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Africa and MDGs High Level
UNGA Events Bulletin

Published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
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Volume 153 Number 2 - Tuesday, 23 September 2008
The High-Level Meeting on Africa’s Development Needs took place at United Nations headquarters Monday, under the theme “Africa’s development needs: state of implementation of various commitments, challenges and the way forward.” In the morning, heads of state and government gathered in the General Assembly for the opening session, followed by two parallel roundtables.

The roundtables resumed in the afternoon, followed by the closing plenary session, where the Assembly adopted a draft resolution entitled “Political Declaration on Africa’s Development Needs.” Participants attended a wide variety of partnership events throughout the day to discuss: the food crisis and rural development, the “Gleneagles Scenario” approach to scaling up development efforts; and Africa’s vulnerability to climate change.


Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, President of the UN General Assembly, opened the plenary of the 63rd session of the General Assembly. He noted that official development assistance (ODA) has increased from 1.3 % of GDP in 2005 to 1.8 % in 2007; but that levels of ODA should be further increased to meet the commitments undertaken in Monterrey. He urged G8 members to double ODA for Africa by 2010 as promised at the G8 Summit at Gleneagles, Scotland in 2005.

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, pointed out that no African country will achieve all of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, but that they remain achievable in Africa. He emphasized that the MDG Steering Group assessed that US$72 million per year is necessary to achieve the goals by 2015. He argued that today should be “the day to strengthen commitments to change the course of history and bring development to Africa and the rest of the world.”

Jakaya Kikwete, President of Tanzania and African Union (AU) Chairperson, observed that resources provided by developed countries are not sufficient to lift Africa out of the poverty trap and called for a renewed effort to meet commitments. He noted that the G8 had only provided US$2.4 billion since 2004 and if current trends continue, it would not be possible to achieve the MDGs. He underscored that Africa is not “a hopeless case,” but needs the support of the international developed community.

Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France, emphasized the European Union’s commitment to Africa’s development, and reaffirmed its commitment to provide 0.7 % of GNP as ODA by 2015. Sarkozy explained that education and health remain at the center of the aid strategy and noted the need to transform family agriculture, to increase yields and protect the environment in order to have an impact on poverty.

 Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Minister for Development Cooperation, Germany, underscored Germany’s commitment to fulfill G8 pledges made at Gleneagles to double aid by 2010. She expressed support for using revenues from the auctioning of carbon credits for development and adaptation. Attributing the current crisis in the banking system to the lack of transparency in the financial markets, she called for a reliable regulatory framework for global financial markets and the need to strengthen efforts to build efficient and fair tax systems in developing countries.

Yushrio Murio, Special Envoy to Japan, outlined the outcomes of the Fourth Tokyo International Conference for Africa (TICAD), which pledged to double ODA and private investment by 2012. He outlined the TICAD Yokohama Declaration, which undertakes to: strengthen Africa’s economic growth and enhance institutional capacity, human resource development, agriculture and trade and investment; enhance education, health, water and sanitation; support African efforts towards consolidating peace; and strengthen international community commitments to Africa. Murio emphasized Japan’s priorities for supporting the MDGs, including: health, water and sanitation; education; and food.

John Ashe, Antigua Barbuda, Chairman of the G77 and China, noted that Africa has enhanced its accountability and governance and stressed that the focus of the meeting should be on: implementation; more effective aid delivery mechanisms; and increased flexibility and predictability of assistance to facilitate long-term planning of African states.

José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, noted that the EU provides 16% of the aid that Africa receives. He argued that the three most important challenges for Africa are the price of food, climate change, and energy security, and noted that the partnership between African countries and the EU will help tackle these challenges. Barroso recalled that the European Commission has proposed a new 1 billion Euro food facility to promote agricultural production by improving poor farmers’ access to inputs, such as fertilizers and seeds.

Jean Ping, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, stressed that the time has come for implementation, including the need for a firm schedule, funding commitments and a tangible strategy. He highlighted that the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) gives Africa a strong ownership of development processes and emphasized the importance of mobilizing resources and coordinating actions by UN agencies in Africa.


Many delegates took this opportunity to outline critical issues to be addressed in the political declaration, namely: advancing progress on the Aid for Trade Initiative, including technical assistance; implementing internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs and NEPAD; enhancing the human resource base; and addressing the impact of climate change and high cost of food and energy. On the global partnership with Africa, delegates expressed their determination to meet existing commitments, renew political will and strengthen the partnership with Africa at the highest level to ensure that Africa’s development needs are mainstreamed in the global economy. Delegates further stressed the importance of South-South and triangular cooperation, cooperation with Africa development partners, and enhancing the role of the private sector in Africa's economic regeneration. On financing, delegates called for: the mobilization of new and additional resources, particularly for the agricultural sector; comprehensive debt relief; ensuring market access; and fulfilling ODA commitments made at the G8 Gleneagles Summit. Several speakers expressed concern regarding the collapse of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in July 2008, particularly in relation to non-agricultural market access. One country called for a new global partnership for Africa and Food Security, in the context of the implementation of the AU/NEPAD Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme. Many delegations highlighted country-measures taken and the challenges faced in implementing the MDGs, particularly with regard to resources.

Many of the developing country delegations acknowledged progress in debt relief. However, they stressed that: these measures are not a substitute for increasing ODA; conditionalities are often imposed; resource provision is not always fairly provided; infrastructure development should not be neglected while attending to social concerns; where private sector capacity is lacking, governments should take the lead in implementing the programmes; and that the conclusion of the Doha Round of the WTO is a critical part of this process. Several delegates stressed the importance of regional and subregional integration. Several delegates noted that while African economies were growing, this was overshadowed by increasing levels of poverty and inequality.

On peace and security, delegates underscored the importance of working together to overcome the constraints, meet the challenges, and secure lasting development. Delegates stressed that development is not possible without peace and highlighted the need to reduce threats to Africa’s development by ending endemic conflicts, respecting human rights, eliminating social inequalities, consolidating the rule of law, ensuring political reforms, and improving governance.


General Assembly President d’Escoto, presented the draft resolution entitled “Political Declaration on Africa’s Development Needs (A/63/L.1), which was then adopted by the Assembly. Expressing his view that this was a great day for Africa, President Kikwete, welcomed the strong commitment to Africa’s future, and the renewal of the international community’s partnership for Africa’s development. He highlighted the numerous side events, dealing with, inter alia: women; development; the food crisis; energy; and the challenge of governance. He noted that in the past there had been a lot of talk and said today, he was encouraged by the tremendous resolve to move the agenda forward. He said that participants can now testify that they were present when history was made, when the world awoke to its moral responsibility for Africa’s development.

 In his closing remarks, General Assembly President D'Escoto said the hard part was keeping, and not breaking, promises, and called on the Assembly not to repeat history, but rather rise to the occasion and make poverty history instead. He said the Political Declaration contains an urgent agenda for action, noting that the eradication of poverty in Africa is the greatest global challenge facing the world today. He further stressed that a strong Africa requires a stronger UN. Noting that the High-Level Event is the first in a series of three intergovernmental meetings this year, he said it would be followed by this week’s High-Level Meeting on the MDGs which will discuss poverty eradication, and the Second Review Conference on Financing for Development in November 2008, which will discuss how to secure the financial resources and political resolve to fulfill the international community’s commitments. He said it was essential for the General Assembly to ensure that these commitments are turned into actions, noting that the Political Declaration sets the basis for such a mechanism. President d’Escoto further paid tribute to Thabo Mbeki for championing NEPAD, quoting its vision that the African “agenda must give hope to the emaciated African child that the 21st century is indeed Africa’s century.”

The Assembly concluded its deliberations at 6:41pm.



Bunmi Makinwa, United Nations Population Fund Africa Regional Office, introduced the event, noting that although the continent is seeing rapid economic growth, this has not been matched by its education and health infrastructure.

Ken Lipenga, Minister of Economic Development and Planning, Malawi, discussed Malawi’s efforts to achieve the MDGs through the adoption of the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy, which focuses on health, nutrition and food security. Lipenga noted that the Strategy’s greatest achievement has been changing the long established mindset that the country could not feed itself through food-scarce months by establishing programmes such as the fertilizer subsidy programme.

Phetsile Diamini, Department of Health, South Africa, on behalf of South Africa’s Minister of Health, discussed the Implementation Plan for the Africa Health Strategy with a focus on maternal and child mortality.

Noting that HIV and AIDS are the biggest causes of women and child mortality in the country, Nomonde Xunou, Department of Health South Africa said that primary HIV prevention is the most effective tool for reducing the prevalence of the disease, and that strategies based on preventing mother-to-child transmission should only be considered when primary prevention is not effective.

Maria Mutagamba, Minister of Water and Environment, Uganda, emphasized the importance of safe water and sanitation to public health. She highlighted the role of the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) and commitments on water and sanitation agreed during the AU summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt in June 2008.

Jill Sheffield, Women Deliver, noted that half of all maternal deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa, and stressed the need for improved maternal and neonatal health care. She said lack of maternal health care costs US$15 billion annually in lost productivity, and the necessary care could be provided for only US$5 billion.

In the ensuing discussion, participants discussed: leadership and commitment; partnership across sectors; the important role of communities and NGOs; the need to monitor strategies and create achievable targets; and promotion of linkages that facilitate social development.


The session was co-chaired by Anders Johnsson, Inter-Parliamentary Union, and Julia Joiner, African Union. In his welcoming remarks, Cheikh Sidi Diarra, Under Secretary-General, Office of the Special Advisor on Africa (OSAA), called on countries to implement the recommendations from the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and to complete the review processes in a timely manner. James Jonah, former UN Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, underscored the psychological effects of Africa’s colonial history in creating dependence, a sense of abandonment and subsequently resentment.

Ken Lipenga, Minister for Economic Planning and Development, Malawi, spoke on state and non-state capacity in democratic governance. On this topic, participants considered: the implications for accountability; the increasing voice of Africans in domestic politics; and the need for policies that are responsive to the needs of Africans. Discussion focused on progress in Africa, including: a reduction in the number of conflict-based peacekeeping initiatives; the growth of the private sector; and an increase in the scope of democratic initiatives. Among the challenges, participants highlighted a lack of capacity to implement commitments and reduce corruption.

John Githongo, World Vision International, presented on “Equality, Opportunity and the Rule Of Law.” Arguing that equity should be at the center of democracy in Africa, he noted that: young people in urban areas now outnumber those in rural areas; economic growth is not accompanied by job creation; and the rise of democracy in Africa is linked to equality. During the discussion, delegates noted the relevance of the food crises to politics, the opportunities and challenges of new information and communication technologies for democracy, and building initiatives to inculcate human rights principles in the armed forces.

Marie Angelique Savané, Member of the APRM Panel, presented on the impact that the APRM has had on governance initiatives in Africa, underscoring that: political dialogue is possible in Africa; governance institutions exist, but are weak or lack capacity; the capacity of local and traditional institutions should be enhanced; and a communication strategy for the process is needed. Discussion focused on why Ghana’s APRM was successful, and on the lack of focus on corporate governance.

In their concluding remarks, the Co-Chairs stressed the need to: build states’ governance capacity; recognize the complementarity of development and governance; be patient and innovative in the implementation of the APRM; and to give Africa a chance to demonstrate that positive change is possible.


Angela Cropper, UNEP, introduced the Atlas of Our Changing Environment, outlining UNEP’s role in its publication. She explained that the atlas depicts changes in the environment using current and historical evidence, as well as satellite images of new or lesser known changes, in addition to highlighting positive aspects of natural resource management, which are contributing towards reversing environmental degradation.

 Stephen Olukordee Willougby, NEPAD, welcomed the atlas as a summary of the magnitude of the challenges facing Africa’s environment. He highlighted the atlas as an important tool for raising public awareness, eliciting support for appropriate policy changes and catalyzing further interest and investment in the environment in Africa.

 Mark Myers, Executive Director, US Geological Survey (USGS), described the atlas as a “remarkable piece of work” providing a rational bridge towards understanding the continent’s environmental challenges, by showing images that people can relate to. He also said it is a first step toward understanding environmental change and the requisite long term policy solutions.

Ashbindu Singh, UNEP, explained that the atlas had been published in an attempt to bridge two trends: responsibility and accountability for the environment, and information and communication technology. He added that emerging knowledge visualization technologies, such as geographical information systems, are being used to effectively depict specific environmental changes.

Charles Sebukeera, UNEP, gave an overview of the atlas, explaining that it addresses NEPAD’s information needs in the context of ongoing support to the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN).

 Mounkaila Goumandakoye, UNEP Regional Office for Africa, discussed the socioeconomic and policy implications of the evidence contained in the atlas, underlining the need to link scientific evidence to economic and other social factors. He observed that environmental changes and challenges are compromising Africa’s development, where 70% of Africans depend directly on natural resources for their livelihood and 26% of overall per capita wealth in low income countries is tied to environmental assets. He emphasized mainstreaming environment into national and local development frameworks.


Presented by UNDP and others

Asha-Rose Migiro, UN Deputy Secretary-General, underscored that the MDG Africa Steering Group’s recommendations and the Gleneagles Scenarios are open-source frameworks that need to be adopted, financed and implemented expeditiously.

Jeffrey Sachs, UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the MDGs, urged the G8 to fulfill their pledge of doubling aid for Africa by 2010, suggesting that although the funds needed exist and are well within existing budgets and aid commitments, political will is lacking.

Obiageli Ezekwesili, Vice-President, Africa Region, World Bank, said the Gleneagles Scenarios underpin country ownership by identifying programmes in current Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers that have not been fully financed, or could be scaled up with additional financing.

Moustapha Soumaré, Acting UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director, Regional Bureau of Africa, said the MDG Africa Steering and Working Groups have been instrumental in identifying what needs to be done to achieve the MDGs in Africa, and that UNDP is scaling up its efforts to build implementation capacity in Africa.

Dieudonné Dahoun, Ministry of Development, Benin, presented the initial findings of Benin’s Gleneagles Scenario, calling for ODA to be increased so that critical unfinanced projects and programmes can be implemented.

Rosemary Museminali, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Rwanda, noted that while the country is unlikely to achieve the targets for eradicating extreme poverty and hunger or maternal mortality, all other targets are attainable. She announced that Rwanda had recently eliminated gender disparity in government. She explained that the country is bound by strict debt-sustainability criteria that prevent it from borrowing needed funds to achieve the MDGs. These constraints must be relaxed if donors do not provide grants.

Calvin McDonald, International Monetary Fund (IMF), highlighted the IMF’s assessment of the macroeconomic implications of scaled-up aid to Benin, Niger, and Togo, and said these effects would have a positive impact on GDP growth. He called for more ODA to be delivered as grants.

Lord Mark Malloch Brown, Minister of State for Africa, Asia & UN, UK, said the meeting’s “call to arms” is vital for reminding people of their international commitments made at Gleneagles.

Takumo Yamada, Policy Director, Oxfam, highlighted the need for donors to provide long-term, predictable aid, and said there need to be clear timetables for delivery on existing commitments before the Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development to Review the Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus, in Doha, Qatar, in November 2008.

Bernard Petit, European Commission, called for an MDG contract that would include a six-year budget commitment to ensure predictable financing. Bob Geldof, Africa Progress Panel, said people must accept that the G8 may not meet their Gleneagles commitments, and that alternative donors may have to be considered, such as Brazil, China, the Middle East and Gulf States.


Presented by ECA, UNIDO, UNEP, FAO, and UNHCR

Abdoulie Janneh, UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), described Africa’s energy crisis, noting that with 14% of the world’s population, it is responsible for less than 3% of global energy demand. He said that much of the continent’s hydro and other energy potential remains untapped, primarily due to insufficient political commitment and underinvestment. He described Africa’s vulnerability to climate change and water stress, noting linkages between the two.

Kandeh Yumkellah, UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), discussed the concept of carbon justice, noting that poor countries suffer the greatest climate change consequences. He remarked on the linkages between energy, climate change, and the current financial crisis, and examined the merits of expanding the energy grid to support Africa’s expanding economy, noting that de-centralized off-grid solutions, including renewable energy, might be more quickly introduced. He noted that the Congo Basin could provide sufficient hydro power to the region if harnessed properly.

Angela Cropper, Deputy Executive Director, UNEP, noted that the provision of adequate energy must be part of any strategy to adapt to climate change, and that climate change will exacerbate existing water shortages. She highlighted strong linkages between climate change adaptation and mitigation, noting the vulnerability of lowland areas to coastal inundation. She called for increased access to alternative energy technologies in rural areas to decrease fuelwood dependence and related deforestation.

Anniker Soder, Special Advisor to the Director-General and Assistant Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), described the potential for biofuels in rural development. She noted that biofuels are not the only cause of increased food prices, adding that high energy prices, input costs, and demand have all contributed to this. She said that biomass remains the main energy source for nearly two billion people, and that sustainable forestry management holds major biofuel potential. She highlighted the need for safeguards, including for human welfare, human rights, and the protection of the environment.

Valentine Ndibalema, UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), said that the first priority for displaced peoples is to be able to cook food and construct shelter, both of which place a burden on forest resources. He stressed that energy solutions will have to be context-specific, highlighting the different biophysical and socioeconomic situations within Africa. He noted major drivers of unsustainable energy use and environmental degradation, such as population growth, over-consumption and poverty, and said that the introduction of solar cookers can result in the saving of both trees and time.


Presented by FAO and others

Roger Thurow, Wall Street Journal, opened the partnership event on “A Response to the World Food Crises: Smallholder Agriculture, Food Security and Rural Development in Africa.”

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the UN, stressed the importance of the commitment to the 2003 Maputo Declaration of the African Union to spend 10% of their budget on agriculture and the role of the High-Level Task Force On Food Security to mobilize resources and political will to address the food crisis.

Armando Guebuza, President of Mozambique, stressed the need to increase investment in agriculture and noted that the government needs more resources to implement the action plan for the production of food, which includes the construction of watering systems, access to credit and new technologies by small farmers.

Jacques Diouf, FAO, highlighted the need for action to address the problem of productivity at the smallholder level. He argued that US$1.7 billion is required to provide farmers with improved seeds and fertilizers in time for the next sowing season, but that this funding has yet to materialize.

Jeffrey Sachs, UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the MDGs, explained that Africa’s agricultural output could be more than doubled, but that this has not been achieved due to: farmers’ impoverishment; a lack of government resources with which to provide inputs and build the requisite infrastructure; and donors’ lack of interest in funding agricultural development.

F.T. Mwenifumbo, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Malawi, on behalf of Bingu wa Mutharika, President of Malawi, explained that the government has introduced a farmers’ input subsidy programme, which has targeted 1.7 million poor smallholder farmers in 2008. He noted that the programme has had a positive impact on food security and Malawi is a food exporting country for the first time in two decades.

Elisabeth Atangana, President of the Sub-regional Platform of Peasant Organizations of Central Africa, pointed out that the food crisis can be attributed to many factors, including: inappropriate policies imposed by international institutions, low budget levels allocated to the agricultural sector, and insufficient involvement of smallholders in development projects. She noted that this has resulted in an irreversible loss of food sovereignty. 


Presented by UNIDO

Kandeh Yumkellah, UNIDO, welcomed participants, provided an overview of the topic and introduced the panel of speakers. Asha-Rose Migiro, Deputy Secretary General, UN, described the need for an African growth strategy modeled after the baobab tree: strong, resilient, and capable of delivering value-added products. She cautioned that foreign direct investment is currently skewed toward extractive industries, and that Africa’s human resource potential has yet to be realized.

Namanga Ngongi, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), noted that Asian “tiger” economies were only able to succeed once basic issues such as nutrition were addressed, adding that “a hungry child cannot learn.” He noted that agriculture can be a vehicle out of poverty, adding that less than a quarter of Africa’s production capacity has been utilized.

Patricia Francis, International Trade Centre, acknowledged that food security is an important issue, but stressed that long-term strategic thinking must look beyond such immediate needs. She also emphasized that Africa needs to focus on attracting the kind of foreign direct investment that facilitates development, builds modern skill sets, and fills in gaps in the value chain.

Stefano Manservisi, Director General of Development Cooperation, European Community (EC), said that although growth in Africa is strong, domestic investment is not, adding that Africa is responsible for less than two percent of global trade. He noted that Asia’s economies became “tigers” under conditions that do not exist for Africa today, and called for a sound regulatory framework.

Charles Gore, UNCTAD, highlighted the need for: integration of MDG efforts within broader development strategy; development investment targeted at infrastructure; and country ownership of development strategies.

Cheick Sidi Diara, Under Secretary General, Office of the Special Advisor on Africa (OSAA), said that Africa requires rapid yet sustainable growth, and that Aid for Trade programmes must be locally driven. He stressed that environmental protection must be ensured, and said that lending institutions must avoid imposing conditionalities that could be potentially harmful.

The Africa and MDGs High Level UNGA Events Bulletin is a publication of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) <>, publishers of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin © <>. This issue was written and edited by Asheline Appleton, Robynne Boyd, Claudio Chiarolla, Wagaki Mwangi, and Peter Wood. The Digital Editor is Dan Birchall. The Editor is Soledad Aguilar <>. The Director of IISD Reporting Services is Langston James “Kimo” Goree VI <>. Special funding for coverage of the High-level Meeting on Africa’s Development Needs and selected side events has been provided through IISD’s African Regional Coverage project by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Funding for our coverage of the Partnership events associated with the High-level Event on the Millennium Development Goals has been provided by UNDP’s Poverty Group. IISD can be contacted at 161 Portage Avenue East, 6th Floor, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3B 0Y4, Canada; tel: +1-204-958-7700; fax: +1-204-958-7710. The opinions expressed in the Bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of IISD. Excerpts from the Bulletin may be used in other publications with appropriate academic citation. Electronic versions of the Bulletin are sent to e-mail distribution lists (in HTML and PDF formats) and can be found on the Linkages WWW-server at <>. For information on the Bulletin, including requests to provide reporting services, contact the Director of IISD Reporting Services at <>, +1-646-536-7556 or 300 East 56th St., 11A, New York, NY 10022, USA. The IISD Team at the High-Level Meeting on Africa’s Development Needs, High-Level Event on the Millennium Development Goals, and other related events can be contacted by e-mail at <>.
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