Africa must not be left behind in race to achieve development goals – UN envoy

Africa must not be left behind in race to achieve development goals – UN envoy

The world will not achieve the series of anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) if the poorest countries in Africa are left behind, a United Nations envoy has told a conference of the continent’s finance, planning and development ministers.

Anwarul K. Chowdhury, UN High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS), said global efforts to attain the MDGs must be harnessed more closely with existing programmes such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to accelerate economic growth in Africa and ensure that poverty is defeated.

Some 34 of the 50 nations classified as Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are found in Africa. NEPAD is a strategic framework adopted by African leaders in 2001 to try to develop a more integrated approach to tackling socio-economic underdevelopment.

“I have underlined before that if the LDCs do not achieve the MDGs, neither will the world as a whole,” Mr. Chowdhury told the conference yesterday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. “With two-thirds of the LDCs in Africa, we can confidently say that Africa has to achieve the MDGs for the world to have any hope of doing so.”

The MDGs are a set of eight targets for slashing social and economic ills – from halving extreme poverty to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education – by 2015, and were agreed to by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000.

Mr. Chowdhury added that Africa must rein in its high rates of population growth, which have been eroding its otherwise healthy economic growth in recent years. Although the proportion of Africans living in extreme poverty increased only from 44.6 per cent in 1990 to 46.4 per cent in 2001, the actual number of affected people jumped by 38 per cent to 318 million because of soaring population growth.

The High Representative stressed the need for more transparency in both foreign assistance provided to struggling African countries and the use of internal resources to ensure that the poorest benefit most.