At UN debate, African leaders say global sustainability agenda must reflect local realities

29 September 2014

With a new sustainable development agenda as the focus of this year’s annual General Assembly debate, African leaders today called on the United Nations to take into consideration the continent’s specific realities and challenges.

The Prime Minister of Sao Tome and Principe, Gabriel Arcanjo Ferreira da Costa, as the first speakers of the high-level debate’s second week, outlined six pillars on which African has anchored its sustainable development.

These pillars “emanate from the aspirations of our African nations, and all partners of the African continent must take them into account… in their affirmation of the dignity of our people,” he said.

The pillars include structural economic transformation and inclusive growth; science, technology, and innovation; people-centred development; environmental sustainability, natural resource management and disaster management; peace and security; and finance and partnerships.

In his address, Mr. Costa also highlighted Sao Tome and Principe’s location in the Gulf of Guinea, a region that is “strongly affected by piracy, terrorism, drug trafficking, and other illicit acts committed at sea.”

As part of efforts to counter these phenomena, the Prime Minister welcomed the establishment of the Inter-regional Coordination Center (CIC) which will soon be operational.

He urged the international community to “continue with us on this arduous path toward ensuring our collective security.”

The Prime Minister is one of an expected 196 speakers to take the floor since last Wednesday to address the UN body on the theme of the debate, “Delivering on and Implementing a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda” as well as urgent crises ranging from the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine and South Sudan.

Also today, the Vice-President of Angola, Manuel Vicente, told the General Assembly that “Africa has ceased to represent that image of desolation that it did in the beginning of the millennium.”


Manuel Domingos Vicente, Vice President of the Republic of Angola, addresses the General Assembly. UN Photo/Cia Pak

He noted that the average growth on the continent is five per cent per year and that several countries have improved their human development indicators.

The Vice-President urged the international community to also consider the negative impact of regional insecurity on development and people’s wellbeing in parts of the continent.

Angola, which holds the rotating presidency of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, aims to attain “stability, political and institutional development, internal and border security, as well as good governance and human rights.”

Among other issues, Mr. Vicente highlighted the need to reform the Security Council to make it more in line with the current international context and reflect “an equitable geographical representation.”

In the Kingdom of Swaziland, food security remains a critical challenge. Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, in his address to the UN body, reiterated a call for the provision of adequate financial resources, transfer of environmentally-sound technologies and technical assistance to development countries.


Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini of the Kingdom of Swaziland addresses the General Assembly. UN Photo/Cia Pak

He said Africa had abundant resources, but needs to add value to products to maximize food production initiatives.

Also addressing the Assembly, Phandu T. C. Skelemani, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Botswana, said that as the curtain was being drawn on the MDG era, it is important reflect on and draw lessons from the successes and failures in their implementation. “The global community, most notably in the developing world, has faced significant challenges in fully realising the MDGs.”


Foreign Minister Phandu Skelemani of Botswana addresses the General Assembly. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

Indeed, he continued, this has resulted in many developing countries failing to deliver tangible development to their citizens as cogently set out in the MDGs, despite their best efforts and intentions. “Whilst Botswana has made impressive gains in the implementation of the MDGs, it was not without enormous challenges, Chief amongst which were resource and capacity constraints,” he said.

And while Botswana would continue to press ahead with efforts towards achievement of the MDGs by 2015, as the international community began to consider a successor sustainability agenda, his country would note the issues of “major strategic importance”, including, among others, climate change, the concerns of landlocked developing countries, as well as issues of peace and security and the advancement of human rights.

Specifically on climate change, Mr. Slelemani said Botswana knows only too well the devastating effects of the phenomenon, which continue to cause extreme temperatures, changes to patterns of rainfall, land degradation, desertification and persistent droughts. In this regard, we believe addressing them should be a primary consideration in the current deliberations on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.”

As a middle income, landlocked developing country with peculiar vulnerabilities, Botswana also strongly hopes for a comprehensive account of these issues in the post-2015 development agenda. Welcoming the 10 year review of the Almaty Programme of Action to be held in November in Vienna, Austria, he said he hopes that during that meeting, special attention will be given to countries with ever increasing elephant populations whose numbers do not only pose a serious animal-human conflict but also devastates the very environment the elephants depend on for survival. Botswana has the largest elephant population in Africa.

Also taking the podium in the General Assembly, Domingos Simões Pereira, Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau, appealed to the international community for support to his country – which earlier this year held its first national elections since a military coup in 2012 – as it worked to strengthen its institutions, re-launch its economy, combat poverty and lay the foundations to “change course and become viable.” He called for “a robust and impactful intervention from our development partners” to “consolidate the success of our political transition” and to “lay the foundations for a transition toward development.”


Domingos Simões Pereira, Prime Minister of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau, addresses the General Assembly. UN Photo/Cia Pak

Citing climate change as a threat to his country’s development efforts, and to its very survival, the Prime Minister said Guinea-Bissau’s coastlines and archipelagos are already feeling the effects of rising sea levels which could compromise its efforts to fight poverty and achieve international development goals. Praising UN efforts for climate action, he said there seemed to have been sufficient consensus emerging from last week’s Climate Change Summit for establishing a global post-Kyoto climate regime “for the welfare of all.”

Turning to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which the Security Council had recently declared a threat to peace and security, the Prime Minister appealed for the establishment of an international coalition to confront that threat. He also reaffirmed his country’s position, in line with that of the African Union, that the Security Council’s membership should be expanded “in order to enhance the legitimacy of its representation,” and called for the designation of two permanent seats, with the right to veto, in addition to permanent seats for Brazil, Japan, Germany and India, and for five non-permanent seats for the African continent, which currently shares five of the Council’s ten non-permanent seats with Asia.

In his remarks, Djibril Bassolé Yipènè, Foreign Minister of Burkina Faso, welcomed progress made to restore peace and stability in Mali. "The ECOWAS mediation permits the restoration of constitutional order and the holding of free and fair elections throughout the national territory," said Mr. Bassolé, stressing that his country supports the efforts Algeria for peace in Mali, according to preliminary Ouagadougou Agreement of 18 June 2013 to restore cohesion between Malian communities.


Foreign Minister Djibrill Ypènè Bassolé of Burkina Faso addresses the General Assembly. UN Photo/Kim Haughton

He said that in the Sahel region, armed conflicts become more complex and are radicalized because of the emergence of violent extremism and terrorism, which are closely associated with organized crime, particularly in the areas drug trafficking, arms trafficking and human trafficking.

"These plagues challenge us on our shared responsibility in the fight to eradicate them," said Mr. Bassolé explaining the need to address the root causes of the emergence of criminal groups, citing poverty, youth unemployment and the denial of rights and justice.

"With regard to the Central African Republic, he welcomed the Brazzaville Forum which concluded with an agreement on cessation of hostilities. My country supports the transitional government welcomed the effective implementation of the MINUSCA and reiterates its readiness to contribute to efforts to restore and maintain peace, "said Mr. Bassolé.

Speaking to the gathered delegates, Lesotho’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohlabi Kenneth Tsekoa, similarly addressed the peace and security challenges facing today’s world and celebrated the UN Charter for doing “its part to prevent a third world war.” Nevertheless, he pointed to the scourge of terrorism smouldering across Africa – from the Sahel Region and Nigeria to the Republic of Kenya and Somalia – and reminded the Assembly that the use of military alone as a strategy to counter terrorism was “no longer a panacea for this menace” but instead required “a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of the scourge.”


Foreign Minister Mohlabi Kenneth Tsekoa of Lesotho addresses the General Assembly. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Remarking on the theme for the General Debate, he noted that the road towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) had been “rough.” Although he admitted that some countries had had, in fact, success in achieving their stated goals, the challenges continued to remain “most daunting” in the least developed countries, land-locked developing countries, some small island developing states and countries in or emerging from conflict.

Lesotho, had, for its part, made “some progress” in achieving at least two of the eight goals – universal primary education and promoting gender equality and empowering women. But, he confessed, his country still faced “a long and uphill journey to reach a life of dignity for all” and he acknowledged the lingering threat HIV/AIDS still posed to his compatriots.

As he underlined the challenges facing developing countries amid the menace of climate change, the Minister of Foreign Affairs also urged the international community to render financing more accessible so that the developing world might make “impact on the ground.”

Also addressing the Assembly, the Foreign Minister of the Seychelles, Jean-Paul Adam, called attention to his country’s vulnerability as a small island developing nation, and the risks posed by climate change.


Foreign Minister of the Seychelles Jean-Paul Adam addresses the General Assembly. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

“The development challenges of SIDS (small island developing States) highlight the deficiencies of the development framework for all developing nations,” Mr. Adam said using the acronym for Small Island Developing States.

Among his priorities, the Foreign Minister stressed the need to support a ‘blue economy’ approach to more efficiently realize the potential of the oceans.

“We cannot apply the principles of a green economy – of sustainable development – without recognizing that we are applying them in a blue world,” he said, referring to the fact that over 70 per cent of the world is covered by water.

Mr. Adam also called on Member States to fulfill their commitments and mobilize by 2020 the $100 billion for the Green Climate Fund (GCF). He also called for SIDS to have a permanent seat on the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for loss and damage associated with climate impacts in developing countries.

Robert Dussey, Minister of State and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Togo, said the Millennium Development Goals are helpful for humankind, even if all targets would not be achieved. His Government is determined to continue and scale up the efforts within the framework of the post-2015 agenda, with a commitment to reducing poverty. “There is now a positive outlook for increased success of job-promotion programmes, mainly benefiting youths,” he said, adding that financial institutions are assisting members of society usually excluded from their benefits, particularly women.


Robert Dussey, Minister of State and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Togo, addresses the general debate of the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Togo was all the more certain that the agenda for peace and new architecture for international security must take into account the trend of the regionalization of conflicts. Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab frequently carried out attacks that destabilized brother countries. “Togo knows too well the value of the efforts made by France to fight alongside African countries,” he said, adding that such efforts must continue and be strengthened, and the entire international community must spare no effort in their support.

Continuing, Mr. Dussey said it is essential that countries further secure their maritime borders, as well as eradicate piracy. African coasts should be a space for international trade, free from organized predators. Further, the worsening of the situations in various conflict areas throughout the world — in Syria, Libya, Ukraine, Palestine and others — threaten to wipe out whatever development had been achieved. He reminded the Assembly of the great threat to the international community, especially in West Africa, posed by the Ebola virus. That was an international threat to peace and security, and greater attention should be paid to the people of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to prevent the spread of the disease.


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