Deputy Secretary-General, Addressing Panel Discussion, Calls for Strong International Backing of African Union's New Development Agenda
NEW YORK, October 15, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson's remarks at the high-level panel discussion on the “Africa We Want” in support of the African Union's Agenda 2063, in New York on 13 October:
I am very honoured to join you today to discuss the support of the United Nations System to the African Union Agenda 2063. And I want to also particularly welcome the panellists to this meeting. I think you rarely meet such an eminent panel and I thank those of you who have travelled for this meeting. I think it's a symbol of the quality of cooperation that now exists between the African Union and the United Nations. I was President of the General Assembly, as some of you may recall, and I can say that in last 10 years the quality of the relationship and the intensity of contact between the African Union and the United Nations has increased considerably.
As I'm sure the representatives of the African Union can vouch for, it's a very intense agenda and a very positive one. We face huge problems, from the crises to Ebola. But I think the spirit in which we work — the spirit of Chapter 8 of the United Nations Charter, which I often refer to — is something we should always recall.
I have personal experience from my time as mediator of the Darfur crisis in 2007 and 2008, where Salim Ahmed Salim and I travelled in the region and spent 18 months on the mediation. And it was a particular pleasure for me to accompany him to the Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa, and bring him along to the Security Council in New York. We were like twins, they said at the time. I'm very glad to be on this panel with such distinguished friends.
Agenda 2063 takes a long view of Africa's development aspirations. It sets out a vision of transformative change: a future where Africa's resources are optimized for the benefit of all Africans. It's a challenging agenda. It's an inspiring agenda. It's a daunting agenda. But it is an achievable agenda. It deserves the strong support of the international community.
As you all know, this is an extraordinary time for Africa. African economies have been growing at a rapid pace. African countries continue to make significant advances towards the Millennium Development Goals, particularly in reducing poverty, improving primary school enrolment, reducing child mortality, advancing gender equality and halting the spread of HIV/AIDS. Africa has made these advances with commendable momentum and focus — not least, since 2001, through the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).
As we discuss the next generation of global development goals, African leaders have articulated the needs and priorities of their peoples through the Common African Position on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Africa is the first region to have developed a joint position on post-2015. This work has laid a firm foundation for the realization of Agenda 2063. We must now build on this work, and safeguard progress to date.
Longstanding development challenges — not least formulated in the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) — must be conclusively met. We know that some will be met, but not all definitely before the end of next year. Economic gains will only be sustained if peace and security, human rights, good governance and rule of law are also promoted. Many African countries and communities have made great progress on these fronts. But more needs to be done.
It is now important that emerging threats, primarily the effects of climate change and the Ebola epidemic, must be met with decisive action. In these pursuits, the United Nations stands ready to strengthen our partnership. We will continue to work hand in hand with Africa.
And this goes not least for the unprecedented Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which is one of the United Nations very highest priorities now. The epidemic has dealt a devastating blow to the affected countries and their neighbours. It is exacting appalling human costs, and at the same time it is seriously jeopardizing the hard-won economic and political gains of the affected countries.
We have now deployed the United Nations first-ever emergency health mission — the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) — with full, universal support. We would like to see more contributions to the trust fund. Alongside the efforts of the Special Envoy on Ebola, Dr. Nabarro, UNMEER is working hard to urgently make a difference on the ground. Four important steps: treat the infected, preserve stability, prevent the spread of Ebola and ultimately defeat it. That's our agenda. The key words for the Ebola crisis are: speed, action and national ownership with solid international support.
On the sustainable development goals, the process is now under way to set the direction for transformative change for the post-2015 period. And I'm glad to have with me at this meeting Assistant Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, who is working diligently almost day and night on this issue together with her colleagues from the United Nations system, not least the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). On the MDGs, the Secretary-General and I continue to drive forward initiatives that will accelerate progress as the 2015 deadline draws near.
The "Every woman, every Child" initiative, in line with the goals of the African Union's Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality, has already secured over 240 commitments from Governments, the private sector and civil society with respect to Africa. These commitments will advance women's and children's health in the region as part of the Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health.
Another example is the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, which is bringing together leaders from all sectors of society to scale up access to clean energy. This is vital to ensuring that the world can continue to lift its people out of poverty without jeopardizing sustainability. And I am glad and grateful that 42 African countries have joined this initiative.
The Call to Action on Sanitation, which I launched on behalf of the Secretary-General in 2013, is catalysing action on one of the most basic, but sadly lagging of the MDG targets: access to sanitation. As you know, two and a half (2.5) billion people around the world do not have toilets and over 1 billion people practice open defecation. These figures are a main reason for child and maternal mortality in many countries. And I have seen children and women die in front of me; that is one of the reasons I am so committed.
Climate change adaptation and mitigation will be indispensable to the long-term development of every region in the world. The Secretary-General's Climate Summit, on 23 September, boosted political momentum and I think effectively catalysed action on the ground. And Africa was at the forefront on climate action. I particularly note the launch of the Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance, established by the African Union and NEPAD, together with five international non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This Alliance will ensure that increased productivity and food security go hand-in-hand with decreased carbon emissions for nearly 25 million farming households by 2025.
The United Nations continues to support Africa's development at the regional level through the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). ECA is working closely with the African Union to determine development needs for the implementation of Agenda 2063. This week the African Development Forum will be discussing “Innovative Financing for Africa's Transformation”. And we all know how important that meeting on financing will be in Addis in the middle of July next year. Through the Regional Co-ordination Mechanism Africa, the entire United Nations family is actively engaged in support of Agenda 2063.
Peace and security, rule of law and human rights are objectives in themselves, but also essential to underpinning development gains. In these areas, the United Nations continues to support capacity-building and develop joint policies under the United Nations-African Union Ten-Year Capacity-Building Programme, the United Nations-African Union Joint Task Force on Peace and Security, and the Memorandum of Understanding between the African Union Commission Chairperson and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Here in New York — and I would like to add Addis Ababa, as Commissioners Chergui and Maruping certainly can confirm — we continue to galvanize the support of the international community for countries in conflict and post-conflict situations. High-level meetings convened during the general debate here at the United Nations last month have invigorated support to several vulnerable African countries, including Somalia, Mali and the Central African Republic, among others.
And through the Secretary-General's Human Rights up Front initiative, the United Nations system will be better prepared to support national authorities in preventing human rights violations from turning into mass atrocities. We were faced with that danger as you know both in South Sudan and in Central African Republic a year ago, and the dangers are still there. This initiative is also a reminder of the positive impact of respect of human rights on economic and social development.
Let me state in closing: we must build on the indispensable partnership between the United Nations and the African Union, in the spirit of our respective charters. I reaffirm the commitment of the United Nations to support the implementation of the African Union Agenda 2063. A stable, prosperous and flourishing Africa is a contribution not only to its own people, its own citizens, but it is a contribution to the world. Your vision is our vision. Your success is our success.