1 February 2005

Secretary-General Urges African Leaders to Help Make 2005 Year of Renewal for UN, Hope for Africa, in Address to Abuja Summit

NEW YORK, 31 January (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s address to the Fourth African Union Summit, in Abuja, Nigeria, 30 January:

It gives me great pleasure to join you for this Summit.  I would like to thank President Obasanjo for his tireless efforts for peace in our continent and the people and the Government of Nigeria for their generous hospitality; Chairman Konaré for the dynamism, leadership and skill with which he continues to guide the African Union and the Commission; and all of you for giving me the opportunity to address this important session.  I would also like to thank all of you for the consistent support you have given to the United Nations and to me.

You gather at a time of many challenges facing Africa, but also one of great potential.  In September, all Member States of the United Nations will hold a Summit in New York to review the progress we have made in the five years since the adoption of the Millennium Declaration.

The governments of the world are facing some critical tests:

Can they make the smart investments that will eradicate global poverty and free billions of people from the scourge of hunger and disease?

Can they build a collective security system capable of meeting the challenges of the twenty-first century?

Can they renew and update our indispensable global institutions, including the United Nations itself?

The answers to all these questions will be of decisive importance for the future of this continent. Africa has a disproportionate share of the world’s poor.  It lags behind other parts of the developing world in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It continues to suffer from the tragic consequences of deadly conflict and poor governance.  And there are many ways that the United Nations can help, provided that the Organization itself is strengthened and effective.

Africa has an indispensable contribution to make in ensuring that 2005 becomes a turning point for the continent, the United Nations and the world.  The September Summit will give you, Africa’s leaders, an unprecedented opportunity.  Only four African States -- Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia and then-white-ruled South Africa -- were present at San Francisco in 1945, when the United Nations was founded.  The rest were colonies, powerless to influence the decisions being taken.  Today, when the stakes may be just as high, and when we need similarly far-reaching steps to adapt both our policies and our machinery, the 52 African Member States make up an important voice.

I am pleased that one focus of your energies has been the report of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change. Indeed, in no continent would the implementation of the Panel’s recommendations save more lives than in Africa.

The report argues that poverty and infectious diseases like AIDS, which affect so many millions every year in Africa, are among the gravest threats to international peace and security.  It states that any effort to build an effective collective security system must place prevention, and the fight against poverty, at its heart.  And it calls for more concerted action to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

The report also suggests ways to contain the proliferation of small arms and weapons of mass destruction.  And it focuses on strengthening the capacity of the United Nations for conflict prevention and resolution.

When prevention fails, UN peacekeepers, including men and women in uniform from this continent, have proven time and again their value in helping to end civil wars.  However, the global supply of well trained peacekeepers is running dangerously low. The High-level Panel urges developed countries to do much more to support UN peacekeeping operations, and suggests concrete ways to strengthen the African Union and the continent’s regional and subregional organizations.

And when wars have ended, post-conflict peace-building is vital, as the people of Sierra Leone and Liberia can attest.  However, peace-building is often under-resourced.  The report recommends the creation of a new intergovernmental organ -- a peace-building commission -- under the auspices of the Security Council.  The Commission would fill an institutional gap and seek to ensure that peace-building is effective and well resourced even after peacekeepers have left the country.

The Panel has also not shied away from tackling questions that have divided the international community, offering an agreed definition of terrorism, as well as guidelines for the use of force.  These issues are of primary concern to developed and developing countries alike.  Indeed, in this respect and others, the Panel has gone to great pains to produce a balanced report that gives voice to the concerns of all nations, and that puts to rest the notion that security and development are somehow separate realms.  On the contrary, it says, security and development are inextricably linked.  It is our job as Africans to make this point more widely known and understood, and to act on it.

That brings me to a second, equally important report, that is now in your hands:  the report of the United Nations Millennium Project.

This report, too, is an impressive intellectual achievement and a call to action.  At its core is a challenge to the international community to regain its ambition for poverty reduction -- not through high rhetoric or theory, but through specific investments and policies that can be readily applied over the coming decade, on a scale large enough to make the difference.

Africa is not currently on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  But Africa can achieve the Goals by 2015, if the long-promised global partnership is truly mobilized.  No new promises are needed and we don’t ask for new ones to make this happen -- just follow-through on existing ones.

In a similar vein, the report shows that Africa need not wait for tomorrow’s breakthroughs to address today’s problems.  Basic technologies available today can begin to do the job.

Most of the report’s recommendations have Africa clearly in mind.  It calls on African States to adopt development strategies bold enough to meet the Millennium Development Goal targets by 2015.  It calls on donors and Africans alike to identify the external financing gaps, and to fill these through official development assistance and significant debt-relief measures.  It suggests that at least a dozen “MDG fast-track” countries be designated for a rapid scale-up of ODA, with more countries granted such status as soon as they are ready.  It stresses the need for a major breakthrough in the Doha trade round.  And it urges the immediate launching of a set of “quick win” actions -- such as the free mass distribution of malaria bed nets, the expansion of school meal programmes using locally produced foods, and an end to user fees for primary schools and essential health services.

Some of these recommendations will require decisions from Heads of State at the September summit.  But many others, especially the life-saving Quick Wins, need not wait another day.

One key to success will be to forge an even closer relationship between the United Nations and the African Union.  I attach the highest importance to nurturing these ties.  The United Nations now has a very close relationship with the European Union, including in the area of peacekeeping.  We need at least as close a relationship with the African Union, and we must work hard to achieve it.

We have been working very hard to advance the goals of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).  It is also gratifying that in a very short period of time, the African Union has made great strides in promoting conflict management in Africa.  Nowhere is this more evident than in Sudan’s Darfur region, where African Union forces have deployed in a very challenging environment and are making an important contribution.  This is a crucial effort, and the United Nations will continue to offer both political and practical support for it.  The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement earlier this month was a great success for African mediation efforts, and offers hope that all regions of the country can achieve stability and development.  Peace in Sudan is indivisible.

We are at a defining moment for the international community and its primary instrument of common progress, the United Nations. The months ahead offer an opportunity to strengthen multilateralism, and to take decisive steps towards the vision of a world free from fear and want, so eloquently sketched five years ago in the Millennium Declaration.

You can bring to this process a deep understanding of the hopes and aspirations not only of Africa, but of the whole developing world.  You understand the importance of change, and the dangers of no change.  You know, from our rich African traditions, that building bridges is critical to building a better future.  I hope we shall all rise to the challenge, and make 2005 a year of renewal for the United Nations and of hope for Africa and the world.

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