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8 December 1999


Press Release
GA/9681



SECRETARY-GENERAL SUGGESTS FORMATION OF GROUP FOR PROMOTION OF PEACE, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT ACROSS CONTINENT OF AFRICA

19991208

General Assembly, Reviewing Causes of Conflict and Economic Consequences, Is Told Debt Relief, Better Trading Terms, Help Against AIDS are Key Factors

Priority attention given to Africa must be reflected in the budgetary and financial priorities of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General told the Assembly this afternoon, suggesting that it establish its own working group to take stock of the progress so far in implementing his proposals -- contained in his report on the causes of conflict in Africa -- and to consolidate and ensure coherence.

As the Assembly considered the causes of conflict in Africa and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development, the Secretary-General also proposed that such a working group seek new ways to create partnerships to reduce the rates of HIV/AIDS on the continent. He also urged the group to support the initiative launched last week between African Governments, non-governmental organization (NGO) partners and the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) donors, to establish measures to deal with the epidemic.

The Secretary-General further proposed that the group focus on new ways to enhance assistance to post-conflict societies, including debt cancellation. He added that while almost every agency and operational arm of the United Nations had a special programme devoted to Africa, and even though the Organization had spent a large part of its resources on it, the United Nations still needed to be engaged more effectively on that continent.

The representative of Algeria, on behalf of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), said the Assembly's working group on Africa should focus on keeping the continent at the head of the priorities of the United Nations, with sufficient resources to produce the desired effect without affecting other regions of the world. He said it was also necessary to help Africa to raise itself to a level which allowed it to insert itself into the global economy as a full partner, and contribute to the collective prosperity of the world. To make the conflicts in Africa a fixation, even an obsession, would not do justice to the continent, which was trying precisely to turn the page on that dramatic chapter, and to devote itself to the durable consolidation of peace and development.

While welcoming the deployment of peacekeeping missions in Sierra Leone and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the representative of Cameroon


General Assembly Plenary - 1a - Press Release GA/9681 74th Meeting (PM) 8 December 1999

representative -- speaking on behalf of the Group of African States -- said, such international commitment would not bear fruit unless African countries demonstrated the will to end such conflicts. He said the elimination of poverty was an essential prerequisite for development he stressed. The more Africa worked, however, the fewer benefits it drew from its activities; there were important problems, such as financing, coordination and the struggle against epidemics. The fight against AIDS must be intensified because it was a threat to the existence of many African countries. The United Nations must, more than ever, take the leadership in the crusade against the pandemic.

The representative of Finland, for the European Union, said that in curbing the supply of arms to Africa, full attention must be given to examining measures to suppress the illegal trade in diamonds, gold, and other precious materials which were used to pay for them. There should be more decisive and efficient efforts to impose and ensure implementation of existing arms embargoes.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Senegal, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Egypt, Cte d'Ivoire, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Botswana.

The Assembly will meet again tomorrow at 10 a.m. to consider: credentials of representatives to the fifty-fourth session of the Assembly; declaration of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the OAU on the military attack against Libya by the United States Administration in April 1986; armed Israeli aggression against the Iraqi nuclear installations; consequences of the Iraqi occupation against Kuwait; implementation of resolutions of the United Nations; launching of global negotiations on international economic cooperation form development; global implications of the year 2000 date conversion problem of computers, and cooperation between the United Nations and the Economic Cooperation organization. It will also continue its consideration of the causes of conflict in Africa and the promotion of peace and sustainable development.


Assembly Work Programme

The General Assembly met this afternoon to consider its agenda item on the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa. (For further information see Press Release GA/9679 of today's date.)

Statement by Secretary-General

Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN said that since his report of April 1998, he was pleased to vote intensification of the international community's engagement with Africa in many areas. However, statistics clearly indicated there was much more to be accomplished. The majority of least developed countries could be found in Africa, as could the number of refugees and of children orphaned by AIDS. Also, the persistence of war had drawn in a large number of States and threatened to engulf the entire region.

Almost every agency and operational arm of the United Nations had a special programme devoted to Africa, he continued, and the Organization had spent a large part of its resources on Africa. But the United Nations needed to be engaged more effectively.

He noted that the report had identified three general areas for particular attention. First, Africa had to demonstrate the will to rely upon political rather than military solutions to problems. There had been progress in recent years especially in the determination expressed at the last Organization of African Unity Summit that governments which came to power through unconstitutional means could not be received as equals in an assembly of elected Heads of State. He hoped the General Assembly would eventually follow that lead. Also, the international community had demonstrated stronger commitment to finding political solutions to political problems through new initiatives in conflict prevention and in the use of "smart sanctions" to target leaders of regimes and rebel groups acting in violation of international humanitarian law. He paid tribute to the Angola Sanctions Committee and the group of experts who had been working to strengthen the sanctions regime against United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITA).

Secondly, he said, he urged that Africa summon the political will to take good governance seriously by ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law, and promoting transparency and capability in public administration. There had also been progress in that area. Political reforms had resulted in democratically elected governments being the norm rather than the exception. Constitutional rule and respect for human rights were now considered fundamental, and governments were addressing critical social issues with non-governmental and community based organizations.

Finally, he had called on African governments to enact and adhere to various reforms to promote economic growth. While African countries had continued to experience positive growth, transformation in the region was still affected by endemic poverty, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, debt burden and persistence of internal conflicts.

The debt burden of African countries had to be substantially lifted so they could use their scarce resources more productively, he stated. He said he welcomed the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Debt Initiative framework. Moreover, he urged the international financial institutions to take additional measures to help countries emerging from conflict.

Meanwhile, the effect of HIV/AIDS had led to a dramatic deterioration in the region, on every aspect of Africa's prospects. Infected women outnumbered men. Of 25 countries most affected by the disease, 24 were in Africa. The situation also impacted on skilled human resources and had the potential to imperil any progress in social indicators.

He said that tangible progress had been achieved in the areas of children and armed conflict, and cooperation between the United Nations and the OAU had been strengthened in dealing with the situations in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Burundi. However, the Organization could do better in its peacemaking and peacekeeping endeavours. Cooperation with Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the Sierra Leone peace process and the implementation of the Lom Peace Agreement with Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) offered lessons for the future. Of particular note was the ECOWAS moratorium on small arms.

The Secretary-General said the priority attention given to Africa must be reflected in the budgetary and financial priorities of the General Assembly. He suggested that the Assembly should establish its own Working Group to take stock of the progress so far in implementing the Report's proposals and to consolidate and ensure coherence. Also, the Working Group should seek new ways of creating effective partnerships to reduce the rates of HIV/AIDS in Africa. He urged support for the initiative launched during last week when African Government met with NGO partners and donors from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) donors to establish measures to deal with the epidemic. He further proposed that the Group focus on new ways to enhance assistance to post-conflict societies, including through debt cancellation. The essential link between peace and prosperity made it impossible to achieve lasting peace if conflicts went unchallenged and prevention was not made a priority. (For text of statement see Press Release SG/S/7253-AFR/195 of today's date.)

ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria), speaking for the Organization of African Unity (OAU), said it was necessary to focus on the promotion of peace and sustainable development in Africa. That should be the priority of the Working Group that the General Assembly had decided to set up. He underlined the complexity of the mission of the Working Group, which had caused the delay in its formation. The Group would deal with many African problems. He stressed the role to be played by United Nations organs, in particular the General Assembly, and referred to the global approach of relations between Africa and the rest of the world.

He said the political will was needed to help Africa be harmoniously integrated into the world economy. The main pre-requisites were respect for African priorities, the consideration of African particularities, the need to increase resources to Africa (such as direct investments), the need for the international community to work for greater coordination of actions in the United Nations system, and support for regional and sub-regional organizations.

He said that the Assembly's Working Group of on Africa should focus on keeping the continent at the head of the priorities of the United Nations, with sufficient resources to produce the desired effect without affecting other regions of the world. There was a need for the international community to work harmoniously, coherently and in a coordinated manner to take advantage of the many initiatives favoring Africa. The Working Group could provide excellent exchanges of information, ideas and experiences to contribute to the best understanding by each partner of what could be done for the continent.

It was necessary to help Africa to raise itself to a level permitting the continent to insert itself into the global economy as a full partner, able to contribute to the collective prosperity of the world, he said. Africa needed to be seen as a continent not limited solely to the dimension of conflict. The preoccupation which bred that situation of conflict was obvious. But to make it a fixation, even an obsession, would not do justice to Africa, which was trying precisely to turn the page on that dramatic chapter and to devote itself to the durable consolidation of peace and development.

IBRA DEGUNE KA (Senegal) said resolution A/53/92, adopted in December 1998, had noted the proliferation of conflicts in Africa and the increasing number of victims they caused. The Assembly had asked its President, through that resolution to create a special working group to follow up the draft's implementation, as well as the recommendations of the Secretary-General contained in the April 1998 report. That group had not been established and, as a result, the Assembly could not ensure follow-up mechanisms. While the situation on the continent was difficult and complex, it was not desperate, he stressed. Conventional inter-State conflicts were joined by intra-State ones, manifested in border conflicts. That meant the management of refugees at borders, among other issues, needed to be treated seriously and more consistently.

The follow-up report to the Economic and Social Council that the Secretary- General had put before the Assembly today deserved full attention, he said. He was pleased at the emphasis it placed on social development, ease of trade and support for the process of integration and cooperation, among other initiatives to be undertaken both at the bilateral and multilateral levels. Meanwhile, he went on, African governments had made progress in good governance and transparency. Many countries had undertaken courageous reforms to liberalize their economies. A forum on competitiveness of African economies had been convened and initiatives had been undertaken to also create an atmosphere of investment. The United Nations had been assisting the region in dealing with the AIDS epidemic, and he noted the role of the World Health Organization in dealing with malaria.

Although bilateral and multilateral initiatives had increased, setbacks remained. He said the failure of the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle bore witness to the international community's failure to take account of the African countries. In addition, the initiative of the G-7 countries should be considerably broadened with more flexible criteria. Africans were taking charge of their own political destiny and were prepared to recognize the mistakes of the past, he continued. African Heads of State did not need compassion, they needed concrete solidarity. Those countries needed support structures and coordination of humanitarian assistance, as well as rapid response action from the Security Council.

MARTIN BELINGA-EBOUTOU (Cameroon), speaking on behalf of the Group of African States, said it was high time to transform words into action. Africa was still not in good health because of conflicts and poverty, among other things. In that regard, the report of the Secretary-General cleared the way for an efficient policy: social development; elimination of the discrimination against women; development and commerce, financial resources and regional cooperation. However, the priorities of Africa were peace and development.

Regarding peace, he welcomed the deployment of peacekeeping missions in Sierra Leone and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Those actions of international commitment would not bear fruit without a real will on the part of African countries to put an end to those conflicts. He called for generous contributions to the Trust Fund of the United Nations and of the Organization of African Unity. The role of sub-regional organizations in the fight for peace and security was crucial, he said. It was necessary to ensure that the will of Africa to mobilize for peace and security could work.

Turning to development, he said the elimination of poverty was an essential prerequisite to achieve development. However, the more Africa worked the fewer benefits it drew from its activities. In that regard, there were important problems, such as financing, coordination and the struggle against epidemics. In that context, he called on the United Nations to seek innovative means to mobilize resources. Moreover, common work among the United Nations institutions must be strengthened. In addition to that, the fight against AIDS must be intensified because it constituted a threat to the existence of a large number of African countries. The United Nations must, more than ever, take the leadership of the crusade against AIDS.

MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) said Africa had experienced afflictions that rendered it the most vulnerable of continents. The problems had been fed by colonization, which had given ground to inter-ethnic wars causing bitter antagonism among brothers. The region now needed peace commensurate with the trials it had endured through the ages. Consequently, action undertaken by the United Nations and described in the Secretary-General's report deserved the sincere support of the global community.

He said that Africa would be able to wage its battles against underdevelopment and poverty if those were based on the continent's unshakable stability. Its economic development concerned everyone and the international community was currently at a crossroads for effective measures. Sustainable development could be promoted in Africa, only if those countries took charge of their own destinies. International assistance was necessary, as were debt relief programmes and markets for African goods. But those were not enough to attain development objectives if they were not backed by a strong will of Africa to be aware of its own realities and assets, and to implement actions it wanted. Africa had immense potential with its wealth of raw materials, it constituted a large labour force, and its 50 States provided a formidable market.

He pointed out that the Lagos Plan of Action, developed by the OAU and the United Nations, as well as the Abuja Treaty, had been slow to take shape. Three months ago, African States had resolved to promote their economic development based on their perception of what the continent needed for proper development. That solemn commitment should see the beginning of integrated, united and sustainable development.

DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa) said there was a need to understand the root causes of conflict in Africa because that would help in finding lasting solutions. Poverty was dividing African societies into "haves" and "have nots". This lateral inequality among societies constituted the root causes of intra-state conflicts that were so common on the continent. It was ironic that when the United Nations was founded more than 50 years ago, there was hope that it would alleviate the problem of inter-state conflicts but was instead addressing conflicts within states.

He said southern Africa had embarked on sub-regional economic development projects aimed at alleviating the effects of poverty, he added. The intention was to create sustainable development with projects like the Maputo Development Corridors, the Trans-Kalahari Road, the joint expansion of an electricity grid by Namibia and South Africa and the Cabora Bassa Dam in Mozambique. Matters of trade also played an important role in the attainment of objectives of peace and sustainable development for Africa, he continued. Any attempts to coordinate international activities aimed at addressing Africa's economic recovery would fall short, if peace and security were not guaranteed.

He said that despite the fact that many African countries had embarked on economic restructuring and liberalization programmes, most economies on the Continent continued to be adversely affected. In a global economic boom, Africa's market share continued to decline and this was further compounded by reduced Official Development Assistance (ODA) and direct foreign investment to the Continent. He said he was encouraged, however, that the United States and the United Kingdom had increased their ODA in their 1999 budgets while Sweden had pledged to increase its own to 0.73 per cent of gross national product (GNP) for 2001. Further Norway intended to re-establish its ODA to one per cent of GNP and Denmark was already contributing one per cent in ODA of its GNP. The Bretton Woods institutions had also started to design economic recovery plans which considered the opinions of governments.

AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said development in Africa required intensification of the efforts of the international community to create a better environment, and efforts of the African countries themselves in the area of socio-economic reforms that could lead to prosperity. He expressed disappointment with the outcome of the recent World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Seattle. It was important, he went on, for the international community to discharge its humanitarian, moral and political responsibility in full to Africa. All international organizations were aware of the challenges faced by the continents. Political will and coordination of effort were essential to meet them. Moreover, a partnership among government, private sector and civil society was also needed. Such an integrated approach would be a means to achieve development; it would be the only way to fight marginalization and political instability.

African countries had made great efforts to develop economic integration, he said. In particular, the private sector was important for the promotion of production and export of commodities. In that regard, Egypt would organize a conference, in February, for business people. Its aim was to promote trade and investments among the African countries, and between them and the rest of the world.

Turning to the settlement of African conflicts, he said support of the United Nations was important. The international community should act early before the expansion of crisis; the problem of those crises lay in the need to follow up early warning with speedy and effective measures. On the report of the Secretary- General, he said it contained ambitious recommendations for the strengthening of the stability in Africa. Those recommendations were the basis for consideration by the Assembly and action by the Security Council.

DINBOU KABA CAMARA (Cte d'Ivoire) said authoritative voices had been raised in the Security Council to put an end to its growing marginalization of Africa, adding that if the region's social, economic and cultural factors were not dealt with properly, they could lead to further conflict. During the 1980s, because of skyrocketing oil prices and the resulting brutal inflation, there had been growing social discontent which jeopardized the established order.

Promoting democracy in the region during the last decade had subjected African countries to severe tests while they faced economic problems, she continued. As a result, dissatisfaction had led to the break-up of political parties, opening the way for chronic instability. The international community was obliged to supply measures of support, and should try to bring opposing factions to negotiations. It was time to replace a culture of reaction with one of prevention, promoting respect for human rights and good governance. The international community should mobilize to provide remunerative prices for African exports, by easing trade tariffs, among other measures.

KAMALESH SHARMA (India) said his country and Africa were inextricably and intimately bound by ties of history, age-old commerce, "civilizational" links and shared experiences and aspirations. India therefore attached the highest priority to its cooperation with Africa, and hoped this would serve as a true example of South-South cooperation.

Despite the reversal in the economic decline in Africa, he went on, this was unlikely to affect the levels of poverty and without growth there would be no sustained increase in household or government spending, in private or public/capital formations, health or social welfare. It was disappointing that the main area of growth was still confined to the agricultural sector, which was subject to the vagaries of climatic conditions. Although Africa's export-to-GDP ratio was higher than that of Latin America, this had not done much for growth since many countries were primary produce exporters who had suffered sharp deterioration in terms of trade. This clearly showed the disadvantages faced by Africa in dealing with an increasingly globalized world. The problem of children orphaned by AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa was a reminder of the social impact this pandemic, compounded by the high cost of drugs.

He said he was convinced that despite the many problems Africa faced, it had the capacity, given its resources and limitless potential, to emerge as a major global force in the coming century. What was needed was the willingness of the international community to come forward in true partnership for African development. India stood ready to play a useful and constructive role in this regard.

JASMI MD YUSOFF (Malaysia) said it was imperative for the international community to make sincere and concerted efforts to close the chapter of violence which had traumatized the majority of African people for so long. Africa's wars had not only resulted in death and destruction, but also in more than eight million refugees and internally displaced persons compounding the problems for what were already the weakest and most fragile economies in the world. Malaysia was therefore heartened by peace efforts in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the important role's of the Organization of African Unity and other regional bodies in this regard.

Turning to Security Council involvement in African issues, he said that many continued to be sceptical about its commitment and resolve to intervene in such matters. This impression was reinforced by the prompt reaction to conflicts in Kosovo and East Timor, whereas the Council had not acted in the case of Rwanda which had resulted in genocide in that country. He hoped the Council would begin to live up to its Charter obligations and avoid past reluctance and indecisiveness when faced with similar situations in the future. As a current member of the Council, Malaysia would continue to do its part to ensure that the Council established a clear criterion for authorizing peacekeeping and enforcement action regardless of geographical locations.

He said Malaysia valued its traditional friendly ties with Africa and was gratified to see many positive developments on the Continent since colonialism ended, he continued. In the spirit of South-South cooperation, Malaysia had established a technical cooperation programme. To date, there had been some 4000 participants, mainly from Africa, who had undergone training in various fields. He urged the international community to do more for Africa as it faced the challenges of the new millennium.

ANNA-MAIJA KORPI (Finland) spoke on behalf of the European Union and the associated countries of Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

She said the Union was ready to assist in capacity-building for conflict prevention in Africa. In that context, on 15 November, it adopted a Common Position to support implementation of the Lusaka cease-fire agreement and the process towards peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including contribution to the Joint Military Commission through the OAU. The Union also welcomed the adoption by the OAU of its programme to strengthen the conflict management centre, which was presented to Donors in November of this year and called on all States to give support in that regard. The Union attached great importance to preventive disarmament and had adopted a Joint Action on small arms and light weapons as a complementary measure to its programme for preventing and combating illicit trafficking in conventional weapons.

She said combating the destabilizing accumulation and spread of small arms and light weapons was also an integral part of the Union's emergency, reconstruction and development programmes. In curbing the supply of arms, full attention must be given to examine measures to suppress the illegal trade in diamonds, gold, and other precious materials which were used to pay for them. The Council, regional and sub-regional organizations were encouraged to use their power in a more decisive and efficient way to impose and ensure implementation of existing arms embargoes. The international community should make the most effective use of the instruments at its disposal to address conflicts in Africa. International sanction were most effective when targeted to hit those who bore the primary responsibility for initiating and perpetuating conflicts.

When sanctions were imposed, she continued, appropriate humanitarian exemptions should be included from the outset, and their impact should be continuously monitored and analyzed so that judgements could be made. Development needed economic growth and activity. The creation of a positive environment for investment and for better competitiveness was crucial. Opportunities offered by Africa should be made known to investors. Investments also required human resources. The efforts made by the United Nations, within its System-wide Special Initiative were important, in particular in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the lowest rate of primary school enrollment and extremely low female literacy rates were registered.

MAKMUR WIDODO (Indonesia) said the past decade had been a mixed one for Africa, with some States registering virtual economic stagnation and at other times only modest progress. The continent still faced horrendous development constraints. While some efforts had shown results others, such as the endeavour to increase market access for African exports in the framework of the World Trade Organization and the Lom Convention, still needed to be pursued. Globalization had also negatively impacted on multilateral financial flows for development in Africa. Since only a small percentage of foreign direct investment flowed into the continent, many countries there were unable to tap into such investment and ran the risk of being further marginalized.

External indebtedness was also a constraint on revitalizing growth and development in African countries, he added. Despite the many initiatives undertaken, particularly that of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries, Africa's debt stock continued to increase. He hoped that the implementation of the Cologne debt initiative adopted by the Group of 8 in June this year would go some way to alleviating this problem.

However, he went on, that while such debt relief initiatives were critical, they only formed part of a much-needed overall integrated strategy to ensure a return to sustained growth and sustainable development. He supported the call from the Organization of African Unity for an international agreement to clear the entire debt stock of the poorest countries in Africa. Greater effort should be made by the international community, with the same emphasis it had placed on initiatives in other parts of the world, to redress and find solutions to Africa's problems.

LEUTLWETSE MMUALEFE (Botswana) said that while Africans had to accept responsibility for the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development, concrete assistance from the international community was necessary. However, efforts to attain peace and development would come to nothing, if they were continuously disrupted by armed conflict. Lack of tolerance within African countries was a major source of conflict; Africans needed to work harder at building societies wherein diversity was seen as a benefit rather than an impediment to the promotion of one group's narrow interests. He said the current pace of establishing a culture of transparent and accountable government also needed to be maintained.

Africa continued to face serious deterioration of terms of trade, declining official development assistance, low levels of foreign direct investment flow, crushing debt burden and a lack of sufficient access to important African goods, he continued. Liberalization of economies would be meaningful only if matched by appropriate flows of foreign direct investment. Better access to markets of developed countries for African goods through the lowering of tariffs and their removal was paramount. Crushing debt levels represented another obstacle to Africa's peace and development. He said the situation of refugees and displaced persons in Africa also challenged peace and development efforts. Botswana appealed to Member States not only to increase support to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) but also to continue to extend assistance to host-countries. The flow of illicit traffic in small arms was yet another challenge to durable peace and sustainable development in Africa. His country appealed to arms-producing countries to establish mechanisms to ensure that arms dealers sell only to legitimate buyers.

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