Ismail Serageldin

Speeches


North Africa Regional Consultation Report

 14/12/2004 | Summing up a Lively Consultation on Africa, Alexandria, Egypt

Report on the Consultation for North Africa
Alexandria , Egypt : 14-16 December 2004

Preamble:
We the representatives of the civil society of the five north African countries, meeting in Alexandria, Egypt from 14-16 December, 2004, would like to record our views, which we hope that the Commission on Africa will duly take into account and present to the G-8 and the EU. We are grateful to the organizers of this consultation for giving us this opportunity. We hereby record these views, and the three detailed statements prepared by our three working groups, hereby attached, should be considered an integral part of this report.

First, we need to underscore the political and cultural context in which this consultation is taking place. A world in the throes of rapid transformation, with a future only dimly perceived. The post-war order is creaking and requires retooling from the security council to the Bretton Woods institutions. Yet the political will to forge the new multilateralism is lacking. Europe is busy constructing its wonderful new edifice, and the US seems intent on pursuing its own course. Yet the wisdom of the architects of the post-world-war II system needs to be reflected as we enter into the new century. We recognize our common humanity, but shy away from the consequences of accepting such a view. For surely we cannot accept that half of humanity is ill-fed, ill-housed, wracked by disease and blighted by ignorance.

Our new world is emerging by the action and the inaction of the powerful. It is one that could make a difference for so many if the powerful choose to act in those areas where they will empower the weak and marginalized to become the producers of their own bounty and welfare, not the recipients of charity or the beneficiaries of aid… Replacing despair with hope, anger with love, enmity with friendship, conflict with cooperation. Yet the world that is emerging is not like that. It is one where hate and suspicion have overtaken the urge to altruism and collaboration incited by our common humanity. Where the clash of civilizations is advanced as a substitute for the cold war. Where the misdeeds of a few are projected onto guilt by the many.

A powerful, hegemonic west, that insists on seeing us through stereotypical eyes: The Arabs and Muslims are intolerant and prone to violence and terrorism, Sub-Saharan Africa is a problem case, riven with war and littered with the corpses of well-intentioned development efforts.

For us, the arrogance of power has blinded the west to its own record of misdeeds in our region, and today, the west, smug in its rich self assurance, insensitive to our predicament, perpetuates the very conditions that prevent Africa from rising to claim its rightful place among the nations of the world.

We believe that we must strive to challenge these prejudices and stereotypes, on both sides. We believe that we will do our part and we stretch out our hands in friendship, confident that the creation of a new world order is in the interest of all.

For north Africa, also part of the Arab league, we have already sketched out a vision in the Alexandria Declaration drafted by a group of civil society leaders in this same venue last March. We hope that the Alexandria Declaration will also figure among the documents that the Commission for Africa will discuss, since two thirds of the Arab states are African states. Here we reflect on the condition of the whole continent and advance our views in that context.

Many tasks are incumbent primarily upon us. Such as increasing the participation of women in public office (although we would point out that the highest percentage, 45%, is in Rwanda, not in the west). Others can be advanced by mutual reinforcement and support: the education of girls and the empowerment of women, the expansion of tertiary education and the support of a vibrant civil society… all these and much more will be based on local initiative and will benefit from international support. But all of that can be achieved by better targeting of ODA, which we hope will be significantly increased – at least to Monterrey levels – if the world is to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Good governance within the African countries will be enhanced by our efforts, but also need internal legislation in the north that would limit the flow of arms and criminalize and prosecute trafficking in women and children, purchase of conflict diamonds, bribery or the dumping of toxic chemicals. Remember that for every African hand in such commerce there is a western hand that participates as well.

Having said that, and reiterating that the three working group reports are to be treated as an integral part of this report, we chose to concentrate in the front part of this report on the fundamental actions that we believe that the G-8 and the EU can effectively undertake and that would make a profound difference for the development of Africa.

These recommendations are organized under the headings of Economic, Social and Political.

Economic:

Trade : The Doha round is upon us. The G-8 and EU must lower tariffs and allow our exports into their markets. This starts with agriculture, where subsidies should be abolished and open frontiers should allow African exports to enter, subject only to phyto-sanitary conditions.

IPR and medicines constitute a flashpoint that enlightened self-interest should recognize require new solutions. Support the production and distribution of cheap generics manufactured in the south and clearly labeled as such to prevent leakage to the north, to promote good healthcare in our countries. In general we support the findings of the Barton Commission report on the matter of IPR and development impact.

ODA should grow considerably to reach the often promised 0.7% of GNP. The bulk of that ODA should be in grant form, and targeted to reach those who need it most. The proposal to create an International Financial Facility (IFF) should be supported. We know that without such measures, the MDG will not be met.

Debt : has been allowed to fester for far too long. The HIPC program has not had the desired effect. More radical action is required. We recommend the abolition of African debt for the poorest countries, and the transformation of the debt of all the remaining countries into domestic investments in high-priority sectors.

FDI in Africa is the lowest of all the regions in the world. Special program and facilities that would encourage such Investment in Africa, including an expansion of risk insurance coverage by public funds in the north, should be explored. Not only will FDI promote development without increasing debt, but it also is an important catalyst for technology transfer.

Technology transfer is essential if the African countries are to make adequate and efficient use of their patrimony of natural resources and human potential. Public-private partnerships that involve the north and the south should be explored to achieve as much of this as is possible in the shortest possible time. Public funding from increased ODA should help lubricate this process.

Micro-Finance programs should be supported and actively promoted. They are entrepreneurial incubators and provide the dignity of work and freedom from destitution for the very poor, especially women.

Social:

Support the health and education sectors : special emphasis needs to be placed on health and education in Africa, with a particular focus on women. Educating girls and empowering women remains the surest way to achieve societal development. The abysmal conditions that prevail in Africa are a blight on our common humanity. No area of application is more urgent than the AIDS pandemic. Redoubled efforts, not just by paying the pharmaceutical companies huge sums to allow the medicines to be distributed in Africa, but rather by allowing cheap generics of the same drugs and channeling some of these sums to research for suitable treatments. Recall that of the 1323 new medicines approved in the last 15 years, only 13 (less than 1%) were for tropical diseases.

Special programs for Science and Technology (S&T) need to be developed. The promotion of a domestic S&T capacity is a necessity not a luxury, especially in this day of burgeoning life sciences applications where adaptive research at the local level is imperative. In this important domain we support the recommendations of the Inter-Academy Council’s panel on science and technology presented earlier this year at the UN.

Digital libraries constitute an essential part of the future of Africa. This requires that we approach conditions governing copyright, digital archiving and scientific databases with a view to creating two-tier systems of access to information that would allow access to such data from developing countries for a nominal fee or for free.

Reduce the costs of connectivity, especially high-bandwidth connectivity. This will be key in overcoming the digital divide.

Political:

Support all projects that would advance transparency, accountability, pluralism, the rule of law, participation and the free flow of information. These are the wellsprings of good governance.

Encourage projects that promote regional integration rather than division. Recall that many of the political boundaries inherited from colonial days do not match natural or cultural divides.

Promote the watershed development schemes for such rivers as the Nile, the Niger and the Congo. This can best be done by providing the funding on a grant basis for the technical commission that supports the regional work, and identifying the projects in a regional context. Such projects can then be funded and executed through mechanisms that rely on the nation state where the project is located. This should also apply to infrastructure projects, including the planning and execution of trans-African rail and road links (both north/south and east/west).

Support the AU by the encouragement of African solutions to the problems that beset the regions’ warring states, or for those states that are suffering severe internal strife. This will require providing catalytic external support to African mediation efforts, and strengthening the African peace-keeping force (which requires substantial financial, technical and logistical support to be effective).

Recognize that the wars in Africa are fuelled by external arms, and that such arms must be stopped at the source not just decried at the recipient end. Conflict diamonds have purchasers in the north as well as sellers from the south.

Ensure the role of women in all stages of the peace making to peace building process in keeping with UNSC Resolution 1325, for they are the artisans of social capital, and they heal the nation’s wounds and nurture society’s spirit and its cooperative foundations.

Strengthen the NEPAD with its Peer Review Mechanism, as the legitimate way in which to ensure that the Africans are taking charge of the priorities of the development assistance that flows to Africa.

Conclusions:

he ideas sketched out above are but the high points of how to improve a complex set interrelations that have often been characterized by paternalism and need to develop into partnership. We sincerely hope that the Commission will set up a follow up mechanism to ensure that this report is not just another document that is piously quoted, and that real actions follow up on good intentions. We are ready to do our part. We look to the condition of Africa and insist that it must be improved. The task is not beyond us. It can be done. It must be done. It will be done.


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