Firstly, I would like to thank Ambassador Cheick Niang for inviting me to this meeting. I deeply appreciate this opportunity to interact with you from time to time in order to provide you with an update of the activities being undertaken by the Office of the Special Advisor on Africa. I would also like to take advantage of this opportunity to apprise you of preparations for the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries which will take place from May 9 – 13 in Istanbul, Turkey.
On both fronts, I always welcome your thoughtful ideas and constructive suggestions which play an important role in leading our future work together.
Allow me to begin my briefing by reiterating that the United Nations has recognized the interrelation between peace, security, human rights and development. The unique mandate of the Office for the Special Advisor on Africa is to ensure that, within the African context, this linkage is acknowledged and reinforced. Recently, the Office completed the review of the ten years of implementation of the recommendations contained in the Report of the Secretary-General on the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa. In his review, the Secretary-General acknowledged that Africa is indeed moving ahead, and that through new institutions and a clearer sense of its political and economic strategic position in the world, the continent is taking full responsibility for preventing, managing and resolving its conflicts and promoting the economic and social development of its people. The report also made clear that the United Nations must support and reinforce Africa’s own efforts through an engagement which is proactive and aligned with the vision and the expectations of African governments, peoples and institutions. In this regard, the UN System is currently developing, in cooperation with the African Union, the Regional Economic Commissions and other partners, concrete policy proposals on how to best support Africa’s own strategies.
I should also mention that the Office is the convener of the Advocacy and Communications Cluster within the Regional Coordination Mechanism and our goal is to highlight Africa’s successes in implementing its own peace and development agenda, mobilize international support and resources and engage new partners in supporting Africa’s initiatives. Already, we are working with the Regional Economic Commissions in order to ensure their access to information and facilitate their engagement with the UN system and Member States at the Headquarters level.
OSAA has been closely following the developments in the various partnerships engaging the continent. In this regard, the Office has launched a study on Africa’s Cooperation with New and Emerging Development Partners: Options for Africa’s Development, in 2010. Further, we organized and hosted an Expert Group Meeting on Microfinance in Africa in December 2010, with a view to developing specific policy recommendations on how to harness the potential of microfinance in Africa.
Increasingly we are building partnerships and have joined forces with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)-NEPAD Investment Initiative and AU/NPCA to improve international and regional co-operation for growth and development in Africa.
Over the course of 2011, we will continue to support the efforts of African countries in setting themselves on the path of sustainable development by encouraging a coordinated and effective response by the UN system to NEPAD and promoting a supportive international framework for Africa’s development.
As every year, my Office will prepare the annual report of the Secretary General (SG) to the General Assembly on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD): Progress in implementation and International Support. The report highlights action and policy measures taken by African countries and organizations on the implementation of NEPAD. OSAA will also prepare the SG’s Report to the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC) outlining the support of the United Nations system for the implementation of NEPAD, highlighting action undertaken within the framework of the Regional Coordination Mechanism of UN agencies working in Africa.
In addition, OSAA plans to organize a panel discussion on Africa and international migration as well as a panel discussion on the International Support to the African Peer Review Mechanism.
Throughout our activities the Office of the Special Advisor on Africa stands ready to work with the African Group in Brussels, in cooperation with the AU Permanent Mission in New York, in promoting advocacy and facilitating the flow of information with UN headquarters.
If you allow me, I would now like to turn your attention to the upcoming Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries. Given that 33 of the 48 countries categorized as least developed are located in Africa, the aims and outcome of the Istanbul Conference will undoubtedly impact on the continent over the coming decade.
Both substantively and on an organizational level preparations for the UN-LDC IV are well underway. Informal consultations on the outcome document, which will comprise of a political declaration and a new programme of action, have already begun. By now, you all may have seen the draft.
The structure of the draft is basically the same as proposed by least developed countries. Most of the proposals and recommendations of LDCs are already in the draft. It also incorporates inputs from other groups and individual countries, so that they also have a buy-in into the text. Two new issues have been added under each sub-theme, such as “goals and targets” and “joint actions”. I believe that steady progress is being achieved on this issue.
Regarding the preparatory process, I am pleased to inform that a rather ambitious work plan has been executed successfully.
Firstly, I should mention that the Secretary-General’s Eminent Persons Group last week finalized their report and have concluded that given the long-standing and wide-spread challenges faced by LDCs, business-as-usual will not work. The seven-member high level panel are also of the view that “unless we address the structural weaknesses that make these countries least developed, we will not reverse their increasing marginalisation.” Contained in their report are some thought provoking ideas which will undoubtedly enrich the outcome document.
Some of you present today may have been attendance in a fair number of thematic preconference events, many of which delivered key policy recommendations for the outcome of the Istanbul Conference. Let me highlight some of the important events organised by my Office individually or in collaboration with other partners, in recent months.
The Government of India in collaboration with my office organized a Ministerial Meeting on “Harnessing the Positive Contribution of South-South Cooperation for LDCs’ Development” from 18-19 February 2011.
The event was attended by 33 Ministers and 42 Permanent Representatives and Deputy Permanent Representatives. All 48 LDCs were represented in the Meeting. During the Meeting, the Government of India announced additional support measures to LDCs. This includes First: an additional 5 scholarships every year for each LDC, Secondly: A special fund of US$5 million over the next five years for the follow-up to the Istanbul Programme of Action, and Finally: US$500 million credit line facility over the next five years for LDCs.
UN-OHRLLS and UNFCCC hosted a Pre-Conference Event on ‘Reducing Vulnerability due to Climate Change, Climate Variability and Extremes, Land Degradation and Biodiversity Loss: Environment and Development Challenges and Opportunities for LDCs’ in February in New York. At the meeting convergence emerged on a number of issues, including strengthening the capacity and resources of LDCs to mitigate, adapt to and reduce vulnerability to climate change, climate change variability, natural disasters, and land degradation. Also , it was clear that there is a need for the disbursement of necessary and committed additional funding which has been unacceptably slow.
Also in February the pre-conference event entitled “Science, Technology and Innovation: Setting Priorities, Shaping and Implementing Policies for LDCs” was held by TUBITAK and UNIDO in Istanbul, Turkey. The meeting noted that the previous Programmes of Action for the LDCs had not addressed the issue of science and technology and that it was exactly this area that could be a “game-changer” for the development of LDCs.
The idea of a Global Facility for science and technology development in LDCs was broached with the aim to help LDCs access and absorb critical technologies. The Turkish Government offered to host such a facility in Istanbul.
More recently this month the President of the UN General Assembly organized an event on ‘Investment in and financing productive capacities in LDCs’, in New York. The International Telecommunications Union also organized a well-attended meeting in Geneva entitled “Digital inclusion for Least Developed Countries: Innovation, Growth, Sustainability”.
Besides the intergovernmental track, three other major stakeholders, parliamentarians, civil society and the private sector have also engaged in the preparatory process. We have been working on establishing solid institutional basis for these three tracks which will remain involved even beyond the conference in the implementation of the new Programme of Action.
My Office is working closely with Inter-Parliamentary Union to mobilize involvement of the Parliamentarians. I had the honour to address the
123 rd meeting of the IPU and the Development Committee of the European Union Parliament.
The Civil Society Steering Committee, together with my Office, has organized a number of outreach and awareness raising activities, including a European civil society dialogue in Brussels, a high-level policy briefing in Washington D. C at the Brooking Institution and prior to my arrival in Brussels, I had the opportunity to speak at the Overseas Development Institute in London with key international development policy makers.
I would now like to briefly share with you the structure of the Conference itself. The proceedings will comprise an inaugural ceremony, plenary meetings, the committee of the whole and the high-level interactive thematic debates. Member States have already agreed on the six themes for the thematic debates, which are:
1. Resource mobilisation for LDCs’ development and global partnership
2. Enhancing productive capacities and the role of the private sector in LDCs
3. Harnessing trade for LDCs’ development and transformation
4. Human and social development, gender equality and empowerment of women
5. Reducing vulnerabilities, responding to emerging challenges, and enhancing food security in LDCs
6. Good governance at all levels
Besides the inter-governmental track, a Parliamentarian’s Forum will be organized on the day before the Conference and the Civil Society Forum will begin on May 7.
Over and above, UN Agencies, Programmes and Funds and Member States will organize a number of special events on various themes. These events cover the priority areas of LDCs and aim to produce some deliverables for the LDCs during the Conference.
On the resource mobilization front, my Office has mobilized $ 5 million for the Conference. We are funding and will continue to fund all activities planned in the preparatory process including funding the participation LDC s in the upcoming second preparatory committee meeting.
Before I conclude, I would like to emphasize the need for the highest level participation in the Conference from LDCs as well as from other developing and developed countries. The United Nations system has been using all relevant coordination mechanisms to give priority and focused attention to UN LDC IV in order to mobilize the participation from the Member States and from the international organization at the highest level.
In conclusion, I would urge upon all of you to encourage attendance at the Conference at the Heads of States or Heads of Governments level to demonstrate a strong political message on the importance of this Conference.
I thank you for your kind attention and look forward to seeing you in Istanbul.