Africa: High-level meet promises international support

by Chakravarthi Raghavan

Geneva, 18 July 2001 - - The High-Level segment of the UN Economic and Social Council wound up a three-day discussion of UN initiatives to support Africa’s sustainable development, after adopting a Ministerial Declaration, asking for strengthened efforts by developed countries to increase aid and achieve the UN 0.7% target, full and effective implementation of HIPC debt initiative and for advancing the ‘development dimension’ of international trade.

The declaration made no reference to the US-EU led efforts to launch a new round of multilateral trade negotiations at the 4th Ministerial Conference at Doha.

The EU had pressed in New York and here, in the consultation processes to agree on a consensus draft, for inclusion of a para on the launching of a new multilateral round at Doha.

The UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the heads of the IMF and the World Bank, and the WTO head Mike Moore had all promoted in their addresses at the opening session of the High Level Segment, for the launch of a new round of negotiations at Doha, calling it a ‘development round’, without any attempt even to define the contents of such a round.

The EU, and more recently the US, have joined the talk of and cry for a new round, and calling it a ‘development round’, though the agenda they propose is all about the new issues and the ‘development of their global corporations’.

In the only reference to the trade issue, the Ministerial Declaration called for “Advance the development dimension of international trade and accelerate the beneficial integration of African countries into the global economy, including by improving preferential market access, and by encouraging action that would enhance the diversification of African economies with the goal of increasing the predictability of earnings, greater economic security, poverty eradication and greater domestic savings.”

This is the second time this year that Kofi Annan and Moore (who have been propagating the trade agenda of the industrialized world at the WTO) have been rebuffed by the UN membership, and particularly the African states, in not agreeing to endorse the a new trade round at Doha, even one named or called ‘Development Round’.

A similar attempt at the recent Third UN Conference on Least Developed Countries at Brussels also failed, with many of the least developed countries and several of the other developing countries challenging the view that a new round would resolve their ‘implementation’ problems and promote development.

In terms of providing international support for the efforts of African countries to achieve sustainable development, the High Level segment recognized that the support of the international community, especially the donor community was necessary to maximise the impact of the actions of the UN system to increase resources for development.

The declaration said: “we also recognize that, despite the positive effects that an enabling environment, with good governance, sound macro-economic policies and efficient management of public revenue and expenditure can achieve in terms of mobilization of local resources, external finance, in particular ODA, will remain for African countries, a critical resource for achieving international development goals.”

“Consequently,” said the Declaration, “we call for:

        strengthened efforts by developed countries to meet as soon as possible the ODA target of 0.7% of their GNP and targets of earmarking 0.15 to 0.20 percent of GNP for least developed countries, as agreed, and to grant more generous development assistance, including voluntary contributions to core resources of UN funds, programs and specialized agencies, to African countries for their sustainable development, in particular poverty eradication programmes;

        effective and improved coordination of the delivery of ODA by all development partners;

        the implementation of the OECD Development Assistance Committee’s recommendations on untying of aid to LDCs;

        full and speedy implementation of the enhanced heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative for eligible African countries through new and additional resources, as needed, and the adoption by eligible countries of the policy measures required to join the initiative, while stressing the importance of continued flexibility with regard to the eligibility criteria for the enhanced HIPC initiative, in particular for countries in post-conflict situations;

        particular attention to the special needs of Africa in the International Conference on Financing for Development, in the context of assisting the region in meeting the international development goals.

In other parts of the declaration, also relating to international support actions, the ministers

        welcomed recent emphasis of the development community on harmonization and coordination of the development assistance in Africa, and called on the UN secretary general to ensure coordination of UN programmes and activities so as to reduce the transaction costs of the operations,

        strengthening of the UN resident coordinator system,

        encouraging use of joint programmes, as has been effectively demonstrated by the joint UN programme on HIV/AIDS;

        strengthening the complementarity between coordination frameworks such as common country assessments, UNDP assistance framework and poverty reduction strategy papers, encouraging systematic coordination between the UN and the World bank.

In other parts, the Ministers called on the UN general assembly to improve the process of assessing and monitoring progress in implementation of commitments on Africa made in the UN Millennium Declaration.

The declaration welcomed efforts of African countries themselves to promote sustainable development through implementation of economic and political reforms, but recognized that despite all these, these countries still faced multifaceted sustainable development challenges.

The Ministers welcomed the efforts of the African leaders to develop an African-owned and African-led framework for action towards sustainable development and asked the UN system to support the New African initiative recently adopted by the OAU at its Lusaka Summit in July. – SUNS4939

The above article first appeared in the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) of which Chakravarthi Raghavan is the Chief Editor.

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