Self-Help Said to Be Important, but Coordinated Efforts Still Needed to End Conflicts, Ease Debt Burdens, Promote Investment
GENEVA, 17 July (UN Information Service) — Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, and the former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, were among the participants at an Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) panel this morning, discussing the link between peace and sustainable development on the African continent.
Mr. Mandela, speaking via a video link, said Africans must themselves take on the responsibility to shape their future and must assume full ownership of the development process. African leaders needed to act together to further enact policies and to win international support and resources for sustainable development initiatives. Africa could not do it alone. Its partnerships with the world community, especially with the developed countries, multilateral institutions and private sector actors, had to be extended to long-term development support.
Mrs. Ogata said wars compelled people to flee. As victims of persecution and violence, refugees had to be given asylum and protected while in exile. Large-scale human displacement induced by conflicts inevitably had a negative impact on development.
According to Assistant Secretary-General Ibrahim Gambari, Adviser for Special Assignments in Africa, there were a few countries in Africa which were relatively poor but experienced no major conflicts. There were others that were rich in natural resources where conflicts were endemic. And there were countries that were resource-rich and peaceful. The point was that conflicts and wars in Africa had multiple causes and that was why efforts to prevent or resolve them should also be multifaceted.
Bruce Alberts, President of the United States National Academy of Sciences, said science and technology were advancing at an ever-increasing rate, and it was, therefore, necessary to plan in Africa, as elsewhere, for a very different world. Every region of the world, including every nation in Africa, needed ready access to scientific knowledge and the ability to use science’s intellectual resources and its methodologies.
Olara Otunnu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflicts, said that it was important to invest in the youth of Africa. They constituted the vast majority of the African people, and were deeply alienated from their countries and their societies. Often, they were not in schools, they could have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS, and many were child soldiers.
Summarizing the dialogue, Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said it was clear that Africa had to take charge of its own peace and development; that it had to focus more on cases of “fragile peace” — post-conflict situations; that more had to be done to foster the scientific and technological aspect of development and peace; and that greater knowledge had to be developed and implemented related to the political and social basis for peace.
Earlier in the morning meeting, the Council continued its annual high-level segment, hearing from a series of government ministers calling for a renewed international commitment in support of African undertakings to spur sustained economic development.
Sule Lamido, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, speaking on behalf of President Olusegun Obasanjo, said Africa was not only confronted with myriad socio-economic problems, but ethno-cultural and political conflicts, as well, which hampered development. He called for concerted action to combat HIV/AIDS and for a close look at development models that had been applied in Africa in the past, in order to avoid past mistakes as a new course was charted for the region.
Kwesi Nduom, Minister for Economic Planning and Regional Cooperation of Ghana, speaking on behalf of the Africa Group, said the outcome of the recent Lusaka Summit, called the New African Initiative, was a culmination of efforts to achieve sustainable development — it also reasserted Africa’s leadership and responsibility for its own development and rested on rich human, intellectual and natural resources and on the keen recognition that Africa’s many problems were not insurmountable.
Also addressing the morning meeting were ministers or ambassadors from Iran (on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China), Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Morocco, Germany, Cuba, Croatia, Cameroon, Belarus, South Africa, and Indonesia. The Director-General of the Swiss Direction for Development and Cooperation spoke.
Role of UN System to Help Sustainable Development in Africa
The Council had before it a report of the Secretary-General entitled the role of the United Nations system in supporting the efforts of African countries to achieve sustainable development, which notes that “Recent African initiatives for renewal and growth and for African ownership of its own development, together with the improved policy environment in many countries, provides a sound basis for building a real partnership between Africa and the international community to put the continent on the path to sustained growth and improved living conditions for its people.
The United Nations system must play a key role in forging such a partnership. The challenge is to build on African ownership and sound economic policies. This can be done with an adequate mix of resource flows, debt relief and much-improved market access for African exports, combined with support for the diversification of the region’s economies and the replication of success stories being implemented by or in collaboration with the United Nations system. “
Debate on Sustainable Development in Africa
NITIN DESAI, Under-Secretary-General, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introducing the report of the Secretary-General, said African development had been a priority item on the United Nations agenda for some time. A new element that needed to be paid attention to was giving further importance to initiatives coming from the African countries themselves.
SULE LAMIDO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, said Africa at the beginning of the twenty-first century was not only confronted with myriad socio-economic problems, but also ethno-cultural and political conflicts, which hampered development. In the same vein, the opportunities and potentials that existed for development were equally immense and challenging, so much so that a focused and concerted action was required to pull Africa out of the doldrums and help to ensure sustainable development. Without doubt, the single most devastating menace threatening Africa’s socio-economic development was the HIV/AIDS pandemic. With an estimated 30 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa’s active labour force likely to be wiped out in the next five years because of the disease, it was an illusion to think of sustainable development in Africa, or any kind of development for that matter, without first check-mating the menace of this lethal disease.
Although Africa had not in the past been given enough attention and prominence, there was satisfaction with the positive changes and attention accorded by the United Nations. It was hoped that this renewed partnership would continue to make a positive impact and improvement in Africa.
KWESI NDUOM, Minister for Economic Planning and Regional Cooperation of Ghana, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the outcome of the Lusaka Summit, called the New African Initiative, was a culmination of efforts to achieve sustainable development. It also reasserted Africa’s leadership and responsibility for its own development and rested on rich human, intellectual and natural resources and on the keen recognition that Africa’s many problems were not insurmountable.
By creating an “Africa Union”, Africa had seized an historic opportunity to accelerate regional integration. The process had to focus on improving Africa’s competitiveness through integrating markets through trade liberalization, harmonizing monetary policies and promoting private-sector investment. The Union could not succeed, however, in an atmosphere of endemic political instability and conflict, nor could Africa achieve sustainable development without an end to its wars.
BAGHER ASADI (Iran), speaking for the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said it was high time for the international community to put an effective end to the involvement of foreign companies and governments in fomenting and protracting deadly conflicts in Africa. However, the real long-term culprits remained to be the state of underdevelopment and lack of democracy. Development was the best contribution to peace. Achieving development and economic growth and poverty eradication should be at the heart of conflict-prevention strategies.
What Africa needed at this critical junction, and in the midst of the still unfolding globalization process and all its attendant tumult and uncertainty, was a renaissance. The rebirth could be initiated and undertaken in all earnestness by Africans alone, and by African countries, individually and collectively. The United Nations should undertake integrating all its various plans, programmes, and initiatives into a comprehensive policy framework, comprising all political, economic and social components, and with clear well defined roles and mandates for the relevant executing agencies and departments.
EDDY BOUTMANS, Secretary of State for Development Cooperation of Belgium, speaking for the European Union and associated countries, said Africa contained34 of the world’s 49 least developed countries (LDCs), and the continent remained a priority of the European Union, which understood that African countries should take charge of their own development. There should be an integrated approach to helping Africa, led by the United Nations. The approach should be qualified, making allowance for broad general problems and the specific situations of specific countries, and taking into account such factors as level and stability of democracy and the extent of debt burdens.
MOHAMED BENAISSA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco, said the leaders who pledged at the Millennium Summit to halve poverty by 2015 could have been too ambitious. However, the objective could be achieved if the United Nations system took into consideration the link between economic development and the social dimension.
LUDGER VOLMER, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, said Africa played a key role when it came to the attainment of international development goals. Two plans for the promotion of Africa’s development were successfully merged into the “New African Initiative” during the recent Lusaka summit. African countries had worked out this road map for Africa’s future, containing important ideas and concepts for reducing and eventually closing the still-widening gap between many countries in Africa and other parts of the world.
What was extremely important was that this initiative would be firmly based on those political and humanitarian values now endorsed the world over — values such as democratic participation, good governance, freedom of expression and freedom of the press, environmentally sustainable economic growth combined with social justice and, most importantly, respect for human rights.
Two decades ago African pessimism was rife and many observers considered Africa a hopeless case. But African leaders proved the pessimists wrong. Today, in quite a number of African countries, there were positive trends. But every year conflicts destroyed much of the economic and social progress people had toiled long and hard to achieve. The United Nations system, working closely with African regional and subregional organizations, had an important role to play.
RICARDO CABRISAS RUIZ, Minister of Government of Cuba, said Africa’s complex social and economic problems had been the focus of the international community for 20 years; this attention had gone through various phases and numerous programmes and initiatives. It was time to ask why the situation in Africa had not only not improved, but had actually declined to alarming levels.
The long-term solution to the problems afflicting Africa would not be achieved through half-measures. There should be favourable rules for trade for Africa; there should be greater debt relief, as current measures did not get to the root of the problem; and much greater resources should be dedicated to combating HIV/AIDS.
TONINO PICULA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Croatia, said efforts were needed to continue to make ECOSOC more responsive to the needs and concerns of developing countries, in the rapidly changing global economy. Despite the fact that globalization was market- and technology-driven, it should be a consideration in the reform of the economic, financial, social and development areas of the United Nations.
The policy dialogue between ECOSOC and the Bretton Woods institutions held in New York in May this year was a step in the right direction. The forthcoming International Conference on Financing for Development should foster further cooperation between the United Nations and those bodies, and ensure the forging of a global alliance for development and governance of globalization for the benefit of all – in particular, those least developed.
FRAN OIS-XAVIER NGOUBEYOU, Minister of State in charge of External Relations of Cameroon, said African economies were not very competitive. Among the causes were a lack of government transparency and flawed or ineffective efforts to spur development. New avenues had to be explored, and that was the challenge African leaders had decided to take up. Only last week, heads of State at the Organization of African Unity (OAU) summit in Lusaka had launched the New Initiative for Africa, aimed at an African renaissance. The plan set priorities and specified goals and the resources needed to achieve them.
International help was needed. Donor countries had to reverse the recent drop in official development assistance (ODA) and in donations to United Nations development programmes. The thorny question of African debt also had to be resolved.
WALTER FUST, Director of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, said African countries knew best what form of assistance was most welcome. Switzerland had been a bilateral partner in Africa for many years.
The United Nations had the mandate, the means and the expertise to help resolve conflicts, to promote and secure peace, and thus to remove the obstacles to development. Also, Africa as a continent was over-supplied with arms, be they in military or private hands. Switzerland fully supported ongoing efforts to restrict possession and the trade of arms. The United Nations system should also increase its support to African governments and African civil society to improve governance. It should build capacities to create conditions for sustainable human development.
ALEXANDER SYCHOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, said Africa was the only continent where poverty was on the rise and productivity in decline. The situation was being made worse by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, armed conflict, and natural disasters. The continent had huge potential for more diversified production and exports and should become a full partner in the global economy.
Belarus agreed with African countries that non-discriminatory conditions for international trade should be established. It also agreed that ODA needed to be increased. The HIV/AIDS catastrophe required priority-driven attention from the international community. The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) could play a more active role in fostering regional, subregional and bilateral cooperation, complementing United Nations efforts, and could elaborate specific recommendations for improving national plans for sustainable development.
IVY MATSEPE-CASSABURRI, Minister of Communications of South Africa, said the “New African Initiative” was an expression of the commitment to decisively address the ills that had beset the continent for so long, whether they were caused by actions of Africans or those of others. South Africa appreciated the solidarity that had been expressed by other regions of the world, particularly those that faced the same challenges of poverty and under-development that Africans did.
It was quite clear that without the requisite resources, few of the priorities contained in the Initiative would be achieved. There must be engagement in all the necessary actions to maximize the resources that could be put at the disposal of meeting the challenges outlined in the Initiative. These actions included the possible creation of a mechanism for the coordination of United Nations activities, particularly those related to bridging the digital divide, which would create the conditions that would maximize private resource flows.
ALWI SHIHAB, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, said the constraints of Africa’s development were multiple and overwhelming. They continued to defy the concerted efforts of the developing countries across the whole spectrum of social, economic and political activities. Economic stagnation in Africa was widespread, financial flows had greatly declined and external indebtedness was excessive.
It was, therefore, important that, in the ongoing struggle to overcome these formidable challenges, past mistakes were learned from, and achievements were built upon until success was finally attained. African ownership was a critical concept. A plan which focused on sound economic policies, combined with measures to strengthen democracy and combat corruption, was a critical prerequisite to achieving the sustainable development of Africa. There was no doubt that through the United Nations efforts and activities that the critical issues confronting Africa would be kept at the forefront of the international agenda. This session would greatly reinvigorate the momentum for sustainable development in that region of the world.
Panel Debate on Nexus between Peace and Development
NELSON MANDELA, former President of South Africa, speaking via video link, said Africans must themselves take on the responsibility to shape their future and must assume full ownership of the development process. Recently established regional development initiatives were testimony to their determination to enhance cooperation among themselves. African leaders needed to act together to further enact policies and to win international support and resources for sustainable development initiatives.
Africans also were working more effectively to resolve and end conflicts in many parts of the continent. Peace was a fundamental requirement for durable sustainable development, and sufficient care had to be given to preserving peace in post-conflict situations.
Africa could not do it alone, Mr. Mandela said. Its partnerships with the world community, especially with the developed countries, multilateral institutions and private sector actors, had to be extended to long-term development support. Peace-building policies had to be backed up with sufficient commitment for post-conflict reconstruction and development. One way the United Nations could assist African countries was to combine humanitarian relief, peace-building and long-term sustainable development.
There was a need for further coordination and harmonization in United Nations efforts to that end. The success of Africa’s new vision required strong political will on the part of both African countries and the international community. He trusted the international community would participate with renewed enthusiasm so as to ensure the ultimate victory of peace.
SADAKO OGATA, former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said wars compelled people to flee. The work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was to negotiate with the countries receiving refugees to provide them with safety while mobilizing assistance from the international community. As victims of persecution and violence, refugees had to be given asylum and had to be protected while in exile. Large-scale human displacement induced by conflicts inevitably had a negative impact on development. The very existence of people in refugee camps who were not integrated in their communities negated the conditions for country development.
Even if refugees camps turned into markets for local goods, and provided some work opportunities, all key elements of the social, economic and environmental fabric of host communities — prices, jobs, salaries, food commodities, clean water, forested areas, law and order — were profoundly affected. This was why early conflict resolution efforts were important, in order to keep the period of refuge as short as possible.
When peace came, refugees flocked back. The first sign of peace was usually seen in the repatriation of refugees. However, massive movements of people returning to their own country added a heavy burden on societies trying to rebuild themselves, especially in post-conflict situations. The re-establishment of peace did not necessarily mean that stable conditions immediately prevailed. In fact, they were often extremely fragile. These situations of fragile peace required much more policy scrutiny than had been the practice in the past.
There was a need to build a new paradigm for peace and development. Efforts to solve and prevent war should veer much more towards development, while development endeavours should be carried out with the solution and prevention of war in view. The importance of controlling the transfer of small arms as a means to achieve either of these objectives must also be emphasized. There would be no development without peace, but peace alone would not bring better human life without ensuring better social and economic infrastructure. Peace and development were inseparable.