4 July 2006

Secretary-General Hails Africa's Decade-Long Progress in Development Security, Human Rights in Address to African Union Summit in Gambia

NEW YORK, 3 July (UN Headquarters) -- Following is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's address to the African Union Summit in Banjul, Gambia, 1 July:

Let me first thank our hosts, President Yahyah Jammeh and the people of Gambia, for their warm welcome and kind hospitality.  Equally, let me say a special word of gratitude to the Chairperson of the Union, President Denis Sassou Nguesso, and the Chairperson of the Commission, Alpha Oumar Konare, for their dynamic and visionary leadership during such a crucial and challenging year in the life of this Union.  Let me also thank President Jammeh and Professor Konare for their kind words about my modest contribution to our collective project.

Today, I would like to focus not on the past year, but on the past decade in the life of this continent and on the road ahead.  Needless to say, I do so because this is my last address to you in my 10 years as Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Friends, I recall vividly the day in Harare when I spoke to the assembled leaders of Africa for the first time, at what was then the Organization of African Unity.  I did so with a blend of pride and trepidation.  Today, I do so with a bit less trepidation, but with even greater pride -- pride in what we have accomplished together, and pride to call myself an African together with all of you.

On that morning of 2 June, 1997, I said that Africa had, in the past five decades, been through a series of momentous changes.

First came decolonization, the struggle against apartheid and the first attempt at nation-building.

Then came a disappointing second wave, too often marked by civil wars and the tyranny of military or one-party rule; by economic stagnation as a result of corruption, weak governance, inadequate regulatory systems, State-sanctioned theft and unchecked external interference.

Then, I suggested, a new era was in prospect -- Africa's third wave.

I called on Africa to make this third wave one of enduring development, peace and respect for human rights.

Over the near decade that has passed since that day, I have been privileged to see this third wave unfold.  Not always so forcefully as we might have wished, nor so consistently.  But, inexorably and unstoppably, it has continued to flow across this rich, vast and varied continent.

The African Union itself is in many ways the most eloquent testimony of that progress, in development, in security, in human rights -- the three interlinked pillars on which the human family must build its future.

An institution, which was created only six years ago, has established itself as a defining voice in each one of those areas.  And Africa as a whole has many success stories to tell in all three.

Look at Africa's achievements in development.  A decade ago, the world had never heard of the Millennium Development Goals, and the New Partnership for Africa's Development had yet to be born.

Today, the Millennium Development Goals have had a galvanizing effect on Governments throughout Africa.  This Summit is rightly focusing on regional integration, while there is broad agreement on the need to build national strategies around the MDGs.  I am proud to say that the United Nations is assisting Africa on both fronts.

This Union has recognized that Africa's partnership with the rest of the world must be based on solid achievements, and on monitoring of both donor and recipient performance.  You know that making development happen relies on a shared sense of responsibility and a reciprocal sense of trust.

The developed world, too, is beginning to act on that understanding.  Since the Group of Eight Summit last year, 14 African countries have seen a debt cancellation of 100 per cent, and eight have benefited from important debt relief.  Africa's largest debtor nation, Nigeria, has completed a full buy-back operation.  Globally, official development assistance hit a record high last year, topping 106 billion dollars.

When I attend this year's Group of Eight Summit in St. Petersburg two weeks from now, I shall press the leaders to follow through on their commitments to Africa.  And on trade, I will urge them to take bold measures to help ensure the Doha Round succeeds and truly benefits the countries of our continent.

There are still huge obstacles to be overcome, if Africa as a whole is to reach all the Millennium Development Goals.  But, our progress on some of the individual Goals is deeply encouraging.

Take the goal of achieving universal primary education.  Over the past five years, more than 10 African countries have increased enrolment ratios by over 15 percentage points.  And, in several such countries, this improvement came about mainly because of a rise in the enrolment of girls.

Or take the goal of fighting AIDS.  Today, prevalence is dropping in several African countries, because more young people are using condoms, reducing the number of sexual partners and waiting longer before they start having sex.

In reducing maternal mortality, several African countries are on target.  And most are making progress.

In providing safe drinking water, six African countries have already reached the goal, while more than half are on track.

And not all progress is equally difficult.  Fighting malaria with bed nets, or empowering farmers with improved seed varieties, can bring dramatic change relative to the cost.

Let us also consider the fact that 27 African countries are projected to grow more than 5 per cent in terms of GDP next year.

Or that the inflow of direct investment to African countries increased by more than 200 per cent in the past five years.

Or that, at the Johannesburg stock exchange, more than 30,000 trades now take place daily, compared with 5,000 a decade ago.  The combined value of all companies listed there is now higher than those on any of the stock exchanges in Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore or Mexico.

South Africa is now the fastest-growing investor in the African continent, after the United Kingdom and China.  It is betting on Africa's future, and I encourage others -- African and non-African -- to do the same.

The new-found interest in Africa should be welcomed.  But the activities are still focused mainly on the extractive industry and exploitation of natural resources.  We have to ensure that this new scramble for Africa benefits the women and men of the continent -- and that the agreements which are signed with foreign investors are fair, equitable and stand the test of time.

The first scramble for Africa was for land, territories, natural resources and slaves.  We are still feeling the devastating impact of that period.  Let not history repeat itself.  If we do, future generations will not forgive us, and they should not.

But today, one thing is clear to all of us here: Africa's development disproves the distorted and widespread image of our continent as a sea of undifferentiated poverty.

The same is true of our progress in security.

Compared to a decade ago, the number of violent conflicts has dropped dramatically.  Africans are increasingly taking ownership of the peace and security agenda.

Largely thanks to this Union, Africa is learning better to manage and resolve conflicts -- and, most important, to prevent new ones from breaking out.

The AU Peace and Security Council has proved itself a decisive and driving force.

The Union has strengthened its capacity for peacekeeping and peacebuilding, and has developed strong partnerships with the United Nations, as well as with regional and subregional organizations and arrangements.

African troops are now deployed in every peacekeeping operation on the continent.  And you are making progress towards creating a standby force, capable of rapid deployment to keep or enforce the peace, as Chairperson Konare informed us a moment ago.

You successfully concluded the mandate of the first African Peacekeeping Mission in Burundi.  You have overcome enormous obstacles to deploy 7,000 valiant and professional soldiers and police in Darfur, intervening in one of the worst nightmares in recent history.

And only three weeks ago, Presidents Obasanjo of Nigeria and Biya of Cameroon demonstrated exceptional leadership and statesmanship, when they reached agreement on ways to implement a settlement of the four-decade-long dispute over Bakassi.

Alas, these courageous advances are seldom reflected in the headlines and television images that reach the rest of the world.

Finally, we can say the same of Africa's progress on human rights.

Nine years ago, I said some African leaders viewed human rights as a rich country's luxury, for which Africa was not ready; that others treated it as an imposition, if not a plot, by the industrialized West.  I said I found these thoughts demeaning of the yearning for human dignity that resides in every African heart.  And I called on Africa to ostracize and isolate those who seize power through coups against elected Governments.

Since then, I believe Africans have demonstrated that human rights are African rights.  The rejection of those who seize power through coups is now accepted as a founding principle of this Union.  And I believe Africa is close to establishing a norm that will make it no more legitimate to cling to power by unconstitutional means, than it is to come to power by them, and which will rule out ad hoc constitutional amendments to prolong the power of a particular ruler.

Today, we celebrate the fact that most African States -- more than ever before -- have democratically elected Governments.  World Bank data shows that, by 2002, sub-Saharan Africa had a higher percentage of countries with Governments elected through multiparty elections than was the average for other developing regions.

Our brothers and sisters in the Democratic Republic of Congo are about to hold the first free and fair elections in their history as an independent nation.  Burundi and Liberia recently went to the polls, after years of devastating conflict.

The presence here of the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, also speaks more eloquently about advances in the rights of women than words ever could.  So, does the fact that, in sub-Saharan countries, the share of women in single or lower houses of parliament is higher than in the developing countries of southern or western Asia.

Throughout Africa, voter turnout continues to rise.  Widespread consultations on constitutional reforms are taking place in many countries.  The Pan-African Parliament has just completed its fifth session.  Civil society is engaged as never before.

And the Peer Review Mechanism, if used effectively and transparently, offers a genuinely African approach to the challenge of maintaining and improving standards of Government for the benefit of all citizens.  I am proud that, earlier this year, my country, Ghana, became the first country to complete successfully the five stages of the Review.

But, ladies and gentlemen,

Let us not deceive ourselves.  Overall, the number of Africans living in extreme poverty continues to increase.  The spread of HIV/AIDS continues to outpace our efforts to halt it.  Food security continues to elude us, and the environment continues to degrade.  Youth unemployment continues to rise.

The conflicts in Darfur, Côte d'Ivoire, Somalia and northern Uganda continue to outrun efforts for a solution.  Despite elections, many Governments continue to suppress opposition parties and a free press.  Many continue to exclude certain groups from participation in public life.  Many continue to practise or tolerate large scale corruption.  Too often, the exploitation of natural resources continues to benefit only a few.

I believe that to keep building on the progress we have achieved so far, we have to do far better in building a comprehensive strategy for the future -- one which gives equal weight and attention to the three pillars of development, security and human rights.

One which recognizes that development, security and human rights are not only ends in themselves -- they are the prerequisites for our collective well-being.  The human family cannot enjoy security without development, cannot enjoy development without security, and cannot enjoy or sustain either in the longer term, without respect for human rights and the rule of law

They all reinforce each other; they all depend on each other.

That is the strategy we need to give full force to Africa's third wave -- the one I hope will be the enduring one for our continent.

Under the third wave, men and women should live free from want, so that the death sentences of extreme poverty and infectious disease are lifted from their lives.

They should live free from fear, so that their lives and livelihoods are not ripped apart by violence and war.

And they should be free to live in dignity, governed by their own consent, under law, in a society where all individuals can speak, worship and associate freely.

That is the direction in which the third wave must lead us.

May it lead us to an Africa which is making the most and best of all its rich resources, and which knows that its most precious resource is its own daughters and sons.

I will no longer be Secretary-General of the United Nations, but, as long as I have strength, I will keep working with you to reach that destination.

Je vous remercie.  Choukran jazeelan.  Muito obrigado.  Muchas gracias.  Asante Sana.  Meda mo ase paa paa paa.

Thank you very much.

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