Africa will always find a ready and willing partner in the United Nations as it progresses on the road of economic development to provide peace, more jobs, greater equality and better living conditions to its peoples, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told leaders of the continent’s 54 States today.
“The United Nations is your unwavering partner in this pursuit,” he said at the opening session of the 22nd session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. “There is hardly any higher priority for the United Nations than tangible and sustainable development in Africa.”
“We support African-owned and African-led efforts to achieve this objective. Peace, development and human rights as well as the rule of law are inextricably linked. Conflict-shattered economies can take a quarter of a century to recover. The United Nations aims to deepen our partnership with the AU Peace and Security Architecture.”
Mr. Eliasson noted that Africa lags in achieving many of the UN’s anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the 2015 deadline, stressing the essential role that agriculture and food security in reducing poverty and achieving the MDGs.
But he also noted the strides that have been made towards some of the Goals, especially education, maternal and child health, and gender equality, and cited Africa’s “advancement and impressive growth” at a time when the rest of the world is struggling to recover from the global economic crisis.
“Now this growth should be translated into transformative economic development, more jobs, greater equality and better living conditions,” he declared. “Investing more in education, health, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship will permit the acceleration of development on the whole continent and offer new opportunities.”
Turning to conflicts in various African countries, Mr. Eliasson voiced deep concern at the situation in South Sudan, calling for “our combined efforts” to focus on protecting civilians, preventing gross human rights abuses and facilitating humanitarian aid, while urging the parties to strictly fulfil the cessation of hostilities accord signed last week, and intensify efforts for reconciliation.
In the Central African Republic (CAR) he said the common AU-UN goal must be to end the “atrocious confrontation” between Christians and Muslims and restore the harmony that had for long marked relations between the two communities, and he called on all UN Member States to offer generous donations for the “seriously underfunded” AU peacekeeping mission known as MISCA that is trying to restore stability in the country.
“As we address crises facing African countries, we celebrate Africa’s impressive progress,” Mr. Eliasson concluded. “The United Nations stands firmly at the side of the African Union and its Member States as you advance for the benefit of all the people of this great continent, offering them a better future and a life of dignity.”