|SOMMET D'EVIAN 2003|
by Sonali Thakkar, G8 Research Group
I am the Personal Representative on Africa for the French government and I am here to discuss NEPAD, which as you know we will be discussing in the afternoon and over dinner. I intend to tell you how the discussion looks and how were working to prepare the report. There are the heads of state and the five members of the NEPAD Steering Committee.
NEPADs profile is a changing one: it is more than just one more acronym, though public opinion might hold it to be just one more acronym. Instead, it is something really new, where for the first time in history, North and South are working together, not about the North or about Northern financing, but rather as directed by African initiatives: you cant believe how much of a difference this makes."
At Genoa, the African heads of state came to us with the conception that globalization was not a curse for them, as some had said, but rather the opposite, from which something positive could be derived. They said that they wanted to make it something positive and that if the North would not help them, they would do it themselves. The North said okay, lets try it. The APR (African Representatives) were appointed and the Africans organized themselves. At Kananaskis, we presented our plan (the Africa Action Plan): some said, okay, these are beautiful words and general commitments but . And now you ask me: what have you done? Well, in the report that we have presented to the heads of state and that they will hopefully endorse, you will be able to see what has been done.
There are specific issues that have been deemed priorities. First and foremost is the question of conflict prevention and peace. The Africans have told us that this is the most pressing concern, for without peace, nothing else is really possible. Second is good governance. The third is economic growth, particularly debt reduction and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, which need to be worked on by North and South both, in partnership. The Africans have highlighted certain MDGs as particularly important, namely a) education and the technological breakthroughs necessary to make knowledge more widely available, and b) health, particularly AIDS and polio, the latter of which wed committed to eradicate by 2005. Fourth is famine and agriculture, which again must be dealt with before economic goals can be achieved. This topic is something Europeans are really focused on, and we have to reverse the fact that aid has in the past decreased rather than increased. Finally, fifth is water, which is of crucial importance. The issue of water was especially stressed by the African leaders after Johannesburg, and an action plan on water needs to be adopted; we will not reach other goals in poverty reduction, education for girls and health for example if we dont first meet the Johannesburg goals pertaining to water.
So, we have been working with the African countries, international organizations and even other major donor countries [that are not part of the G8], and so you have to decide whether the glass is half full or half empty.
I am a field person and I really believe that something is changing, and I am convinced something is really happening. My counterpart, Professor Wiseman Nkhulu, has said about those involved in NEPAD: were a new African generation, we dont just blame colonialism for our ills but accept the responsibility for changing them.
Crucial to the success of NEPAD is the Peer Review Mechanism, with which the partners evaluate one anothers progress. 15 states have already accepted the Peer Review Mechanism and it will be significant for economics and sustainable development.
The two years since NEPADs launch have been difficult times. Between Zimbabwe, Iraq and other issues, it would have been easy to say, lets just drop NEPAD, but no, the African states have forged ahead and continued their process. Africans trust in this initiative and when I consulted with African NGOs I was told this initiative should go on.
However, we are far from having gone all the way and much more remains to be done.
A As the Africans have pointed out, 1/3 of the countries in Africa are involved in conflict. There has been progress in the cases of Sierra Leone and Angola and movement towards peace. What has been proposed to the leaders, and what they will hopefully endorse, is the establishment of an action plan covering 2003-2010. During this seven year period, we hope to equip, train and set-up an inter-African peacekeeping force which will be pre-positioned, trained to work together, and capable of providing some forecasting and conflict management. Also, we will continue the campaign against landmines and try to decrease the circulation of small arms.
A I will answer the part about agriculture, since that is what I am competent to speak on. The question of agriculture can be victimizing or beneficial. We are committed to Doha and everyone wants to make Doha a success. The French are aware of the criticisms of agricultural policies and agricultural subsidies and in answer, Chirac has proposed a reorganization so that anyone wishing to invest will know which regime applies. The instability of the prices of raw commodities is a scourge for Africa and its development and we have seen that some of the experiments of the 70s did not work. The EU as a whole has taken on this project and are now discussing this proposal, which will incept price stability and a new preference regime.
A Peer Review is crucial to Africas success. Africa is aware of our impatience to see this mechanism effectively put into action but at the same time we cant push too much because it is not for us to try to tell them how to do things or to try to teach them lessons. However, what is clear is that there has been impressive progress, both in terms of speed and the amount that has been accomplished. Our experience here in Europe shows that no matter how much they do or how fast they work, they will need time. It took France 30 years to make the changes that we needed for Europeanization and those were difficult changes to make. We cant make demands [on the Africans] after eighteen months. While the progress may appear bureaucratically weighed-down, there can be elements such as rivalries etc. which are a normal part of people working together. They have set-up and activated the institution and are committed to democracy, good governance etc.; Ghana and Uganda have volunteered to submit themselves first to the peer review process. Everything they have done makes us trust them, and we are going to aid countries based on the results of the Peer Review.
A All I can tell you about the report right now is that it is fifteen pages in length and that this partnership is barely startingit has just begun. Private investors are still very wary because of environmental concerns, red tape etc. This is a new style of partnership: less paternalistic and engaged with civil society, private companies and so on, and committed to involving everyone. I have been very struck by how seriously private corporations have taken this partnership.
A If the Africans take the step of appointing women, then certainly, France supports that. There are many capable women who could fill those positions. The topic of water is of crucial importance to womens issues and development and the Millennium Development Goals on water will only be met if women are able to get the benefits. One of the greatest injustices on the continent is that women work 15-16 hours days (whereas men work 7-8) because it is women that have to gather the water. This in turn is hugely constrains young girls chances of an education and other opportunities.
A This will be announced tomorrow and certainly, in terms of cost and in respect to ODA, we will have to abide by and in fact probably go beyond our set financing goals. There are various initiatives including in the private sector via the setting-up of financial markets. This will all require a lot of money, but there is no doubt that it will give back a great deal more.
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