African Union (Addis Ababa)

Africa: Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development

document

The following is full text of the opening speech of the 15th African Union Summit in Kampala as delivered by Malawi President and AU Chairman Bingu Wa Mutharika.

Excellency Mr. Yoweri Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda;

Excellencies, African Heads of State and Government;

Excellency Mr. Felipe de Jesus Calderon, President of the Republic of Mexico;

Excellency Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestine National Authority and Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee;

Excellencies the First Ladies of Africa;

Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations;

Excellency Dr. Jean Ping, Chairperson of the African Union Commission;

Excellency Mr. Abdoulie Janneh, Executive Secretary and Under Secretary General of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa;

Distinguished Foreign Ministers and Heads of Delegations;

Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives;

Distinguished Invited Guests;

Ladies and Gentlemen.

I start by introducing the theme of this Summit; “Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development in Africa”. This theme is very important for Africa, and that it has come at an opportune time as we are preparing to review progress made in the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Before going into the theme of the summit for this year, I would like to report to this meeting on two important issues. The first is the outcome of Africa’s participation at the recent G8 and G20 Summit held in Toronto, Canada.

I will begin by commending the leadership of Canada, the G8 and G20 governments for having invited me as your Chairman to represent the African Union.  This, I believe was the first time Africa was represented in that capacity. In addition to myself other countries invited to the G8 Summit were Ethiopia, Egypt, Senegal, South Africa, Algeria and Nigeria.

The G8 and G20 Summit with a theme “Recovery and New beginnings” provided a platform for Africa to articulate issues of concern to our continent. The focus of this particular summit was very important for Africa’s development as it provided an opportunity to address unprecedented challenges resulting from the global economic crisis.

As African representatives we were able to raise our concerns and proposal for addressing current challenges in development, international peace and security as well as environmental protection. We also brought to the attention of leaders of the Group of Eight our concern that Africa has in the past been invited on an ad hoc basis and as such Africa was unable to fully present our position in the development agenda of concern to our continent. We appealed to these organizations to formalize the African Union’s participation through a permanent mechanism.

The Summit observed that mutual responsibility and partnership should become the cornerstone for provision of support to developing countries. The Summit in part called development partners to accelerate progress towards MDG targets. The developing nations were urged to meet their primary responsibility for social economic development and global governance.

The next summit of the G20 will be held in Seoul, Korea, in November 2010. I believe we have ample time for the African Union Commission to closely work with the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank to ensure timely and adequate preparations. Let us go to Seoul with one African voice.

Excellencies,

The second issue, I want to remind this Summit relates to the decisions we took during the Fourteenth (14th) Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in January this year in Addis Ababa. As you may recall, the summit unanimously decided, in the next five years, to place highest priority on agriculture and food security. We all agreed to make Africa the food basket of the world. We also agreed that five years from now, no child in Africa should die of hunger or malnutrition or go to bed on an empty stomach.

In support of agriculture and food security we also agreed to develop transport and communication infrastructure to connect all Regional Economic Communities to enable us move food from surplus to deficit areas. Further, we undertook to develop energy generation capacities and to make electricity affordable and available to industries and our people especially in rural areas. We also noted that climate change, and information and communications technology are a basis for economic transformation and change.

Excellencies,

I am outlining these matters so that we do not lose sight of important previous decisions, and to place the new theme on “Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development” within that context. This is because it is self evident that without adequate food the problems associated with child birth and child survival become intensified.

I am, therefore, proposing as a follow up on our decisions made at the previous summit a new strategic partnership for the African food security under which African governments and the development partners should agree to shoulder collective responsibility to ensure Agriculture and Food Security as a priority on the African Union agenda.

A preliminary proposal has been developed for consideration under the theme “The African Food Basket: Innovations, Interventions and Strategic Partnerships” to place agriculture and food security as the core for development intervention. I request that we carefully study the proposal and provide comments for the way forward.

This document could also form the basis for Africa to unlock resources from the $22 billion that the G8 made available in the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative. Copies of this proposal are available to the member countries.

The paper proposes the establishment of an ad-hoc body of seventeen countries in Africa called the Strategic Group of Seventeen (SG17) on the African Food Basket that would spearhead and monitor the process towards turning Africa into a food basket. Members to the group would be countries with track records of achievement in promoting agriculture and food security. Initially these are: Senegal, South Africa, Egypt, Sudan, Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Ethiopia, Algeria, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Cameroon, Mozambique and Mali.

The mandate of the G17 would be;

  • To review the progress and co-ordinate strategies in the implementation of the African Union decisions on agriculture and food security and other initiatives in this field and to design the best methods for achieving food security for all African countries within the period of five years;
  • To review the L’Aquila Joint Statement on Global Food Security adopted by the G8 countries and propose concrete actions aimed at assisting African countries to source funds from the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative to develop viable agriculture so as to achieve food security and fight hunger, starvation and malnutrition;
  • To liaise with the G8 governments and their bilateral and multilateral institutions to develop modus operandi for ensuring how developed countries can assist African countries to design new and best practices for enhancing agricultural development and for achieving food security for Africa and the rest of the world.

Excellencies,

As regards the Climate Change a full report will be made by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia who is coordinating the African position. In the meantime, I urge this Summit to reflect on Climate Change issues as we prepare for the 16th UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Cancun, Mexico in December, 2010. We need to go to Cancun with one strong African message.

Excellencies,

Let me now return to the theme of this summit and to draw your attention to a few salient facts. As Your Excellencies are aware, the United Nations High Level Summit to be held in September 2010 will review the progress we have made in achieving the MDGs. The issue of Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development is related to MDGs. The attainment of these MDGs is important for the socio-economic development of Africa, hence the need for our continued commitment to prioritize maternal, infant and child health on Africa’s development agenda.

We must resolve to significantly improve the health and welfare of the mothers, infants and children as the basis for future growth and advancement of the human species. We must also prevent needless deaths of women and infants by creating an environment for safe motherhood.

I am aware that some of our member states are making considerable progress in improving maternal, infant and child health through implementation of deliberate policies and programmes as well as mobilization of resources. But we need to do more.

Excellencies,

I am glad to report to this Assembly the commitment by the G8 countries at their recent Summit held in Muskoka, Canada, to mobilize up to US$10 billion annually in five years to support Maternal, Infant and Child Health. This is of critical importance, and if the G8 and other Partners will fulfill their pledges and commitments, a solid beginning will be made towards reducing maternal, infant and child mortality not only in Africa but throughout the world.

Let me emphasize that the responsibility for achieving this is not for the G8 or G20 countries alone. African Governments must be in the forefront to attain this objective of reducing maternal, infant and child mortality. We must ask ourselves what contributions we will make towards this noble cause. Let Africa act and act now.

Excellencies,

I now turn to the general situation of Africa’s economy. I would endorse that despite notable economic recovery in the industrialized countries in recent months the global economic downturn had seriously affected African economies in general thereby jeopardising further the chances for attaining the MDGs by 2015. I recognize that the onus to meet the MDGs falls squarely on African governments.  However, we appeal to our partners to speed up the release of funds committed to enable Africa’s attainment of the MDGs by the target dates.

In this respect, we welcome the decision by Development Partners at the recent G20 Summit, to commit themselves to financially replenish the International Development Association (IDA) and the African Development Fund (ADF) and ensure a balanced conclusion of the Doha Development Round.

Excellencies,

The issue of peace and security is a matter of great concern. As we continue to celebrate 2010 as the Year of Peace and Security in Africa, I appeal to all African leaders and the United Nations to seize every opportunity to end violence, conflict and fighting so that all Africans can live in peace and harmony.

In line with this, we have set the date of 21st September 2010 as a day for commemorating peace in Africa. This day should remind us of our duty and responsibility to ensure that peace and tranquility prevail in our Member States. I, therefore, urge you to join hands with the AU Commission to make the 2010 Year of Peace a success, including the years to come.

I am glad to note the state of peace and security on our Continent, and that our organization is making commendable progress in ensuring that good governance, democratization, peace and security are upheld.  More specifically, the African Union’s intervention in the historic elections in the Republics of Sudan and Guinea   is a welcome development in the process of restoring constitutional order and democratization.

I commend the Government and the people of Sudan for complying with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and for holding the elections as agreed. This was indeed a milestone that our Union is proud of. I hope that the new government will endeavor to ensure that the referendum scheduled for January 2011 will take place as agreed so as to advance the peace process further.

There is a general concern in Africa that the issuance of a warrant of arrest of His Excellency Al Bashir, a duly elected President of the Sudan is a violation of the principles of sovereignty guaranteed under the United Nations charter. May be there are other ways of addressing the problems. Let us together explore these options.

I appeal to the people of the Republic of Guinea, to ensure that the emerging winner should be committed to ensure that the legislative elections are held in the shortest possible time.

I also commend the efforts made towards bringing peace to the Central African Republic and Côte d’Ivoire and the post conflict reconstruction processes taking place in countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone and Burundi which are on course to recovery from conflicts. I appeal to the international community to support these initiatives.

On the other hand, I am encouraged to see that the security and political stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has tremendously improved.  The mandate of the United Nations Peace Keeping Mission has accordingly changed to a stabilisation force and with emphasis on protecting the civilians.  I therefore appeal for full support of this process

In the same vein, all efforts need to be employed to bring back constitutional order to Madagascar and Niger.  We should ensure that we completely rid the continent of the scourge of coup d’états as these constitute a threat to our peace and security.

Excellencies,

Sadly, the security situation in Somalia is still an issue of concern as the Islamic extremists are continuing to perpetuate violence on the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). We, therefore, urge African Union Member States and the international community to look for new solutions to find lasting solutions to the situation in Somalia.

On a happier note, I wish to state that 17 countries of the African Union are this year commemorating 50 years of independence. We celebrate with them and wish them success.  The commemoration is a golden opportunity for us, as a continental organization, to review our achievements and challenges so that we forge ahead stronger commitment to advance Africa.

I would also like to inform this Assembly that in October 2010, we are launching the Women’s Decade which will run up to 2020. The decade will further strengthen commitments we have made to accelerate implementation of agreed global and regional pledges to promote gender equality and women empowerment.  I wish to reiterate my appeal to all Member States and development partners to contribute towards the Fund for African Women.

Excellencies,

I now turn to the recently concluded FIFA World Cup and to offer on your behalf my special congratulations to President Jacob Zuma, the Government and people of the Republic of South Africa for excellent arrangements that were made to host the tournament.  The resilience of the South African people to host, accommodate and entertain so many people of different nationalities was truly remarkable.  The South Africans really demonstrated the existence of a new Africa – one that is capable of achieving anything.  We are all proud of South Africa.

I also commend the Black Stars of Ghana for making Africa proud.  They put up a brave and fierce fight.  We are proud of you the people of Ghana.  This only proves that Africa is ready to take its rightful place in the global fora as an active and fully involved participant and I am sure next time we shall bring the world cup to Africa.

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to conclude my remarks by emphasizing the need for the African Union to consolidate the past decisions and resolutions in order to move forward. We have issued too many communiqués that we have not implemented.

Let us now have a new beginning, an era of action, action and more action. Let us begin by reviewing the decisions of the 14th august Assembly that was held in January, 2010 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and agree on realistic implementation strategies.

Finally, let us also agree to take concrete actions towards averting maternal, infant and child deaths in Africa.

God Bless Africa.

I thank you.

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