Distinguished Chairman of the African Group,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to have this opportunity to update you on the priorities of the United Nations on Africa and the strategy of OSAA for delivering its mandate.

This is a time of significant challenges for Africa, especially in view of the global financial and economic crisis which is already negatively affecting socio-economic development in Africa. While the current decade began with a strong sense of optimism and high expectations regarding sustained economic growth and poverty reduction in Africa, supported by average growth rates of 6%, the IMF recently predicted that growth in sub-Saharan Africa will slow to 3.25% in 2009. This would be insufficient for many African countries to meet their development goals and attain the MDGs.

Since international trade and access to finance is a key source of growth, a slowdown in economic activity in advanced countries will have an impact on African exports and will lead to reduction in the ability of countries to import the capital and intermediate inputs needed by domestic industries. Foreign direct investment is likely to fall as result of a global recession. Such reduction in capital flows will put pressure on the exchange rate and also reduce investment in infrastructure and the industrial sector, leading to higher unemployment.

Moreover, a deep recession in advanced economies could result in massive unemployment and to the extent that migrants are affected, there will be a reduction in their ability to transfer money to their home countries. A reduction in remittances would mean that recipients would face financial strain as they have no alternative safety nets.

The global financial and economic crises will have an impact on sensitive socio-economic indicators such as poverty, literacy rate, etc. If OECD countries respond to economic meltdown by reducing Official Development Assistance (ODA) flows, this will deepen the potential impact of the crisis on Africa as a number of countries depend on ODA to finance their budgets. Such a reduction will reduce the fiscal space available to African countries to mitigate the social impact of the crisis.

Global crisis

The global crisis demands a global response, including a strong response by the United Nations. The UN system is supporting the development of appropriate solutions to the crisis by expanding its analytical work, as well as developing and improving monitoring systems that track the impact of the crisis, the effectiveness of policies to address it and the degree of alignment of these responses with achievement of the MDGs and other development goals.

In response to the current global economic and financial crisis, the President of the United Nations General Assembly established a Commission of Experts whose mandate is to reflect on the causes of the crisis, assess impacts on all countries and suggest adequate responses as to avoid its recurrence and restore global economic stability.

Furthermore, the President of the UN General Assembly will organize a conference, at the highest level, on the world financial and economic crisis and its impact on development on 1-3 June 2009 at the UN Headquarters. The conference is expected to discuss the origins and causes of the present crisis, the mechanisms of its transmission to the developing countries, the potential impact of the crisis on development, the response of the United Nations to the crisis through its development activities, and national and international policy responses to date, as well as agreeing to steps to be taken by the international community to mitigate the impact of the crisis.

As a side event to the conference, OSAA, in collaboration with OHRLLS and UNU, will organize a panel discussion on the “Impact of the Global Financial and Economic Crisis on Africa and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs)”. The panel discussion will examine the impact of the global financial and economic crisis on Africa’s development and aim to focus the attention of the international community on the policy responses and measures needed to accelerate Africa and LDCs recovery from the crisis. This is underpinned by a belief that recovery can be achieved sooner rather than later, if the appropriate and coordinated responses are implemented in timely fashion. The panel is expected to discuss possible policy responses at the national, regional and international levels.

Developed countries have to help African countries respond to the crisis by increasing aid and honouring their commitments to double aid to Africa by 2010. Developed countries should also improve the quality of aid consistent with the principles agreed in the Paris Declaration and the Accra Action Agenda. More assistance will enable countries to offset the impact of any reversal in private capital flows and reduce the likelihood of a sharp decline in spending on social sectors that would have dire consequences for poverty reduction. OSAA will continue its advocacy efforts to bring the needs of the African countries to the attention of Africa’s development partners, as well as monitoring the implementation of commitments made to Africa.

Peacekeeping and peace and security

The United Nations continues its efforts to prevent and resolve conflict and achieve durable peace and sustainable development in Africa. There are several recent examples of United Nations involvement in facilitating peace processes by empowering and supporting national stakeholders to bring about comprehensive and long-lasting peace agreements. New UN Integrated Offices, such in Burundi and Sierra Leone are being used to ensure that the nexus between peace and development is reinforced and that post-conflict countries are on a sustainable path to long term peace and development. The challenges ahead are however enormous, and a coherent, strong and efficient United Nations is key to supporting the work of African stakeholders to achieve a peaceful and strong continent in which millions of citizens have their rights protected and can enjoy their economic, social, political and economic development.

The cooperation with the African Union and other regional organizations in strengthening their capacity to conduct peace operations remains at the core of the United Nations agenda. It is vital to ensure the capacity of regional organizations to rapidly respond and avert violent conflict in their regions, to intensify their efforts in early warning and in mediation, and that strong, viable and professional peace operations are deployed to support the efforts of the international community. The further development and strengthening of the African Union capacities in carrying out its mandate in cooperation with the United Nations remains a priority in the Secretary-General’s agenda. The implementation of the United Nations’ Ten-Year Capacity-building Programme for the African Union is underway. The support of all UN membership is today even more necessary to ensure that the significant advances already achieved are not lost due to the prevalent financial and economic crisis.

Causes of conflict report

As you will recall, the Secretary-General has committed to the General Assembly and the Security Council to commence a comprehensive review process of the recommendations contained in his 1998 report on the Causes of Conflict and the Promotion of Durable Peace and Sustainable Development in Africa. A decade after the report was issued, it is time to take stock of the many advances that Africa has made in promoting peace and development in the continent. The AU has been successfully established the Panel of the Wise, NEPAD, the Early Warning System, and the African Stand-by Force are just examples of the many initiatives that African leaders have put in place. The UN has also responded to the changing times and challenges. From the Human Rights Council to the Peacebuilding Commission, the institutional framework and policy approach of the organization vis-à-vis Africa has attempted to keep pace with the developments and adjust to the new needs and realities. The recently adopted Political Declaration on Africa’s Development Needs outlines, once more, the need for a more integrated and comprehensive effort. It is now time to undertake a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of the challenges that both Africa and the UN will encounter in the near future as well as the institutional and operational requirements to best address them. This will be a concerted effort, involving alls stakeholders in a consultative, transparent and interactive debate to reflect all views and options. For the comprehensive review process to commence it is however necessary to adopt the relevant General Assembly resolution. I am aware of the many balances to be maintained and the delicate concepts which are currently part of the resolution. I urge you however to support and facilitate the negotiation process so that the comprehensive review can commence.

NEPAD

African leaders appointed former Prime Minister of Niger, Ibrahim Hassane Mayaki, as the new Chief Executive Officer of the NEPAD Secretariat and he has already taken over the leadership of the NEPAD Secretariat. In order to facilitate information exchange and keep the African Group of member states up-to-date on progress in the implementation of NEPAD, OSAA is planning to organize biannual briefings by the NEPAD CEO to the UN member states at the UN headquarters in New York. We hope to hold the first briefing in early June, in conjunction with the panel discussion on the “Impact of the Global Financial and Economic Crisis on Africa and the Least Developed Countries”. Mr. Mayaki will also provide you with good insight on the process of integration of NEPAD into the AU Commission. Furthermore, OSAA continues to work with the AU Commission, the NEPAD Secretariat and ECA.

 

Advocacy

OSAA is mandated to advocate on behalf of NEPAD and other African initiatives at the global level. We continue to do so through activities that involve a wide array of actors and institutions working for Africa’s development. Expert Group Meetings covering a series of topics that require urgent action, seminars and workshops that facilitate the interaction of participants to reach common understanding on pressing issues, and the active participation in the work of other departments (e.g. mediation unit in DPA, DDR, SSR, Democracy Fund, SG Task Force on Food Crisis) and the Regional Consultations Mechanism, guarantee that OSAA’s message reach a considerable number of audiences. Advocating on behalf of NEPAD also involves member states, regional and subregional organizations, donor countries, civil society, business partners and the UN system all of whom have an interest in reaching NEPAD’s objectives and the MDGs. Close work with the Economic Commission for Africa is critical to ensure coherent, sustained and effective advocacy work at the global, regional and local level. I am fully engaged with ECA’s Executive Secretary to ensure that coordination and exchanges are the normal working practice between both offices.

Proposals to the African Group

Excellencies, I have also been invited to speak briefly about how existing UN structures can be made more effective in support of the African agenda and how the African Group can enhance its own role.

I think that one must first acknowledge the active role the African Group is already playing in all aspects of the work of the United Nations. This is all the more remarkable given the severe constraints of manpower, and other resources faced by many African missions to the UN, here in New York. We applaud your commitment and dedication.

OSAA’s mandate focuses on the nexus between peace and development. Aware of the critical importance of this connection, several UN agencies and programmes have already taken steps to ensure that appropriate attention is paid to this issue. UNDP’s Early Recovery Advisors and DPA’s Peace and Development Advisors are two examples that illustrate this trend. OSAA could take the lead in ensuring that a roster of expertise in those areas exists at the African level.

OSAA is the African Group’s office. Both OSAA and the African Group would greatly benefit from engaging in a more regular and systematic manner to discuss priorities, programmes, policy approaches and engagement with the UN system. I propose the establishment of a working and technical level task force between the African Group and OSAA to meet on a regular basis to ensure appropriate coordination, flow of information and interaction.

OSAA’s mandate in peace and security is broad yet it may require more specific operational or advisory capacity especially within the peace and security area.

In specific reference to the work of various UN structures, perhaps one could underline the importance of the budgetary and finance committee in particular. As the intergovernmental committee changed with responsibility for deliberating upon administrative, managerial and financial issues, the Fifth Committee’s work requires special attention, and I would respectfully encourage Excellencies to pay particular attention to its work. In that regard, I would urge that the African group also follow closely the composition and work of the ACABQ to ensure that Africa is effectively represented in that organ where much of the technical evaluation of programmes and activities is undertaken.

Allow me to briefly highlight the work of the Committee for Programme and Co-ordination (CPC). It is the body where specific programmes and activities are carefully evaluated by Member States and appropriate recommendations made. I would strongly recommend that the African Group to the extent possible, encourage effective African participation in its work, given the importance of the CPC’s agenda-setting mandate.

Arranging for more regular structured dialogue with the President of the General Assembly

In view of the importance of the role of the President of the General Assembly in setting the agenda of priorities and work of the General Assembly, and in view of the priority of Africa in the work of the United Nations, the African Group should seriously consider seeking a more regular formal, structured dialogue with the President of the General Assembly and his Cabinet, thereby ensuring that Africa’s concerns and interests are always appropriately taken into account.

The monthly President of the African Group could hold meetings with the Cabinet of the President of the General Assembly, and as and when appropriate, the Group could meet with the President himself.

Arranging for more regular structured dialogue with the President of ECOSOC

Economic, social and humanitarian issues are central to the African agenda within the United Nations. In view of this, the African Group has a particular interest in how international debate on economic, social and humanitarian issues is conducted. In that regard, the work of the functional Commissions of ECOSOC is of special relevance to NEPAD and Africa’s development in general.

The African Group should, therefore, consider the possibility of establishing a regular dialogue with the President of ECOSOC and his cabinet, so as to ensure that Africa’s agenda, interests and concerns are adequately reflected in the work of ECOSOC and its functional Commissions.

Establishing a more structured, regular consultation process with the Secretary-General’s Cabinet

Africa is front and center in the work of the United Nations at present. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made the continent’s issues among his topmost priorities.

The Security Council devotes more than half its time to discussions of African situations. Africa similarly features very prominently in the work of the main organs such as ECOSOC and its 9 functional Commissions. A great deal of the United Nations’ humanitarian emergency relief work, and its development work, is in Africa.

It is, therefore, particularly important that African Ambassadors as a group, establish a regular process of consultation with the Secretary-General and his team. This could take the form of very informal regular consultations between the monthly President of the African Group and those responsible for Africa in the Cabinet of the Secretary-General. Both sides could well find this useful.

Increasing the African Group’s participation in the preparation and passing of mandates

The African Group which already takes active part in the process by which Member States establish mandates, could consider appropriate ways of strengthening its participation as well as specific areas where Africa could take the lead in proposing new mandates.

African Group’s role in the review of existing mandates of the General Assembly and ECOSOC

The African Group could take the lead in providing inputs to the reports of the Secretary-General as appropriate. Similarly, the Group could contribute even more to the translation of various recommendations into resolutions of the General Assembly.

African Group’s role in the restructuring of the United Nations’ system

Given the prominence of Africa in the entire spectrum of work of the United Nations, it is particularly important for the African Group to take full and active part in the on-going exercise system-wide coherence, so as to ensure that UN support for Africa’s development is made even more effective.

Excellencies, I am at your disposal to answer any questions you may wish to ask. Once again I thank you for your steadfast support for the mission and mandate of OSAA.