Statement to the Informal Panel for Five Heads of State on the New Partnership of Africa's Development

16 September 2002

Your Excellencies,

I head an organization that deals with one of the thematic areas that cause a great deal of debate at the global level. We just have to remember paragraph 47 of the Plan of Implementation at the World Summit on Sustainable Development to know that. But that heated debate does not reflect itself at the country level, where we know there is much progress, many success stories and achievements, albeit we have a long way to go. I am speaking about population issues in general and reproductive health in particular.

Population is one of the themes, along with employment, that were not directly addressed by the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). But through effective partnership with the Economic Commission for AfricaInternational Labour Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization, we worked together, in an Ad Hoc Inter-Agency Working Group on Population and Employment to bring to your Excellencies' attention these two thematic areas.

We all know that, of all partners, the most critical are the African citizens themselves. The men and women in the villages and cities throughout Africa constitute the greatest resource and the greatest hope for positive change. Just as roads must be built, and water and electricity must be provided to improve physical capital, we must also build human capital in order to release the human potential for progress. We all know it is much easier to build roads and electricity networks, but it is much harder to build people. We at UNFPA are actually talking about population as it relates to poverty reduction and sustainable development, as well as its impact on the daily lives of people. We talk about saving people's lives in general, and saving women's lives in particular.

It is with great commitment that I say that UNFPA has been and remains a strong partner to Africa. The bulk of our resources are spent in Africa -- 57 per cent of our resources was spent last year in sub-Saharan Africa alone.

Your Excellencies, in order to partner with NEPAD, UNFPA looks forward to the articulation of NEPAD needs in the social sector. I am sure all of us want to give the social agenda the position it deserves in the list of priorities. Within this context, we at UNFPA are paying special attention to the conference later this year of the African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, with the expectations that the social agenda is given visibility as it relates to financial resources and economic development. We are also looking forward to the meeting of the Ministers of Health to be held in 2003, where commitment to reproductive health would be reiterated and where reproductive health services would be integrated into the vision of the right to health for all Africans.

When we talk about NEPAD, we are talking about an expression of Africa's own strategic vision. Its objectives converge with the Millennium Development Goals and with the goals of the various international conferences, and I refer here to the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). There is much common ground for cooperation that brings all of us together to implement NEPAD.

Your Excellencies, all of us have various experiences of partnering with one another, with the governments of the African region and with civil society. Through NEPAD, these various partnering experiences would lead to a stronger provision of technical assistance and capacity-building. It should also allow us to carry programmes over a broad spectrum of areas covering population and development strategies for poverty reduction, reproductive health, including HIV/AIDS prevention, gender mainstreaming and the empowerment of marginalized groups. They are all part of the one agenda that brings us together - the agenda of the rights of people in the various spheres of their lives.

The importance of such collaboration with NEPAD is not only as technical and operational goals in themselves, but also because of the need to pool our resources for maximum impact and delivery. We must work together to leverage international resources and also generate domestic means for the social agenda for the sustainability of our collective development efforts.

UNFPA collaboration with its sister agencies and common partnership with NEPAD would require and should benefit from a shared vision, a common framework and clear underlying principles to govern collaboration among partners. The desired shared vision would have to be developed, including a realignment of existing and planned programmes in order to deliver "quick wins" to NEPAD. Visible results felt by the African people themselves at the community level would send a positive expression of NEPAD's contribution to the lives of the people and its success in partnership with the international and local communities.

When NEPAD is formally taken on board by the United Nations system, it would become the framework from which we derive our strategies and programmes for partnerships. NEPAD would be assured dedicated support within the agency programming arrangements. In other words, NEPAD would be our lens for joint activities.

For us in the funds and programmes, I am sure that the United Nations Development Group, chaired by my colleague, Mark Malloch Brown, will be the appropriate mechanism to further strengthen our joint country-level work in fulfillment of NEPAD.

Your Excellencies, with the flow of financing through multilateral assistance going downward, planning together for NEPAD implementation in a sustainable, coherent and effective way is threatened. Both international and, very importantly, domestic resources need to be made available, in a stable way to allow for realistic planning and implementation.

Finally, Your Excellencies, I would ask that you take the leadership, this time as you have done many times before, in supporting issues that appear culturally sensitive but that are, in reality, a matter of life and death. We at UNFPA ask you to ensure that giving birth is a time for joy and not a sentence of death; that reproductive health of women and youth is supported by you personally. We at UNFPA ask you to reinforce the rights of people to development along with their civil rights and that they are empowered to exercise these rights. Without your personal support, the implementation of NEPAD would not move forward, I am sure.

Thank you.

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