Africa facing multiple critical challenges, Ban says ahead of summit

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27 January - As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon prepares to attend the African Union (AU) summit this weekend in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, he stressed today that the gathering comes at a crucial time for the continent with national polls looming in Sudan and both climate change and under-development posing serious threats to progress.

Mr. Ban told reporters at United Nations Headquarters in New York that “the international community must work together” in Sudan to ensure that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the 2005 pact which brought an end to more than 20 years of war in the vast African nation, is fully implemented.

Nearly 17 million people across the country are estimated to register to vote in the April multi-party election, which represents a key milestone in the CPA, signed by the Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan.

The Secretary-General today also underscored the need to continue working for peace and stability in the war-wracked western region of Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and another 2.7 million forced from their homes since fighting erupted in 2003, pitting rebels against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen.

Elections will also take place this year in Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria and other African countries, and Mr. Ban told journalists that he plans to discuss “how to ensure that these ballots are free and fair and bring real benefits to the countries' people” with leaders while in Addis Ababa.

“In Côte d'Ivoire we have been making some progress in voter registration and we hope that we will be able to have elections in Côte d'Ivoire, which has been postponed several times, take place without failure.”

Mr. Ban, who will travel to Ethiopia from London where he is attending a conference on Afghanistan, said that he also plans to bring up the issue of climate change and its potentially devastating effect on Africa, including the key role that political leaders can play to support the Copenhagen Accord.

Reached in mid-December at the end of the two-week UN summit in the Danish capital, the pact aims to jump-start immediate action on the issue and guide negotiations on long-term action. It also includes an agreement to working towards curbing global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius, efforts to reduce or limit emissions, and pledges to mobilize $100 billion a year for developing countries to combat climate change.

“Finally, I plan to highlight the need to mobilize behind the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs],” the Secretary-General said, referring to the globally-agreed targets to halve extreme poverty and other ills.

With the 2015 deadline for the eight targets looming, he has called a high-level meeting on the MDGs in September, to be held at UN Headquarters.

“Most of the countries are falling behind the schedules on MDGs. Not a single country in Sub-Saharan Africa is on board now. Therefore we need to accelerate their progress.”