PRESS CONFERENCE ON COMMISSION FOR AFRICA REPORT
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
11 March 2005
The Commission for Africa Report, which was launched today in New York, London and Addis Ababa, calls Africa’s poverty “the greatest tragedy of our time” and says the developed world has a “moral duty” to assist the continent.
Briefing correspondents at New York Headquarters, following the launch ceremony, Baroness Valerie Amos, the United Kingdom’s Leader in the House of Lords and Personal Representative of Prime Minister Tony Blair, said the report was radical in its frank allocation of responsibility to both the developed and the developing world, and with its emphasis on the partnership between developed and developing countries. She was joined by the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations, Emyr Jones Parry, and William Kalema, Chairman of the Board of the Uganda Investment Authority.
The Commission for Africa was established by Prime Minister Tony Blair in February 2004 to take a fresh and independent look at the challenges facing Africa, and the role of the international community in helping the continent meet them. The Commission comprises 17 members, the majority of whom are African, and has a London-based secretariat.
Baroness Amos said that the report was part of the process, which also included United Nations review of the progress towards the implementation of Millennium Development Goals and financing for development commitments made in Monterrey, Mexico, as well as the undertakings made at Doha to make the current trade round a development round. Research showed that the one continent where the Millennium Development Goals would not be met was the continent of Africa. Prime Minister Blair felt that the richest countries of the world had a moral responsibility to contribute to the process of developing a partnership between the developed and developing world, to make a real difference in Africa. Mr. Blair intended to focus on Africa and climate change as his main priorities during this year’s United Kingdom’s presidencies of the Group of Eight (G-8) and the European Union.
Mr. Kalema said that today’s “ringing endorsement” of the report by Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), was very encouraging to him. He urged members of the media to read the serious document released today.
Responding to a question about the report’s view of peace and security issues, he said that the document talked about tackling the causes of conflict and urged international institutions and donors to conduct assessments for reducing the risk of violence. Among the issues addressed in the report, were conflict resources, the development of an international arms trade treaty, creation of a permanent expert panel on the links between natural resources and violent conflict, implementation of sanctions, guidelines on international enterprises, recommendations on governance, and the extractive industries transparency initiative. It was important to build countries’ capacity to prevent and resolve conflict and to utilize the capacity of international and regional organizations, including the United Nations and the African Union. Resources needed to be provided quickly in post-conflict situation to ensure stability.
Conflict was essentially a breakdown of governance, he added. Thus, the issue of peace and security needed to be looked at in the context of the efforts to create good governance.
The report made it absolutely clear that an integrated approach was required, Baroness Amos said. “In terms of the recommendations in this report, we don’t want certain recommendations to be picked out because they are easy to implement”, and others are ignored because they are more difficult. For that reason, in tackling the issues of conflict prevention and management, as well as post-conflict resolution, it was necessary to address the issues of security and development, good governance, economic growth and building the right kind of investment climate. There were recommendations focused on what countries themselves could do, the support that could be given to countries in conflict from countries of the region and the responsibility of the developed world in terms of proliferation of arms and light weapons, for example.
A correspondent noted that the report called for an additional $25 billion per year in aid, and asked if it was realistic to expect the wealthy nations to come up with those resources. Responding to that question, Mr. Kalema said that foreign aid was not a vote-winner in most democracies. Even in the United States, one could always point to a needy American who needed assistance as opposed to a foreign person. However, African prosperity was not about charity, but enlightened self-interest. The fact that China was now prosperous, for example, was good not only for China, bur for other members of the international community, as well. Also, looking from a global perspective, the figures in question were quite small. Thus, it was a question whether countries considered aid to Africa a priority. “And if it is not a priority, even one dollar is too much money”, he said.
Baroness Amos continued that it was not about optimism, but about real solutions, as well. It was absolutely clear that if aid budgets did not go up, rather than down, the international community would not meet the Millennium Development Goals. The report also talked about economic growth and, provided that goal was achieved, a third of that money could come from African countries themselves. It was also important to consider various financing initiatives.
As for the United Kingdom, she said that her Government was promoting an International Finance Facility. European Group of Eight (G-8) members and Sweden had pledged their support for that initiative. Now, it was important to convince others.
To that, Mr. Kalema added that private investment was going to be needed to develop Africa’s potential, but that would require a level of public investment in order to be efficient. Public investment was also needed to make Africa’s enterprises competitive and make Africa attractive to investors.
Regarding official development assistance (ODA) commitments, Baroness Amos said that they had been around for a long time now. Scandinavian countries had already met the goal of 0.7 per cent and were moving towards the objective of 1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) to be spent on development assistance. The United Kingdom was “creeping” very slowly. It had managed to double its aid over the past seven years, but the target of 0.7 per cent would be reached only in 2013. At least, the country had put in place a mechanism to achieve that goal. Other countries were doing the same. A range of financing mechanisms was needed to enable developed countries to deliver the additional $25 billion required by 2010 and an additional $50 billion a year after that.
The American Millennium Challenge Account singled out a relatively small number of well-governed countries, which, it was hoped, would be able to use aid wisely, a correspondent said. Did the report seek to make such distinctions?
Not in that way, Baroness Amos replied. The report placed emphasis on creating partnerships between the developed and developing world, on ensuring that there was a commitment in developing countries to work on such partnerships though transparency, greater accountability and putting additional resources from debt relief, for example, into health and education. In general, that document was not as narrow as the conditionalities within the Millennium Challenge Account.
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