On an official visit to Madagascar, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today pledged continued United Nations aid in addressing such areas as governance, education, AIDS and disaster prevention on the Indian Ocean island, the world’s fourth largest.
“I know that sustainable development is one of this country’s central concerns,” Mr. Annan told the Academie Malgache, which made him made a member. “One can see that in your efforts to develop eco-tourism, to set aside more of this country’s fabled landscape for conservation, and to protect endangered species and ecosystems, in particular Madagascar’s unique biodiversity.
“Such efforts are a key part of what it will take for Madagascar and other countries to reach the Millennium Development Goals,” he added of the targets set by the UN Millennium Summit of 2000 for slashing a host of socio-economic ills ranging from extreme poverty and hunger to lack of education and health care by 2015.
Accompanied by President Marc Ravalomanana and the First Lady, Mr. Annan and his wife, Nane, toured the ruins of the Queen's Palace, a revered hilltop complex overlooking the capital, Antananarivo, which burned down a decade ago and which the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is now helping to restore.
Also on Mr. Annan’s schedule today were meetings with the UN country team, first with agency representatives and then with the staff at large, and a visit to a rain forest in the eastern part of the island.
On a four-country visit that has already taken him to South Africa, he is scheduled to leave Madagascar on Sunday for the Republic of Congo as well as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where the UN is fielding over 16,800 uniformed personnel to back up a peace agreement while helping to organize national elections to be held in June.