State of Africa’s development requires greater efforts by all, UN officials stress

22 September 2008

Africa is facing a development emergency and only concerted efforts by the entire global community will enable it to make headway in halving poverty, illiteracy and other socio-economic ills by 2015, top United Nations officials said today as the General Assembly began a day-long meeting devoted to the continent.

Today’s high-level gathering comes amid a new report by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that shows that while most of Africa’s economies are now growing more rapidly than they did a decade ago, the continent remains “off track” in its quest to achieve the anti-poverty targets that make up the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“Africa’s challenges are still enormous. Brave as its nations may be – and we know that they are brave indeed – Africa cannot move ahead on its own,” Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto said, as he opened the meeting.

“To consolidate the progress made and reach our goal of empowering Africa to meet the development challenges it faces, all of us in the international community, especially donor countries and the Bretton Woods institutions, must fully honour our commitments and substantially complement the efforts of the African nations,” he stated.

Mr. D’Escoto noted that African countries’ gains in terms of economic growth are real, but they must be strengthened through concrete actions such as more substantial external debt relief and greater access to the global market, as well as efforts to help the continent deal with the current food crisis.

“This crisis has had a terrible impact on African populations and has extinguished what little hope there was of halving, by 2015, the proportion of people in Africa who suffer from hunger,” he noted.

Stressing that what the world is witnessing in Africa is no less than “a state of emergency,” Mr. D’Escoto urged the international community to “move from promises to concrete action.”

In 2007, Mr. Ban convened the MDG Africa Steering Group to galvanize international support, bringing together eight of the main multilateral institutions working on development with Africa.

“No one is more alarmed than you at the current trends, which indicate that no African country will achieve all the Goals by 2015,” Mr. Ban told the Assembly. “But I am convinced that through concerted action by African governments and their development partners, the MDGs remain achievable in Africa.”

He noted that it will cost an estimated $72 billion per year in external financing to achieve the Goals by 2015. “This price tag may look daunting. But it is affordable, and falls within existing aid commitments,” said the Secretary-General, pointing out that member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) spent an estimated $267 billion last year on agricultural subsidies alone.

“In this context, the cost of solving the food crisis, addressing global warming, and pulling millions out of extreme poverty in Africa looks like good value,” he stated.

On the sidelines of the meeting, the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is convening a high-level dialogue on accelerating poverty reduction and economic growth on the continent, including through South-South cooperation and boosting industrialization.

Meanwhile, gender experts will convene the Africa Women’s Forum to address the achievements made so far and the challenges that remain for the continent’s women. According to the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) – the lead agency for the event – key issues will include the advancement of women and their participation in decision-making processes, reproductive and maternal health, and HIV/AIDS.

Today’s Assembly meeting comes ahead of a high-level gathering to be convened by Mr. Ban and Mr. D’Escoto on 25 September to review progress to date, identify gaps and commit to concrete steps to ensure that all countries can achieve the MDGs.

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