African leaders today took to the podium of the United Nations General Assembly to stress the importance of international solidarity in setting a new long-term global development agenda that, if properly managed, could see the 21st century becoming an “African century.”
“With its enhanced peace and stability, rapid economic growth, natural resource endowment and a growing middle class, Africa is certainly on the rise and this is attracting a lot of attention from the rest of the world,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn declared on the second day of the annual General Debate, speaking in both his national capacity and as chairperson of the 54 member-State African Union (AU).
“The 21st century will be an African century if indeed we harmonize our efforts to maintain and indeed speed up the rapid economic growth that Africa has been registering for the last decade or so. We have every reason to be optimistic that African renaissance is indeed around the corner.”
The theme of this year’s 68th General Assembly is the post-2015 development agenda, aimed at drawing up an even more ambitious blueprint to totally eliminate poverty and its attendant ills in the decades following the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) cycle.
The eight Goals, adopted at the 2000 UN summit, aim to slash extreme hunger and poverty, boost access to health care and education, achieve gender equality and environmental stability, reduce maternal and child mortality and the incidence of HIV/AIDS, all by the end of 2015.
Africa attaches paramount importance to the post-2015 agenda, Mr. Dessalegn said, stressing the need to galvanize international support to ensure that the successes achieved in implementing the MDGs, despite shortfalls, are sustained and the continent’s development priorities beyond 2015 are fully taken on board, ranging from ensuring continent-wide food security to industrialization to educating youth and upgrading their skills.
He highlighted the multi-dimensional expansion of cooperation between the AU and the UN, adding: “A lot remains to be done to further enhance the cooperation and partnership between the African Union and the United Nations in the context of the changing dynamics both within Africa and the world at large.”
President Macky Sall of Senegal underscored the need for greater investment in education, training and youth employment, modernizing agriculture, making electricity accessible to all, and developing infrastructure to foster trade and investment. “Despite the progress registered after more than a decade of MDG implementation, the magnitude of the challenges is still overwhelming,” he said.
“The daily lives of close to a billion people have barely improved with regard to access to food, housing, education and health care. Women continue to die in childbirth. Inequalities persist within and between countries. The economic crisis is getting worse. We need to take concrete and resolute actions to translate our collective ambition into reality.”
He called for reform of international economic and financial governance, notably the conditions regarding access to credit and for the financing of economic and social development projects, and the establishment of agreed mechanisms to improve transparency in international transactions, including the extractive industry.
In his address to the Assembly, President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso noted that socio-economic development is crucial in paving the way to continent-wide peace. The post-2015 agenda “raises in a pertinent fashion the dialectical linkage between development, peace and security,” he said. “We thus have a chance to focus our reflections on a new vision towards global; progress based on strong international solidarity for sustainable development.”
He also underscored the dangers and instability that Africa’s Sahel region faced from drug traffickers and terrorists.
Andry Nirina Rajoelina, President of the Transition of the Republic of Madagascar. UN Photo/Ryan Brown
Madagascar’s Transitional President Andry Rajoelina noted that his country, like most African nations, is having difficulty in reaching all the MDGs despite its best efforts.
“Faced with this situation I am prompted to ask what contribution we, the nations’ highest authorities, can bring individually to this collective search for ways and means to improve the daily lot of the people who have entrusted us with their destinies and afforded us their trust,” he said.
King Mswati III of Swaziland also stressed the vital need for global financial and technical support for sustainable development after 2015.
“The provision of adequate financial resources, transfer of environmentally sound technologies, and technical assistance to developing countries is critical if we are to achieve our global objectives,” he told the Assembly, calling on developed countries to honour the pledges they have already made.
“Ensuring food security and good nutrition remains a priority and should feature prominently in the Post-2015 Development Agenda,” he added, warning about the serious drawback climate change poses for developing countries.
President Paul Biya of Cameroon, in a statement read by Foreign Minister Moukoko Mbonjo, said the Post-2015 Agenda must emphasize the creation of decent jobs as an engine for economic growth and sustained development.
He also emphasized the need top tackle environmental issues and reform “the entire international economic and financial system.”