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USIS Washington File

29 September 1999

Text: Amb. Holbrooke at UNSC Open Meeting on Africa Sept. 29

(He lays out four-part U.S. agenda for Africa) (2460)
U.S. Representative to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke,
addressing a U.N. Security Council open meeting on Africa September
29, outlined a four-part U.S. agenda by which he said the United
Nations can "do whatever is possible to support and foster" the
ambitions of African people.
To help Africans, Holbrooke said, the United Nations must do the
following things:
-- "work to enhance Africa's security by helping it resolve and
prevent armed conflicts";
-- "help Africa grapple with such transnational threats as AIDS and
-- "support Africa's ongoing political transformation toward open
societies and markets"; and
-- "assist Africa's economic development and address its humanitarian
Holbrooke reiterated his pledge that Africa will be one of this
highest priorities as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and
announced that he plans to visit the continent a month after U.S.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright travels there in October.
Following is the text of Holbrooke's statement, as prepared for
(begin text)
Statement by U.S. Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke, United States
Representative to the United Nations, in the Security Council Open
Meeting on Africa, September 29, 1999
Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen:
I welcome this opportunity to speak before you on Africa, an area that
I have pledged will be one of my highest priorities as America's
Ambassador to the United Nations. I thank Prime Minister Kok for his
leadership, and appreciate all the hard work done by his delegation to
make this meeting possible. And I compliment the Secretary-General on
his statement and thank him for all of his effort to focus our
attention on this important set of issues. We could not hear from a
more dedicated and expert student of Africa's problems and potential.
Throughout this decade, the United States, under the personal
leadership of President Clinton, has worked to revitalize and energize
America's engagement with Africa. The United States is proud to have
convened the first UN Security Council ministerial session on Africa
two years ago. Last March, Secretary Albright hosted the first
U.S.-Africa Ministerial, bringing together leaders of fifty African
nations to discuss our common agenda. Next month, she plans to make
her third visit there as Secretary of State. And I plan to travel
there a month later.
Africa today is, in many ways, a tale of two worlds -- a continent
being pulled in opposite directions. Parts of Africa are now becoming
more democratic and more prosperous. Peaceful and democratic
transitions of power were once the exception in Africa; now they are
becoming more common. But at the same time, the people of this vast
and vital continent still suffer from great problems, many of them
familiar to all of us: civil and interstate wars, vast poverty,
disease, and conflict-generated humanitarian disasters. And in many
areas, they are getting worse.
No longer the victims of colonialism, or great power competition, the
people of Africa now have an historic opportunity to see that in the
coming century, their lives can be freer, safer and more secure than
ever before. It is imperative that the United Nations do whatever is
possible to support and foster their ambitions. Toward this end, I
believe our efforts should address a four-part agenda:
-- First, we must work to enhance Africa's security by helping it
resolve and prevent armed conflicts,
-- Second, we need to help Africa grapple with such transnational
threats as AIDS and terrorism;
-- Third, we have to support Africa's ongoing political transformation
toward open societies and markets;
-- And fourth, we must assist Africa's economic development and
address its humanitarian concerns.
Mr. President, allow me to take the opportunity to explain this agenda
in more detail.
First, and most fundamentally. African societies need peace. In my
view, the continent's entire political, economic and social
transformation flows from the African people's ability to maintain
security, stability and a just order. Put simply, for democracy to
take hold, people must feel safe. They must believe that governments
exist to protect them, not exploit or terrorize them. Therefore,
avoidance and rapid resolution of conflict will remain the sine qua
non for domestic and foreign investment, improving economic
performance, rising living standards, political stability and the rule
of law.
Today, war touches many areas of Africa. But these wars are not
inevitable. Through our own efforts and within the United Nations, the
United States wishes -- indeed, will intensity its efforts -- to
support efforts to resolve these conflicts. As President Clinton said
in his speech here last week, we must resolve "to strengthen the
capacity of the international community to prevent and, whenever
possible, to stop outbreaks of mass killing and displacement." It is a
heavy burden; we may not always succeed, but we must try.
In Africa, we have to work much, much harder to solve the conflicts
that threaten the continent's future and imperil its people as we
speak. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- a situation that has
involved at least eight countries and become the widest interstate war
in African history -- we support the effort now under way to implement
the peace agreement so painstakingly negotiated by Zambian President
Chiluba. We will consider recommendations of UN military liaison
officers in regional capitals on how the UN can further the peace
process. We are urging all combatants to adhere to the signed
cease-fire. And the UN needs a strong, experienced Special
Representative in the DRC as soon as possible to galvanize peace
Similarly, in Sierra Leone, the United States has been working
actively with the government, the various rebel groups, ECOWAS and the
UN to implement a peace agreement. We are anxious to begin disarmament
and demobilization in Sierra Leone while ECOMOG still has a credible
force in the field. We need the UN to deploy the full complement of
authorized observers as soon as possible and be ready to introduce a
full peacekeeping operation in December, when the Nigerians plan to
And in Ethiopia and Eritrea, we must continue working to restore
peace. Although both sides have committed themselves to the OAU peace
settlement, much work remains to be done to forge agreement on the
framework's implementation. What some considered two of the most
hopeful countries in Africa, Ethiopia and Eritrea, now illustrate the
dramatic impact of senseless war.
Mr. President: our collective failures to prevent and contain such
conflicts are lamentable. The international community has a
responsibility to do more. The United States, for its part, has
already started: Through President Clinton's 1996 African Crisis
Response Initiative, we are enhancing Africa's own peacekeeping
capacity. So far, some 5000 African peacekeepers from six different
countries have received training through this program. And, as
Secretary Albright explained last Friday, the United States has
developed procedures to halt U.S. arms sales to regions of conflict
not already covered by UN arms embargoes. We encourage other nations
to establish and observe such moratoria.
The United States also believes we must attack the economic structures
that fuel the illicit arms trade -- the gray and black markets in
diamonds, precious metals and narcotics. Next week, experts in my
government will convene a conference to look specifically at the
economics of war in the conflicts in Angola, Congo and Sierra Leone,
and what we can do to temper them. We will be looking for ways to
tighten our own gemstone market and to strengthen certification
regimes worldwide.
These are some of things we must do. But our responsibilities must not
obscure a fundamental reality: The African people and their leaders
must provide the basis for peace. Let me be clear: where meaningful
peace agreements are in place, the UN should work hard to support and
implement them. Where an international presence is required to achieve
a meaningful peace agreement, or to provide the last element to an
already meaningful agreement, the UN has a vital role to play. But we
must, in the end, work toward empowering Africa's people and leaders
by enabling them to solve problems themselves and prevent conflict
before it begins.
In addition to the threat of instability from armed conflict, the
United Nations needs to continue to help Africa grapple with those
problems that lie outside the traditional realm of international
politics -- the so-called transnational threats. The scourge of
diseases like HIV/AIDS stands out. The statistics of this disease's
toll are truly staggering. Today, two-thirds of global HIV/AIDS cases
and 80 percent of global AIDS deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. AIDS
kills over 5000 Africans a day. And, as President Clinton pointed out
last week over the next 10 years AIDS is expected to kill more
Africans than all the wars of the 20th century combined.
In Africa, AIDS is clearly not just a health problem. Because it
strikes the urban middle class, professionals arid entrepreneurs
disproportionately -- putting the most generation of Africa's hope at
risk -- AIDS threatens to undo recent progress in integrating Africa
into the global economy. AIDS is decimating Africa's labor force,
overloading many nations' health infrastructures, robbing families of
bread winners, and leaving children behind as orphans.
President Clinton is currently seeking from Congress an additional
$100 million to fight global AIDS. This money would go towards
prevention, counseling and care in Africa. President Clinton has also
called for greater efforts to search for vaccines for AIDS and other
diseases -- efforts that would focus as well on viral strains that
specifically affect developing countries. But winning the battle
against AIDS and other infectious diseases will not be won through the
work of the United States alone -- success requires the concerted
effort of the entire international community.
Terrorism also continues to be a serious transnational threat, one
that we also must all face together. The bombings of our embassies in
Kenya and Tanzania were cowardly acts. Our African and American
brothers and sisters who lost their lives in these attacks will never
be forgotten.
The United States has been providing anti-terrorism training to law
enforcement officials in eight African states. At the same time, our
Safe Skies for Africa Program is working to make the region's airports
and skies more secure. We continue to share information with African
authorities about terrorist groups and to fight the networks of
support that terrorists maintain in the continent.
Our third challenge is one the United States believes in strongly:
Africa must continue to develop open societies and open markets.
Working both bilaterally and with our United Nations partners, we are
prepared to help. Put simply, to thrive in the 21st century, African
societies need good governance and pluralism. Bad governance
interferes with sustainable, equitable economic development and
provokes political instability.
There can be no doubt that throughout this decade, African democracy
has made major, indeed historic strides. Today, more Africans live
under democratically elected governments than ever before. Many
Africans are finally tasting freedom. This is illustrated in such
places as Mozambique, a country that left behind a quarter century of
civil war for a future of democracy; or Namibia, a country that has
gone from occupation by a neighboring minority government to a seat on
the UN Security Council and the General Assembly Presidency. There was
special symbolism in that nine years after UN peacekeepers helped his
country to independence, Ambassador Ndjaba of Namibia ably led the
Security Council's recent delegation to East Timor. These are but two
examples that should give hope both to Africa's established
democracies and to its young ones.
It is for these reasons that the United States will continue to be a
strong supporter of democratic forces across the continent. Through
various assistance programs, the United States is working to
strengthen the capacity of governments, NGOs and common citizens alike
to implement democratic reforms and enable civil societies to
flourish. We are working with our African partners -- democratic
leaders like President Obasanjo of Nigeria -- to strengthen democratic
institutions and to fight impunity and corruption. We hope that,
through partnership with the United Nations, we will be able do even
more to help these countries become safer, stronger, and freer.
Fourth and finally, we must continue to work together to address the
economic and humanitarian problems that still exist in too many
African countries. Fighting such problems is intrinsically linked to
building peace and stability on the continent. African societies need
strong human capital, accumulated through investments in education and
health. Abundant natural resources alone do not assure prosperity.
Clearly, there's an enormous amount of work ahead of us. According to
the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), 42 African countries
are in the lowest third of the countries ranked: the 22 lowest ranked
countries are all in sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, urban
unemployment persists at rates of 20 to 30%. Large numbers of
undetonated landmines continue to cause deaths and casualties in
sub-Saharan African countries. And Africa is also home to as many as
three million refugees and almost eight million displaced persons. As
some of you know, I have worked in the area of refugee assistance for
over thirty years -- I have seen refugee camps and I know what needs
to be done.
The United States has taken an active role in helping Africans tackle
these issues. President Clinton has committed to work with Congress to
restore U.S. official development assistance to Africa to its historic
high levels. The African Growth and Opportunity Bill, now before the
U.S. Senate, would open U.S. markets more broadly to African products
and give incentives to countries to reform and modernize their
economies. The U.S. has also worked to provide humanitarian relief and
demining programs both under the auspices of the UN and through
bilateral efforts with African countries.
These efforts go hand in hand with our work to ease Africa's
transitions into the global economy. Economic liberalization -- not
crony capitalism -- is needed to build a thriving private sector and
diversify and broaden the economic base. Statism and corruption --
legacies of the colonial and immediate post-colonial periods -- are
hard habits to break, but Africans are working to break them. It is
incumbent upon all of us to help.
Mr. President: The United States, the international community, and
specifically the United Nations, all have an indispensable role to
play in helping African nations progress toward peace, prosperity and
greater human freedom. Important strides have been made, but much
remains to be done. Throughout my tenure as the United States
Representative to the United Nations, I will work tirelessly with all
interested parties to further the agenda I have just outlined.
(end text)

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