New York — Chairing the first meeting of the African Union’s High-Level Committee on the Post-2015 Agenda, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has termed it a unique opportunity to make an impact on the decision-making process in formulating Africa’s Common Position on the next global development agenda. She urged her colleagues to seize the opportunity.
According to a dispatch from New York, on Monday, September 23, President Sirleaf began her week-long activities in New York with a series of high-level meetings on the margins of the 68th regular session of the United Nations General Assembly, the focus of which is the post-2015 development agenda and the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Opening the meeting at the AU Permanent Mission in New York, President Sirleaf suggested to her colleagues that this is a unique opportunity to make their voices heard as well as participate in setting the new development agenda. “In 2000, when the MDGs were approved, we had little say in what they were to be,” she said, adding that they did not decide on the nature of the development goals, but went along as each African country tried to achieve what it could within that framework.
The Liberian leader indicated that the MDGs represent a framework that has made a huge impact on recent development processes around the world, including influencing policy makers, orienting people’s thinking about the essentials of human development, and what the world has in common as one humanity. She acknowledged that the MDGs helped world leaders prioritize policy actions and allocate resources. She stressed that work must continue on the MDGs to achieve those objectives and to carry the processes to their completion as much as possible.
This time around, President Sirleaf reminded her African colleagues, Africa has a chance to make an impact on the decision-making process and all must seize this opportunity and make the most out of it. She noted that the task at hand is complex, and although the AU has already begun some work, much remains to be done. “More consultations are needed to put in place a common approach to our challenges; as well as negotiating with international partners to ensure that our vision, our priorities, are fully included in the new global development agenda,” the Liberian leader indicated.
Continuing, President Sirleaf said that as Africa prepares its Common Position, it must be aware of what other regions – far advanced in their work – have put together. “We must look at how their priorities affect us and how our priorities align or go contrary to theirs,” she said, adding, “This will require consultations and negotiations not only amongst ourselves; but also at the global level.”
Speaking further, the President stressed that a strong continental position will help to balance the opposing poles within the Group of 77, where some are pushing for very narrowly defined sustainability goals, focused purely on the environment as opposed to human development, while others are keen to see a very simplistic extension of the MDGs with little space for the incorporation of new ideas and new issues.
“The emerging African Position (shaped by the series of continental consultations run by the AUC, UNECA and UNDP), seeks to strike an appropriate balance of all these elements, emphasizing the need to retain many of the key elements of the MDGs, but seeking to complete them, while also including a greater focus on marginalized issues like governance, conflict and fragility and inclusive economic growth,” she said.
Also present and making statements were: the Presidents of South Africa, Chad, and Namibia; the Prime Ministers of Ethiopia and Mauritius; the representatives from Congo, Guinea and Algeria; and Dr. Amina Mohammed, Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General and one of four other Africans who served on the UN High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
In her intervention, Dr. Mohammed said the meeting was an incredible opportunity from the time that the MDGs were prescribed to a time when Africa is now taking ownership as Member States in crafting the next development agenda – one that moves from a poverty agenda to one that reinforces the eradication of poverty by taking into account the economic, environmental and social aspects of the post-2015 agenda.
“It is important that we have that one cohesive voice from Africa within the G-77 and as a region,” she said, as she welcomed the meeting of the High-Level Committee charged with the responsibility to help do that.
Dr. Mohammed added that, over the last year, there has been much discussion on what the successor to the MDGs should include and how Africa should address those issues, especially the emerging challenges to which Africa expects to respond, such as the way it reinforces the Africa agenda, the NEPAD agenda, and country-specific agendas.
Other speakers all stressed the need for Africa to develop a common approach and agenda post-2015, and pledged their governments’ full support for the process. They suggested that Africa should take into account the lessons learned from the MDGs and agree codified indicators as well as build new partnerships; and integrate new economic, social and environmental dimensions in the post-2015 development framework. They urged the Committee to ensure that Africa’s voice is heard and its potential realized.
President Sirleaf began her day by co-hosting, along with former Ghanaian President John Kufuor, a High-Level Breakfast Meeting on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Nutrition. The President serves as the WASH Goodwill Ambassador for Africa. President Kufuor chairs the Sanitation and Water for All Global Partnership.
Also on Monday, the President addressed the Sixth Annual Liberia Foundations Meeting, and held one-to-one meetings with philanthropists Tony Elumelu of Heirs Holdings and Richard Branson of Virgin Unite; sat in, briefly, for Benin’s President Yayi Boni at a High-Level Meeting on Sustainable Energy for Least Developed Countries (LDCs); met with Mrs. Melinda Gates, of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; served as a panelist, along with the President of Ghana and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, among others, at the Olusegun Obasanjo Foundation Session on “Creating Jobs for Youth in Africa by Catalysing Private sector Investment.” The President ended her day at a dinner hosted by CEO Paul Polman and the Unilever Board and Senior Leadership.
On Tuesday, September 24, President Sirleaf will participate in the official opening of the general debate of the regular session of the UN General Assembly. She will address the Assembly in the afternoon.