Africa: Millennium Goals Within Reach, UNDP Administrator Tells African Union, Launching Human Development Report

Maputo — Africa and the world can reach the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of halving poverty, ending hunger, putting every boy and girl in school and stemming health and environment crises if there is "commitment of will and resources today."

UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown gave this assessment at the second African Union Summit in Maputo, Mozambique, today when launching the Human Development Report 2003, which spells out the global compact that the MDGs represent.

President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, incoming Africa Union Chairman and summit host, joined in the launch, linked to Tuesday's presentation in Dublin, Ireland, reflecting not only ties between Ireland and Mozambique, but the North-South partnership that the report says is needed to achieve the goals.

"The message of this report is that poverty is no longer inevitable, yet we face a development crisis, with more than a billion people -- one-third of them on this continent -- languishing in absolute poverty," said Mr. Malloch Brown.

The picture can be changed, he asserted, pointing to recent economic growth by Mauritius, Mozambique, Tanzania, and the Seychelles -- close to the 7 to 8 per cent annually needed to meet the poverty target. Swaziland and Malawi both increased school enrolment by over 20 per cent in the past decade, and Senegal and Uganda have shown the way to containing the HIV/AIDS epidemic, he noted.

Spreading democracy and open markets are spurring such gains, but the report's list of nearly 60 priority countries facing the greatest challenges, nearly half in Africa, also need support in overcoming obstacles such as geographic isolation, destructive conflicts, exclusion of women and soil deterioration, said the Administrator.

The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) launched by African leaders seeks solutions to these problems. President Chissano said in a telecast to the Dublin launch that NEPAD aims to "attract more investments and at the same time make sure that our goods and services have access to international markets." He also saluted Ireland's growing support for development in Mozambique, Africa and the world.

Donor countries need to meet their commitments, said Mr. Malloch Brown. They have pledged $16 billion in aid by 2006, nearly half for Africa, but this falls well short of the $50 billion additional aid needed globally to meet the MDGs.

Making the MDGs a reality also requires rapid progress on trade and debt relief, he said. He pointed out that each European cow gets a subsidy two and a half times the income of half of Africa's people, and big US cotton growers receive subsidies three times the amount that the US provides in assistance to Africa.

He noted signs of progress, with Ireland, along with Belgium and France, committing to joining Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, which have met the internationally agreed development assistance target of 0.7 per cent of GNP.

The MDGs are a compact, he concluded, that "can unite us all, rich and poor, North and South, developed and developing, not in rhetoric, but at an extremely practical level, where we can hold each other to account for shared goals and, together, change Africa and the world."

Statement by Mark Malloch Brown, UNDP Administrator to the Second Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union

Mr. Chairman, your Excellency President Chissano,

Excellencies, Heads of State and Governments,

Excellency, Mr. Secretary-General,

Excellency, Mr. Amara Essy, Interim Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends,

It is a great honour to be able to address this distinguished Assembly of Africa on such an important topic at such a critical time.

As the UN Development Programme's new Human Development Report that we are formally launching here today makes clear, the world - and Africa - is at a decision point.

We have the global means, the know-how and the record of development success here in Africa as well as other regions, to state categorically that if today Africa and the world make the commitment of will and resources, then tomorrow, 2015, we can reach the Millennium Development Goals of halving poverty, removing hunger, putting every boy and girl in school and stemming the crisis in our health and environment.

The message of this report is that poverty is no longer inevitable, yet we face a development crisis, with more than a billion people - one-third of them on this continent -- languishing in absolute poverty, most of them without clean water to drink or enough food to eat, beset by diseases from HIV/AIDS to tuberculosis, lacking access to schools and healthcare, and living in an environment that by nearly every measure is rapidly degrading.

It does not have to be this way. While worldwide, at least 54 countries got poorer in the 1990s -- largely because location, economic structure, and other unaddressed handicaps kept them from overcoming their development challenges -- at the same time, literally hundreds of millions were lifted out of poverty in other countries.

Africa, however, the report warns, is in real danger of being left behind.

Nearly one in every six African children die before age five - unchanged from a decade ago. Overall primary enrolment is still below 60%, and on other indicators too the news is grim. On current trends, the goal of halving poverty will not be met until 2147.

But those trends can be changed. For example, several African countries - including Mauritius, Tanzania, the Seychelles, and our host, Mozambique - have achieved sustained GDP growth rates close to the 7-8% needed to meet the poverty targets. Swaziland and Malawi both increased school enrolment by over 20% in the past decade; Senegal and Uganda have shown the way to stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS; Mali improved access to potable water by 12%; Chad improved access to sanitation by 11%; Egypt, the Gambia, Cape Verde and Tunisia reduced child mortality by one-third or more.

So how do we make these success stories not the exception but the rule; how to enable Africa and other parts of the developing world to join in the circle of prosperity?

With this report, UNDP seeks to help answer that question. It argues that recent formulas of good governance and open markets are necessary- but not enough.

For most on our watch list of almost 60 "priority countries" -- of which, again, nearly half are in Africa -- lack of progress is not about lack of trying to put good institutions, policies and growth in place. It is about supplementing those necessary steps by addressing deeper structural handicaps such as geographic isolation, undiversified commodity-dependent economies, impractically small, unjoined markets, conflict, exclusion of women and a deterioration of Africa's top soils that is undermining the agricultural base.

This agenda is clearly reflected in the pioneering the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) -- which UNDP has been strongly supporting in areas from communications to the African Peer Review Mechanism -- as is the acknowledgment that the primary responsibility for making this happen clearly lies with the developing countries themselves.

And, it is reflected tangibly by the kind of commitment to policy reform and prioritizing social needs that is embodied by our host, President Chissano and his government, who, as the steady, sustained improvement in its Human Development Index over the past decade shows, are transforming what was not too long ago one of the poorest countries in the world into a dynamic model for Africa and the wider world.

This approach is now spreading across Africa. And here it is the MDGs good fortune to be underpinned by a phenomenon where Africa has become a leader, with more and more countries holding credible democratic elections. It is these enfranchised millions who are the key stakeholders in these Goals with the power to hold governments to account for their MDG performance. In that way we can rebuild the political debate and the accountability of leaders around development success.

But there is a second side to the MDG compact.

At the Millennium Summit, at Monterrey and again at the Johannesburg World Summit for Sustainable Development last year, donor countries committed to grow their public investment in and other support to developing countries when developing countries did their part.

This is because the kind of structural barriers this report describes are in many cases too entrenched to be tackled by developing countries alone. As Africa discovered during the 1990s, when development assistance plummeted by a third, trade barriers remained high and debt relief elusive, achieving the MDGs without this side of the deal is like competing with one hand tied behind your back.

Some donor countries are doing their part. Ireland, whose prime minister on Tuesday hosted the first announcement of this report with the participation of President Chissano, has blazed a trail by growing its foreign aid at over 30% a year and pledging future increases on a similar scale all with a clear focus on the neediest countries, especially in Africa. It is one of three donors, along with Belgium and France, which have committed to specific dates by which to join Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, who have already met the internationally agreed Development Assistance target of 0.7 per cent of GNP.

But while new donor commitments - which should, if - and it is a big "if"- pledges are honoured, reach $16 billion by 2006, nearly half of which should come to Africa - it is way short of the $50 billion additional aid that is the minimum needed to meet the MDGs.

And the need is more than aid. Making the MDGs a reality also requires we make rapid progress on trade and debt relief, helping break down barriers that keep developing countries out of rich markets and allow them to devote more of their own scarce resources to development priorities rather than repaying international creditors.

There is still not a successful solution for debts born of collusion with yesterday's dictators in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia or Nigeria. Nor can there be economic justice in cosseting each European cow with a subsidy two and a half times the income of half your people; what purpose if what is given in aid is taken away in trade barriers? Big Cotton in the United States secures for itself subsidies three times the amount that the US provides in assistance to Africa. Protected cotton markets in the US and EU cost small farmers in Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Togo an estimated $250 million a year.

Look at our shared task as a roadmap to be followed in the coming months and years if we are to meet the goal: the new Doha Round of trade negotiations to be focused on development, as promised; a funding meeting, such as the one next week to replenish The Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB, brought to success; NEPAD plans for infrastructure and market integration funded and implemented; the national progress in governance, economic management, health and education provision, gender inclusion, agricultural sector investment and private sector development accelerated. And we need progress throughout, both in developing countries and in the donor partners, benchmarked and tracked through national and global MDG reporting.

For this Millennium Development Compact is our collective responsibility - and within our collective power -- to achieve. It can unite us all, rich and poor, North and South, developed and developing not in rhetoric, but at an extremely practical level, where we can hold each other to account for shared goals and, together, change Africa and the world.

Thank you.

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