South African President Jacob Zuma today urged a level playing field for his continent in setting a new global development agenda for the years following the end of the current cycle in 2015, warning that new international demands were impeding Africa's development.
"We raise this point... because it appears that the global economic meltdown has brought about new developments that are detrimental to the developing world, especially Africa," he told the United Nations General Assembly on the first day of its annual General Debate, citing a tendency to renegotiate the "rules of the game."
"New issues are being introduced as prerequisites for development and partnerships which in fact become huge non-tariff barriers. These include the green economy and clean technology," he said, noting that while these issues are important and need to be addressed, the manner in which they are crafted restrains economic development as they are used as obstacles.
The year 2015 is the deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that set specific goals on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability and HIV/AIDS reduction, and Assembly President John Ashe has said the current session of the Assembly must lay the groundwork for global development in the decades beyond.
Mr. Zuma said such an agenda allows individual regions and States the space to address the development needs peculiar to their circumstances and priorities. For Africa in particular, it should address poverty eradication, income inequality and job creation, focusing on all three dimensions of sustainable development - eradication of poverty through economic development, social development and environmental sustainability.
"Any development agenda beyond 2015 must be based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities in order to equalize the international playing field," he stressed.
As he and many other leaders of developing countries have done in the past, Mr. Zuma called for reform of the Security Council by 2015 so that the currently 15-member body democratically represent the world's nations at large.
"The UN Security Council still remains undemocratic, unrepresentative and unfair to developing nations and small States, and disenfranchises the majority of the Member States of the United Nations who form the majority in this General Assembly," he said. "We cannot remain beholden indefinitely to the will of an unrepresentative minority on the most important issues of international peace and security.
"There has been too much talk about the need for reform, with too little action. We would like to challenge the Assembly today: Let us set ourselves the target to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations in 2015 with a reformed, more inclusive, democratic and representative UN Security Council."
In an earlier meeting with UN secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Mr. Zuma discussed political developments in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, especially Zimbabwe and Madagascar. They also focussed on Guinea-Bissau and the Central African Republic, according to a readout issued by Mr. Ban's spokesperson.