29 May 2003


NEW YORK, 28 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of remarks as delivered by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the ceremony marking the fortieth anniversary of "Africa Day" in New York today:

Forty years ago, the founding fathers of modern Africa joined together in Addis Ababa to set up the Organization of African Unity (OAU), giving Africa, for the first time, a clear collective voice in the international arena. Today we celebrate the achievements of the OAU, now transformed into the African Union.

We recall with pride the dynamic role of the OAU’s Liberation Committee, the courageous role of the Frontline States and other member States, as well as the sacrifices of African peoples in the long and ultimately successful struggle for freedom and against apartheid.

The OAU has not only embodied Africa’s shared values and aspirations, it has also fostered a sense of collective identity and growing partnership among Africa’s diverse peoples and countries. It has played a critical role in regional conflict resolution, and facilitated the steady growth of an architecture for promoting peace and security through, for example, the OAU Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Mediation and Resolution. It has also provided a coherent role for Africa in the multilateral realm, for example, in the work of the African group within the United Nations System.

Today, the newly established African Union marks an important new phase in Africa’s efforts to empower itself. Its new organs and institutions, its proclaimed commitment to human rights and democracy, and its efforts to establish effective structures for conflict prevention and resolution, deserve the fullest support. It is also focusing enormous and important attention on economic and social development, through the establishment of the African Economic Community, and, of course, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) initiative, which offers a major new opportunity for Africa’s revival, based on firm, clear foundations of rule of law and policy reform.

At the same time, the celebration of this anniversary is necessarily tempered, as we are assailed by horrifying images of killings in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Liberia, and elsewhere. HIV-AIDS, as the Chairman said, continues to have a devastating effect on our continent, including on agriculture and governance. The global economic situation, including difficulties in trade negotiations, offers little comfort.

At such times –- indeed, at a time when I know you are concerned that the critical needs of Africa might not get the attention they merit -- it is fortunate that African countries have a long tradition of working together, as well as a framework for cooperation such as the African Union.

The United Nations, for its part, will continue to be a close partner. Our cooperation is active and diverse, spanning the full spectrum of issues, involving virtually all aspects of the UN system. And the UN’s efforts to harness international support for African development are as active as ever. It is also good that the Group of 8 (G-8) countries are taking Africa and NEPAD issues so seriously, and I am looking forward to joining several African leaders in France a few days from now to state the case for increased G-8 investment and involvement in Africa.

So let us, together, continue our work to build a continent that can at last find the full peace and development for which its people yearn.

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