GLOBAL: Continue supporting Africa, Annan urges

Monday, November 20, 2006
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on the international community on Thursday to continue supporting the African continent, saying the world had a moral obligation to do so.

"The world has a moral and strategic obligation to address shared concerns of poverty and disease and despair on this [African] continent, an obligation that has been repeatedly acknowledged and spelt out in specific agreements over the last few years," Annan said in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, during the opening of the fifth African Forum for Development, organised under the theme ‘Youth and Leadership in the 21st century’.

"Neither side in the compact can escape responsibility for delivering its commitments," he said. "But the developing countries, especially, are entitled to expect help from the UN system. The UN must be there to support their vision and their plans, and to help them build the capacity - the skills, the institutions, the systems to deliver the jobs, houses, schools and healthcare that their people need."

Annan said: "Over the past 10 years, I, as an African secretary-general, have done my best to nurture and build up the relationship between Africa and the UN. That decade, of course, has also seen the birth of the African Union - an immensely hopeful development - and I'm glad to say the UN and the AU have a close and growing relationship.”

Annan, whose tenure ends in December, also used the opportunity to call for a reform of the UN system, which was "too confusing", he said.

"Despite enormous progress in recent years, we don't yet have in place the properly structured and equipped UN system that we need," he said. "Many Africans find the UN confusing and frustrating to deal with because it is present in so many different forms, with mandates that either overlap or leave major gaps. Often you end up having to deal with 10 or 20 different UN agencies offering support that is neither coordinated, nor strategic, nor to scale. We must simplify Africa's access to, and dealings with, the donor community. Instead, we often seem to be adding new layers of complexity.

"I'm full of hope that the UN, under its new Asian secretary-general, will bring some of Asia's inventiveness, dynamism and teamwork to helping Africa," he said before concluding with the words, "Vivent les Nations unies! Vive l'Afrique!"

The African Development Forum, launched in 1999 by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), is being co-organised by the African Union Commission (AUC) and co-sponsored by UN System Agencies with youth mandates and other bilateral and multilateral organs. The forum provides a platform for debating, discussing and initiating concrete strategies for Africa's development.

Annan was due to open a critical international meeting later on Thursday with the AU to discuss the situation in Sudan's Darfur region and push again for UN peacekeepers to replace a beleaguered AU force in the western region.

"The theme of this ADF pays tribute to the actuality that Africa is a ‘young’ continent … Close to two-thirds of our population is below the age of 25," Abdoulie Janneh, the ECA executive secretary, said. “Currently, youth accounts for 45 percent of the total labour force in our region, a situation that is unlikely to change."

He added, "It is my hope and expectation that we will rise from this ADF with consensus and an actionable agenda to enhance the contribution of youth to African development."

A young girl, speaking on behalf of the youth, said: "Young people constitute more than 60 percent of the Africa's population. Before the age of 15 most of us are already working, by the age of 19 more than half of girls already have babies. By the age of 24, a large percentage, particularly of young women, are already living with HIV/AIDS with no surety of getting anti-retrovirals.

"We need employment to get our hands on experience that we require to be the leaders that you would be proud to hand over leadership to," she said. "When youth unemployment is 50 percent or more in many countries, how much is allocated to young people to enable them to develop their livelihoods and society as a whole?

"We want to build a new Africa, we want to inherit an Africa that will take care of her people; an educated, hunger and poverty-free Africa," she said.
Author: IRIN
Source: IRIN
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