The UN Convenes ‘unprecedented’ Meeting to Boost African Development
With the whole of sub-Saharan Africa currently off track for meeting a single one of the ambitious goals the world has set itself for slashing poverty, hunger, disease and illiteracy by 2015, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is convening an unprecedented meeting of development leaders on Friday to put the continent back on the rails to progress. The MDG Africa Steering Group was set up by Mr. Ban after a report in June showed that despite faster growth and strengthened institutions, Africa at its present rate would fail to achieve any of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the UN Millennium Summit in 2000.
“It is an unprecedented gathering bringing together the heads, the apex I would say, of the entire international development system,” UN Development Programme (UNDP) official Guido Schmidt-Traub told a news briefing today.
The inaugural meeting will bring together leaders from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission, the African Union, the African Development Bank, the UN Development Group, which is chaired by UNDP, and the Islamic Development Bank.
The meeting will focus on three objectives: the international system’s support for African governments in implementing practical programmes to achieve the MDGs in five areas – health, education, infrastructure, agriculture and food security; the need to ensure aid predictability so that African governments can plan years ahead for additional hospitals, schools and training doctors, teachers and nurses; and enhancing collaboration among the Group’s members at the country level.
Mr. Schmidt-Traub noted that the June report highlighted some of the success stories coming out Africa. “There are actually quite a few,” he said. “That is the good news and the challenge now is to scale up these success stories, and that can be done simply by implementing existing commitments.
“The key message today is that existing commitments if fully implemented are enough and sufficient to achieve the MDGs in the whole of Africa and so the focus now has to be squarely on implementation,” he added.
In all cases, the concerted follow-through needs to be broader, more effective and scaled up, he stressed. “The meeting itself will focus on getting a fuller understanding of the objectives and then really deciding on how to follow through,” he said.
The follow-through will be led by a second group called the MDG Africa Working Group, led by the Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, which will meet for the first time on 20 September, involving senior operational leaders of the Group’s organizations plus other bodies such as the 30-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) of industrialized, market-economy countries.
Successes cited by the June report included the expanded AIDS treatment, increased agricultural productivity, rising school enrolment and access to water and sanitation.
These “demonstrate that rapid progress is possible when sound national policies are met with full support, including increased development assistance, from the international system,” the Group said in a media advisory.
Stressing the need for predictability in aid, it noted that although the G8 summit of industrial nations in 2005 promised to increase Official Development Assistance to Africa to $50 billion annually by 2010, African countries still do not know how this promise will translate into their country-level budgeting flows.