Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa
Remarks by Mr. Achim Steiner UNDP Administrator and the Vice-Chair of the UN Sustainable Development Group - United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Addis Ababa.
As prepared for delivery.
Her Excellency, Sahle-Work Zewde, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
His Excellency, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the AU Commission
His Excellency, Ambassador Elsadig Bahelt Elfaki Abdalla, Chair of the 51st session of the Commission and Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Sudan to the African Union and ECA
Ms. Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the UNECA
Senior Officials of Government of Ethiopia present,
Representatives from Partner Agencies,
UN Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great honour to be part of this celebration. This day is for all of us, citizens of every member state of African Continent, and the multi-lateral institutions – the African Union, the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) , the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the and other African Economic Communities – to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. I am very pleased to know that today we are celebrating not only the achievements of the past, but also the UNECA’s commitment to nurture a new culture of innovation.
Africa remains a continent of many opportunities, with its vast mineral wealth, youthful population and largely unexploited natural resources – the next frontier of development is certainly on this continent because inspite of the opportunities, challenges abound. The continent still has up to 330 million of its population living in poverty; up to 60% of its young people without jobs, has huge infrastructure deficits of up to $93 billion a year that is holding the continent back among many other development ills. Our success as the UN Development System and collaborators will be measured against progress on this continent. I am pleased to note that ECA and a majority of other UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes, including UNDP - has Africa as their priority. The future of development is on this continent.
Precisely, therefore, the UN Development Programme celebrates with the Economic Commission for Africa, our strategic partnerships in the region for sustainable economic development of Africa continent, for advancement of the African continent as a resilient community and for the well-being and prosperity of all African people.
The success of the recent annual African Economic Conference 2018 which took place in Kigali, Rwanda from 3 – 5 December which had a focus on Regional and Continental Integration for Africa’s Development, is an example of our long-standing collaboration on key development issues on the continent. The conference brought together 400 participants and reaffirmed economic integration as a game-changer and accelerator for sustainable inclusive development and the reduction of poverty in all its forms. It is pleasing to note that the conference also provided a platform for broadening collaboration in other areas of our work on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063. To this end, the 2018 Africa Sustainable Development Report themed “Towards a Transformed and Resilient Continent” was also launched. The report was prepared jointly by the AUC, African Development Bank, the UNECA and UNDP as part of our partnership in monitoring progress on the global and continental development frameworks. UNDP on it part, is committed to deepening its engagement with ECA and other regional partners to ensure implementation of recommendations from our joint conferences and publications.
As you are already aware, the United Nations-African Union Joint Framework on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 was finalised in January 2018 and the Action Plan adopted in June 2018. It is an exceptional achievement in the history of UN collaboration in the region; it is an instrument that has laid foundations for enhanced UN-AUC partnership for several decades to come. I am happy to note that previously, UNDP has collaborated with UNECA and AUC on trade issues including providing support to Regional Economic Communities to establish sustainable trade policy analysis capacity. UNDP also worked jointly with AU and African Trade and Policy Center of the UNECA to finalize Action Plans on Boosting intra-Africa Trade (BIAT) in Gabon, Botswana, Tanzania, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Zambia, creating enabling environment for the regional integration and innovation to take off.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today we operate in a turbulent and complex world where multilateralism is under stress; but development carries a cost, and the high ambitions of the SDGs carry a big price tag. The global community has acknowledged that the old ways of financing development are simply not fit for this new purpose and that we all need to think and do business differently. In the current time, many African countries are faced with unprecedented humanitarian crises, which require us to focus on intricate cross-border, transboundary issues. Most of crises in Africa are conflict induced, and in order to effectively tackle the interrelated humanitarian-development challenges facing the continent, there is a need to enhance humanitarian, development and peace nexus.
As the UN System, there is a need to look beyond our individual agencies and mandates to support Africa towards peace and economic prosperity, which is inclusive and reaches to all, especially the most vulnerable people on the continent. In this noble effort, the UN and the African Union have partnered to explore innovative approaches to address multiple, pressing and inter-related challenges of the continent, including by enhancing the nexus between humanitarian actions and development work.
We are aware that the challenges of violent conflicts and its impact on socio-economic development in Africa has remained a daunting task. Countries coming out of conflict must take measures that seek to consolidate peace and prevent relapse to violence, promote sustainable, inclusive and equitable development and pave the way for growth and regeneration. Countries currently in conflict/crises situation, will require an integrated approach to peace, security and stability by implementing relief, rehabilitation, post conflict reconstruction, security and development at the same time. This is aligned with the African Union’s aspirations and priorities as highlighted in Agenda 2063 and in the 2015 Common African Position (CAP) on Humanitarian Effectiveness. The successful high-level event on the New Way of Working in the margins of the last General Assembly, is an example of UNDP-AUC collaboration to galvanise partnership for ‘whole of society’ approach in our efforts to save lives, reduce risks and promote inclusive growth in the continent.
I am confident that the AU reforms, including the conversion of NEPAD into the AU Development Agency and the establishment of African Humanitarian Agency, will provide a unique opportunity to further consolidate our partnership to assist the African Union to drive forward the goal of sustainable solutions to Africa’s humanitarian and development needs. Our partnership will build on ongoing UNDP-African Union flagship regional initiatives, including Acceleration and Domesticating of African Union Treaties that focuses on enhancing AUC technical expertise to assist countries for ratification of the continental treaties, protocols and conventions. Other initiatives are aimed at promoting structural economic transformation and governance; fostering gender equality and women’s political and economic empowerment; improving resilience to shocks and threats; and promoting sustainable development goals and south-south cooperation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The coordination and collaboration are vital because approaching Member States separately on similar issues imposes high transaction costs and weakens national capacities. We need to be enablers for country level action and not inhibitors. Regular exchange of information, coordinated joined-up analysis drawing from system-wide expertise, and coherent UN planning and programming are key elements of our collective success.
Already, the synergies between the institutions’ mandates including successful collaboration between UN ECA and UNDP at regional and country levels, have supported initiatives around domesticating Africa’s Mining Vision, Continental Free Trade at the regional level, and preparing country diagnostics on Structural Transformation in Uganda. Building on these successes, we will further consolidate our partnership in support of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the 2063 Agenda of Africa.
First, UNDP looks forward to an enhanced technical and financial collaboration with the UN ECA and AU towards supporting countries in the region, particularly in the areas of governance, environment and climate change agenda, peace building, conflict resolution and building resilient communities. There are many streams of work, individually and collectively that we can build on, for Africa’s development.
Second, we are looking forward to more robust mechanisms for coordinating, tracking and sharing experiences in the implementation of the action plan especially in such areas as innovative development financing mechanisms, boosting intra-African trade, migration, preventing violent extremism, inclusive and equitable growth and sustainable industrialisation. I am aware of UN ECA’s novel work on Illicit Financial flows as part of the Addis Ababa Agenda for Action with estimated losses of up to $50 billion dollars a year. This work is complemented by our own work on domestic resource mobilisation through the Tax Inspectors Without Borders Initiative (TIWB) which has so far mobilised up to $244 million for Africa alone. Such innovative work needs to be commended and deepened through partnerships arrangements that we have between ourselves.
Third, I look forward to extending the support of the UN Sustainable Development Group to the UN ECA on its strategic re-positioning in the current UN reforms context and Africa continent’s development landscape.
A big congratulation to UN ECA and its team for outstanding 60 years, and best wishes for excellent partnerships, fostering innovation and prosperity in Africa!