Annan welcomes UK Commission on Africa report as important contribution to solutions

UN News Service (New York)
March 11, 2005

The report from Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa will be an important addition to the ongoing search for solutions to “the foremost development challenge facing the international community,” United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.

It will also be of assistance as he writes his own report on the implementation of the Millennium Declaration, a UN General Assembly document aimed at accelerating socio-economic development, he said in a statement after the British Government sent him a copy of the Commission’s report.

The 17-member Commission urges donor countries to increase the present assistance to Africa to $25 billion in phases and African Governments to increase economic growth, allowing them to provide $12.5 billion from their own revenues.

Calling for the abolition of unpayable debts, the 453-page report says the fight against “systemic” corruption should be strengthened through good governance, which in turn would reduce the scope for corruption and the funds that corrupt African dictators have deposited in the banks of developed countries should be returned to the countries of origin.

“The amount stolen and now held in foreign banks is equivalent to more than half of the continent’s external debt,” it says, quoting a European study.

“Rich countries have recognized the importance of the issue, and have made commitments, such as that made by G-8 countries at Kananaskis (Canada) in June 2002; but the amount of stolen money returned to African countries is still relatively small,” it says.

The report responds to Africa’s call for help in dealing with the rapid urbanization spotlighted especially by one Commissioner, Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), who served on the panel in her personal capacity.

It says Africa would need $50 billion by 2010, of which $20 billion should go to ports, roads, telecommunications and other infrastructure.

Another Commissioner, K.Y. Amoako, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) who also served in his personal capacity, said in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that the report acknowledged “the legacy of colonialism (as well as) the damaging impact of the structural adjustment years” imposed by international financial institutions (IFIs).

In addition, there was “the odious debt built up by irresponsible borrowing and irresponsible lending, the aid that was more designed to help wealthy donors than the poor recipients and the Cold War’s fuelling of African conflicts and backing for dictators who were hostile to their own people,” he said.

“No one doubts that African governments have made serious mistakes,” Mr. Amoako said, “but they have also repeatedly faced obstacles placed in their path by the rich world. And this must change if there is to be any progress.”

The report calls for actions to strengthen Africa’s conflict prevention and peacekeeping capacities, especially through the African Union, “to enable the AU to act quickly and effectively to prevent and resolve violent conflict.”

Welcoming the report, the Global Fund for to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, one of Mr. Annan’s initiatives, noted that the Commission calls for substantial new “investments in people,” both by donors and by African nations themselves, and calls on the world’s rich countries to fully finance the Global Fund.

At the Fund’s replenishment conference, scheduled to take place next week in Stockholm, Sweden, donors will entertain requests for $2.3 billion in 2005, $3.5 billion in 2006 and $3.6 billion 1n 2007.

“We welcome the priority that the Commission for Africa has given to providing insecticide-treated bed nets and effective malaria drugs, as well as drastically scaling up the battle against HIV/AIDS. These are key elements in the core business of the Global Fund,” said Fund Executive Director Richard Feachem.

Categories: Africa, Odious Debts

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