Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson today stressed the importance of close and active coooperation between the United Nations and the African Union in tackling a range of critical issues, from the instability in Mali to the food crisis in the Sahel region.
"I am confident that if we come together, the partnership between the African Union and the United Nations will be stronger and more effective," Mr. Eliasson said in his address to the 19th summit of the AU, held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
"This will in turn strengthen both our organizations, in our collective resolve, to discharge the responsibilities incumbent upon us all for the well-being of the people of this great continent and the world."
Mr. Eliasson, who took up his post earlier this month, cited a number of areas in which the UN, the AU and African sub-regional organizations have worked together, including promoting a peaceful future in Somalia, helping Guinea-Bissau resolve its political crisis and addressing the threat posed by the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).
He also stressed the need for the UN, the AU and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to continue working together to restore territorial integrity and human security in Mali.
"The situation in the North of Mali, where armed militias and terrorist groups continue to control local populations, is alarming and is a threat to the region, and, I would say, beyond," the Deputy Secretary-General warned.
Also vital is to intensify joint efforts to find a political and humanitarian solution to end the suffering in the Sahel region of West Africa, where 18 million people are at risk of fatal starvation, he added.
"One million children are in immediate danger. The world must wake up to this ongoing humanitarian disaster, no doubt the worst in the world today," said Mr. Eliasson.
At the same time, he cited the need to focus on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - internationally-agreed targets which aim to reduce poverty, hunger, maternal and child deaths, disease, inadequate shelter, gender inequality and environmental degradation by 2015.
"Africa has already made steady progress - on education, gender equality, health and poverty reduction. They have put millions of children in school. Almost all your children have obtained primary education, which will help to build your future," Mr. Eliasson said.
"Many nations are showing strong economic gains, putting millions more children in school, or are reaching targets to stop the needless death of mothers and children. We also witness how African States are harnessing the power of technology to help pregnant women. Many African nations experience growing per capita national incomes," he added.
"All of this positive energy and vitality, emanating from this great continent of Africa should be recognised and acknowledged, not least when violent conflicts dominate the headlines."
According to a new report issued today on the continent's progress on the MDGs, sub-Saharan Africa must provide universal access to decent jobs and social services if it is to achieve decisive development progress.
The report, "Assessing Progress in Africa Towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)," shows that progress has been made in primary school enrolment, gender parity in primary school enrolment, the proportion of seats held by women in national parliament and HIV and AIDS prevalence rates.
In spite of this progress, Africa still faces the challenges of addressing pervasive income inequalities, creating decent jobs, access to health and sanitation services, adds the report, which is published annually by the AU Commission, the African Development Bank, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).