Cote d'Ivoire, many more African conflicts were now being resolved. He said that the various mechanisms of the African Union (AU), particularly its Peace and Security Council, were ramping up their operations, and that efforts to ensure transparency and accountability at national levels were being implemented. African economies were strengthening and the spirit of the home-grown New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) was taking hold, he added.

"The job now is to see that the wider international community's focus on Africa does not fade after one week," Mr. Gambari said, adding that he saw the platform for African development as a "three-legged stool," built on aid, debt relief and trade. The time had long since come to translate words into action on all those fronts.

Wiping out debt for the most highly indebted countries was a good first step, but middle-income countries also needed help dealing with creditors. This was particularly important for African leadership countries like Nigeria, where positive efforts often led to progress in neighbouring countries, he said. Removing trade barriers, including farm subsidies, was particularly critical so that Africans can compete internationally.

Asked about African leaders doing their part to stop corruption and bring an end to human rights violations, Mr. Gambari said that a strong message in that regard had been sent at the fifth AU summit, which concluded earlier this week in Sirte, Libya. All participants had stressed the need to adhere to NEPAD's peer review mechanism and had reiterated the responsibility of governments in Africa not to treat their own people badly.

On the issue of Security Council reform he said that he was certain that Africans would not to be divided on the matter. His hope was that the negotiators, from both Northern and Southern Africa and would decide on the framework of the Council's reform and then decide who would best represent and defend Africa's interest, should Africa acquire the two seats suggested by some. Many times Africa had been written off and then come back and shocked the world by coming to agreement on difficult issues, he said.