25 May 2006

In Message Marking Africa Day, Secretary-General Calls for Renewed Commitments to Help Continent Build on Progress, Address Remaining Challenges

NEW YORK, 24 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's message on Africa Day, to be observed tomorrow, 25 May:

Every year, Africa Day offers an occasion to consider Africa's progress, assess its challenges and reflect on its tremendous unfulfilled potential.

Africa is undergoing enormous political changes.  Although destructive conflicts persist, their number has decreased and peaceful democratic governance has taken root in many countries.  In Burundi, the peaceful and democratic conclusion of the transitional process was a milestone for that country and, hopefully, for the future of the entire Great Lakes region.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a new constitution and electoral law set the stage for democratic elections, while Guinea-Bissau saw the restoration of constitutional order.  And in Liberia, a landmark vote brought into office the first woman ever to be elected President of an African State.

Together with a somewhat improved economic outlook, the continent saw higher inflows of official development assistance and much-needed debt relief.  The Group of Eight developed nations pledged to double aid to Africa by $25 billion by 2010, while 18 of the most indebted countries have had almost 100 per cent of their external debt cancelled.

The United Nations will continue to assist the African people as they build on this progress.  A new Peacebuilding Commission, the Democracy Fund and Human Rights Council have improved the UN's ability to respond to Africa's agenda, as laid out by the New Partnership for Africa's Development and the African Union.  Already, the UN and the AU are working together to strengthen African peacekeeping capacity, and pursue balanced development.

Amidst the optimism, huge challenges remain.  Continued violence in Darfur  -- despite the recent peace agreement -- threatens millions of lives.  The situation between Ethiopia and Eritrea remains a source of acute concern, while the conflict in northern Uganda prolongs one of the worst humanitarian tragedies in the world.  At the same time, drought haunts the Horn of Africa and parts of southern Africa, and HIV/AIDS continues to inflict a terrible toll on the future of the African continent.

On this Africa Day, let us renew our pledge to do all we can to help the African people address these issues.  Working together, we can realize their vision of a peaceful, prosperous and democratic continent.

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