*ECOWAS BUSINESS NEWS Alerts* :
*From the UN General Assembly Debates*:
Insights from *African delegates* at the UN 72nd General Assembly discussions underway in New York
*_Statements from Rwanda; Cote d’Ivoire; Congo; South Africa; Namibia; Malawi; Madagascar_*
21 September, 2017
PAUL KAGAME, President of Rwanda, described the relevance of the United Nations in setting the global agenda on key policy issues, from development to women’s rights and the role it played in humanitarian assistance. However, there was a sense that the United Nations had not yet met many needs and expectations. He commended the Secretary General for championing the important initiatives of United Nations reform, and the response to sexual exploitation and abuse.
Those steps were at the heart of the issues facing the international system, tackling the deficit of trust and accountability. To enable a decent life for all, the Organization must treat all people with impartiality and respect, and steward well the funds entrusted to it. The tools and mandates to address such challenges as climate change, peacebuilding, human equality and development were available, he explained, but what lacked were concrete actions to “get things done”. Institutional reform was not a one-off event; its essence was a mindset of constant striving to improve performance and delivery, as well as accountability for shortcomings and results.
Encouraged by the reform spirit that was taking root in the United Nations and the African Union alike, he said Rwanda was pleased to be associated with both, as such efforts would position those entities to work closely together. He drew attention to steps that could be taken on both sides to improve the quality of coordination and consultation. The African Union and the United Nations were already good partners in peacekeeping, and Rwanda was proud to have forces serving under both flags, he said. Rwanda shared the common objective of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa’s Agenda 2063, and was working to enhance women’s empowerment.
He said that together with Canada and other stakeholders, Rwanda was raising awareness of the impact women could have on the ratification and implementation of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. That instrument was among the most important actions a country could take to tackle climate change and reaffirm commitment to the Paris Agreement. Fewer than 15 ratifications were needed for the Amendment to come into force in 2019. Indeed, the world faced serious challenges, but working together in a constructive spirit could enable a bright future for the generations to come, he concluded.
ALASSANE OUATTARA, President of Côte d’Ivoire, said his country’s election to the Security Council for the 2018-19 period would be an opportunity to share its experience on how to emerge from a crisis with effective cooperation from the United Nations. The United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) was a rare success and should encourage the development of other initiatives to support peace. Côte d’Ivoire would promote fair and pragmatic compromises while on the Council, he said, urging the international community to create a more balanced development model.
While the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy had been strengthened since 2001, and encouraging operations had been carried out in the Middle East and Africa, the world had not found an adequate response to terrorism. Actions would be in vain if Africa continued to be the “underbelly” of the anti-terrorist struggle, he said, pressing Governments to fulfil their pledges to support the G-5 Sahel countries [Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger]. Côte d’Ivoire would continue to support those countries while on the Council, he said, stressing that “without stability, there cannot be any development”.
On climate change, a significant concern that required swift action from all countries, he said Côte d’Ivoire would live up to the Paris Agreement through developments in energy, agriculture and environmental protection. He called on others to do likewise, urging developed countries to fulfil their financial pledges. He highlighted the plight of small islands in that regard, calling climate change a threat to international peace and security, and expressing support for a global environment pact recently proposed by France.
Turning to peace and security, he said Côte d’Ivoire would do its utmost during its Council term to address nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula. He encouraged the international community to show restraint and enter into dialogue with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to create the conditions for lasting de-escalation. Also, efforts to combat irregular migration, human trafficking and the migrant smuggling had not been adequately addressed. He urged developed countries to mobilize resources and support developing countries in providing young people with employment, while origin countries must work to close smuggling networks. To that end, he said the war in Libya must end. For its part, Côte d’Ivoire had focused on awareness and prevention, aid provision and efforts to dismantle smuggling networks.
On the economic front, he said Côte d’Ivoire had achieved an average 9 per cent growth rate thanks to a successful microeconomic policy, hard work by its people, an improved business environment and major investments. The 2016‑2020 national development plan aimed to distribute the “fruits” of such growth fairly and outlined bold social reforms to transform the country. He called on all States and civil society organizations to ensure that international mobilization for the Sustainable Development Goals did not weaken, reiterating that developed countries must live up to their financing commitments, as agreed in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda in 2015. As terrorism, global warming and nuclear tensions had weakened the collective security system, the international community must agree on how to modernize to effectively respond to threats. The greatest importance should be placed on conflict prevention, and he welcomed the Joint United Nations-African Union Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security in that regard.
DENIS SASSOU NGUESSO, President of Congo, expressing condolences to the people and Government of Mexico, noted the many challenges facing the international community, including the spread of terrorism, increased tension on the Korean Peninsula, the situation in Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and crises in Africa and elsewhere. Nothing constructive or sustainable would emerge without peace. On 19 October, Congo would host the seventh summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region as well as the high-level meeting of the follow-up mechanism of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the region, which were opportunities to consider ways and means to resolve crises in Africa, he said.
The peace process in the Central African Republic was moving forward apace, with implementation of a road map for peace and reconciliation expected to give new impetus for stability, he said. The quest to resolve the crisis in Libya was moving in the right direction, with the 9 September meeting in Brazzaville of the African Union high-level committee on that country. His country would work unstintingly for peace in Libya and the international community must support initiatives in that regard.
Poverty would remain a global challenge until the cycle of dependency and the dramatic impact of climate change were halted, he said. There must be a global response based on joined-up action. Global stability depended on a new paradigm and greater solidarity. Underscoring the connection between migration and climate change, he said action must be taken to stem the resulting exodus and to save the lives of thousands of Africans.
Climate change was a truly global challenge and the commitments made in the Paris Agreement must be honoured, he continued. It fell on the collective consciousness of humankind to express compassion and solidarity with those who had fallen victim to the harmful consequences of climate change, as demonstrated by Hurricane Irma as well as flooding and landslides in Asia and several African countries, particularly Sierra Leone. He called on the international community to support Congo’s initiative to establish the Congo Basin Blue Fund to protect the world’s second largest “green lung” after the Amazon.
The proliferation of counterfeit medicines was a growing threat, particularly in developing countries, he said. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), such medicine was responsible for 800,000 deaths every year. Ten per cent of the world’s medicines, and as much as 60 per cent of medicines in some parts of Africa, were thought to be counterfeit. Vigorous action must be taken at the General Assembly to elaborate a global strategy to combat that threat, he said, calling for an unwavering commitment by all countries to focus on that issue and to provide substantial financial resources to address it.
JACOB ZUMA, President of South Africa, said the current socioeconomic world order structure was deepening the divide between the global North and global South. Unequal and unjust economic power relations were sharply manifested in Africa. Rich in mineral resources, the region had the highest number of least developed countries. Although developed countries fuelled development from the African continent’s resources, a significant “chunk” was lost to illicit financial outflows. Those billions of dollars would have been utilized to provide education, health care, housing and other basic needs. Money laundering, tax evasion and avoidance, corruption, and transfer pricing by multinational companies remained some of the biggest challenges to economic growth and stability. Such corruption undermined the integrity of the financial system, efficient tax collection and the equitable allocation of resources. He appealed to Member States, particularly developed countries and the United Nations, to contribute to a fair global economic environment and to eradicate illicit financial flows.
He welcomed support to resolve conflicts through the promotion of the African Union’s “African solutions to African problems and challenges” through a “goal of silencing the guns by 2020” as contained in the African Union’s Agenda 2063 action plan. While voicing hope for a resolution addressing the crisis in Libya, he noted that little effort had been made by the African Union to promote stability, with the majority of countries focused on the migrant crisis in Europe. The war in Libya was contributing to the destabilization of the region and had created a corridor for illicit arms trafficking and terrorist activities. Had earlier warnings been heeded, the supply of arms to Libya and Syria would have been avoided and the world would have greater peace today. He called for an immediate resolution of those conflicts, while cautioning against the imposition of foreign solutions through military means.
Addressing the matter of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he called for the end of the nuclear weapons program, as “there are no safe hands for weapons of mass destruction”. The only viable solution was their total elimination, as expressed in the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. “It can no longer be acceptable that some few countries keep arsenals and stockpiles of nuclear weapons as part of their strategic defence and security doctrine, while expecting others to remain at their mercy,” he said. Any accidental detonation would lead to a disaster of epic proportions.
All Member States should sign and ratify the ban and reaffirm the inalienable rights of States to peaceful uses of nuclear energy as outlined in the treaty, he continued. South Africa was the biggest producer of medical isotopes used in the treatment of cancer patients and the country would continue to address the peaceful use of atoms to address challenges of socioeconomic development. He also urged that the Security Council be reformed, as it was unable to carry out its responsibilities for the maintenance of international peace and security.
The seventy-second session of the General Assembly coincided with the centenary anniversary of Oliver Reginald Tambo, who had led the African National Congress liberation movement against apartheid and racism in South Africa, he pointed out. Tambo firmly believed in the role of multilateralism and the centrality of the United Nations and would have pleaded for support to the Palestinian people and the people of Western Sahara. The General Assembly must show support for their struggles, similar to what was shown in support of the South African struggle for liberation. He additionally expressed disappointment in the United States’ June 2017 decision that reversed progress in ending the Cuban blockade.
HAGE G. GEINGOB, President of Namibia, said that as long as poverty afflicted his country, there would never be lasting peace or social justice. Growing income disparity posed global threats and only people-driven development would generate lasting change. Namibia based its policies on the belief that “no Namibian should feel left out” because inclusivity would lead to harmony. Social safety nets had contributed to a 52 per cent decline in poverty between 1993 and 2015, he said.
While much work remained to be done in efforts to reduce income inequality, Namibia was positioned to move forward with younger political leaders as the “older guard” made way for the “new breed,” he said, emphasizing that people-centred development must consider all members of society. Namibia had introduced legislation to improve the representation of women, who now accounted for 48 per cent of the National Assembly. The country also recognized the role of women in promoting global peace in negotiations and peacekeeping missions.
With 26 of the 52 United Nations peacekeeping operations and special political missions deployed in Africa, Namibia recognized the institutional partnership between the Security Council and the African Union, he said. Calling for Africa to be viewed as an equal partner, he urged other nations to better embrace multilateralism. Africa should be included at “the highest decision-making level” within the United Nations, he said, pointing out that a more inclusive Security Council would restore faith in the Organization.
Describing unity as the only path to a sustainable planet, he stressed that the people of Namibia would do anything to support the work of the Secretary‑General. The country had reaffirmed the centrality of multilateralism in adopting the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement, he said, adding that it had also reaffirmed the reality of climate change. The natural hazards that had afflicted Sierra Leone, the Caribbean and the United States demonstrated the real threat of climate change, he said.
Turning to the Middle East, he said Namibia stood with the international consensus that Israel’s occupation of Palestine must end, reiterating its position that statehood and independence were “the national, inalienable and legal rights” of the Palestinian people. He also expressed his country’s “unequivocal support” for the people of Western Sahara and their right to self-determination. Namibia called for the implementation of Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and for holding the referendum in that territory. He also voiced support for the lifting of all sanctions against Cuba.
ARTHUR PETER MUTHARIKA, President of Malawi, said there was a one-sided view of Africa as a continent of incomprehensible tribalism, endemic corruption and intrinsic misery and violence. That negative perception blinded the world from seeing the huge potential of the African people. By contrast, raising people’s potential and viewing them in a positive light should be the impetus for development, he said, noting that the development of societies would only succeed when driven internally. “No human community can take off socioeconomically without empowering its people to drive their own development agenda,” he emphasized. “That is why I underline the importance of investing in human capital.”
Highlighting the need to focus on people in order to realize inclusive growth, he highlighted four segments of society whose interests deserved attention. First, the empowerment of women should be included in development efforts, he said, emphasizing in particular that early marriage must be eradicated. Malawi had made progress on protecting the rights of women and girls, he said, adding that the country had passed a law against marriage below the age of 18 years. The Government was committed to promoting gender equality and girls’ empowerment in order to reduce the vulnerabilities of women and adolescent girls to violence and abuse, he said.
He went on to state that the interests of young people must also be protected to ensure inclusive growth, recalling that the African Union had declared 2017 the Year of the Youth since the continent had the fastest growing youth population. Malawi had increased access to tertiary education and introduced programmes to provide technical and entrepreneurial education to youth lacking opportunities to attend university.
The journey towards inclusive growth must also include people with disabilities, he said, adding that Malawi had reviewed its policies on education, health and trade to include them. The country had also made strides in eradicating attacks against people with Albinism, he said, pointing out that no new attacks had occurred in the last six months. Protecting the interests of agrarian communities was also crucial because their livelihoods had been affected by climate change, he continued, noting that 85 per cent of Malawi’s population were from agrarian communities and had borne the brunt. The country had implemented social protection initiatives, such as cash-transfer programmes, food for work and school feeding programmes, to protect those communities.
Terrorism was another obstacle to development, he said. “Terrorism and conflict hinder progress and make the world live in a state of fear.” He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to stand against all forms of terrorism. Malawi had done its part for the maintenance of peace and security by taking part in United Nations and African Union peacebuilding operations, he noted. “We believe that in protecting your neighbours, you protect yourselves.” Turning to the Korean Peninsula, he said Malawi categorically disapproved of the spread of ballistic missile technology, which should not be tolerated by any Member States. The peace agenda must be a collective effort of all countries, both big and small, he said, emphasizing that Africa should be represented on the Security Council. “The United Nations could no longer claim to lead in democracy while sidelining a representation of 1.2 billion people from Africa,” he affirmed. “How can we claim to be in unity with those whom we exclude? Africa must be included.”
Hery Martial RAJAONARIMAMPIANINA RAKOTOARIMANANA, President of Madagascar, emphasizing that human needs must be at the centre of any country’s concerns, said the recent economic and social crisis had left Madagascar with a high poverty rate and afflicted by food insecurity. Despite those challenges, however, the country had no reason to remain poor, he said, describing himself as an optimist. Through the relentless work of its citizens, Madagascar was now reaching a new stage, and since 2016 had received increased investment, enabling it to develop key sectors, reduce poverty and act on behalf of the most vulnerable segments of society.
Renewed investment and the strengthening of institutions had allowed for new infrastructure projects, the creation of jobs and the ability to participate more fully in the international community, he said, citing Madagascar’s membership of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the International Organization of la Francophonie. He proposed new special economic zones to strengthen infrastructure, education and health, all pillars of sustainable national development, expressing Madagascar’s commitment to improving the quality of life for all its citizens.
Turning to the Sustainable Development Goals, he said projects addressing Goal 4 were under way, and an ambitious education plan was being implemented to bring quality education to young people. There was also a focus on rebuilding a devastated health system, he said. The country was ready for a new health-care system, including an epidemiological survey system to evaluate potential crises in real time. The launch of a universal health-care plan was also under consideration, and a new national nutrition project was being implemented.
Calling attention to the risks of climate change for his country and the world, he said Madagascar was honouring the relevant agreements and had established protected marine areas. With the agricultural sector employing 75 per cent of the population, the country was mitigating risks by diversifying that sector. Investment in ports, highways and airports would “bring Madagascar back to the world economy,” he said, adding that focusing on the tourism sector would also attract investment. The economic model of tomorrow must be driven by low-carbon strategies that would guarantee better living conditions for future generations, he emphasized.
Madagascar’s prospects were favourable, he said, noting that economic growth was projected to reach 5 per cent in 2018. The aim was to raise the country to the middle-income level by 2030. He affirmed that political reforms had been put in place to protect the integrity of democracy, and lasting economic growth was in sight. He concluded by stating that the General Assembly had the tools to accomplish the Secretary‑General’s goals, and expressed Madagascar’s support, and that of the Francophone community, for shared growth and sustainable development, vowing to stand strongly behind the values of solidarity.
_Emmanuel is an AU & Ecowas Policy Analyst, with 15 years research in comparative regional integration & 13 years in civil society activism. Since 2012, he has been actively monitoring and writing about aspects of East Africa’s integration.
Since 2014, he has worked with radio hosting & executive-producing “Africa in Focus”, a show that seeks to demystify, unpack & explain Ecowas; AU; South-South cooperation. He is a regular pundit on Ecowas & AU matters for Accra-based Starr FM & Class FM_ .
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