28th Plenary Meeting of General Assembly 71st Session

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14-Oct-2016 03:12:29
Speakers warned the General Assembly that poor infrastructure and trade barriers still hampered Africa’s development, at 28th meeting of the 71st session.

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Pledging to support an Africa that was stable, prosperous and at peace with itself, speakers today warned the General Assembly that poor infrastructure and trade barriers still hampered the continent’s development, while challenges such as “brain drain” and terrorism threatened to reverse significant gains made since the turn of the millennium.

Indeed, a decade and a half into the African Union’s “New Partnership on Africa’s Development” (NEPAD), many delegates said more robust international cooperation was needed to help the continent achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and overcome the lingering effects of centuries of colonial exploitation.

Peter Thomson, President of the General Assembly, opening the meeting, said that while Africa’s growth remained strong, unfavourable global conditions, such as volatile commodity prices, limited economic diversification and high levels of debt, risked undermining hard-fought development gains. “Tackling these issues will require efforts by both African countries and development partners,” he said, calling on stakeholders to strengthen capacity-building and increase investment in infrastructure, health services, agricultural productivity and education.

Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development Agency, declared that “the African continent is demonstrating that it is capable of economic, political and social transformation.” Among other things, he described the Agency’s efforts to boost African infrastructure development, engage the private sector and promote agriculture and rural development. Noting that the continent’s lack of economic opportunities were leading young people to search for more prosperous futures elsewhere, he outlined programmes aimed at building innovative skills among young Africans.

A number of speakers pointed to trade as an important opportunity arena for Africa’s future growth. In that vein, the representative of Niger, who spoke on behalf of the African Group, said many of the continent’s recent development projects had been fuelled by the 2015 signing of a Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement between three subregional economic communities. While the continent had embarked on the domestication of the Sustainable Development Goals, he stressed that “no country or organization can hope to meet these challenges alone” and emphasized the importance of multi-stakeholder dialogue.

Thailand’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said African countries were among those most severely affected by global economic challenges and must have access to adequate and predictable resources to address poverty and hunger. Resources must be mobilized in financing, trade, debt relief and transfer of environmentally sound technologies, he said.

Other delegates drew attention to terrorism as one of the greatest threats facing Africa today, with Israel’s representative pointing to the phenomenon as one of the common struggles his country shared with its African neighbours. Noting that long-term development and prosperity could not be achieved without stability, he emphasized the need to combat terrorism and pledged to share his country’s knowledge and experience with Africa.

Cuba’s representative, recalling centuries of colonialism and looting, emphasized that developed nations bore a “moral obligation” to support Africa. To this day, she said, some nations saw the continent as nothing more than a source of resources. “We must get rid of the philosophy of plunder and gain at all costs,” she stressed, adding that the world’s current economic policies and unbridled waves of privatization, together with the neoliberal colonial policies of developed nations, were responsible for Africa’s precarious current situation.

For its joint discussion on Africa’s development and the related item “2001-2010: Decade to Roll Back Malaria in Developing Countries, Particularly in Africa”, the Assembly had before it three reports of the Secretary-General: New Partnership for Africa’s Development: fourteenth consolidated progress report on implementation and international support (document A/71/189); biennial report of the review of the implementation of the commitments made toward Africa’s development (document A/71/203); and causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa (document A/71/211-S/2016/655).

Also speaking on those items today were the representatives of Guyana (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Brunei Darussalam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), United States, Kuwait, Russian Federation, India, Nigeria, Libya, Morocco, Egypt, France, Sierra Leone, Canada, South Africa, Kazakhstan, Cameroon and Zambia.

At the meeting’s outset, Girma Asemrom Tesfay, the late Permanent Representative of Eritrea, who recently passed away, was remembered by colleagues.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recalled Mr. Tesfay as a “masterful diplomat” and negotiator who had helped to foster greater coordination between the Organization and Eritrea. Meanwhile, Mr. Thomson described the diplomat as a dedicated public servant who had represented Eritrea before the African Union, European Union, Belgium, Canada, Ethiopia, South Africa and the United States.

Eritrea’s representative said Mr. Tesfay had been an accomplished and tireless fighter for his people and a champion for fairness and justice for all.

Also expressing condolences were the representatives of Niger (on behalf of the African States), Georgia (on behalf of Eastern European States), United Kingdom (on behalf of Western European and Other States), Kuwait (on behalf of Asia-Pacific States) and the United States (as host country).

In other business today, Lois Michele Young (Belize), General Assembly Vice-President, drew the body’s attention to a note by the Secretary-General (document A/71/396) related to a vacancy resulting from the 30 September 2016 resignation of George Bartsiotas (United States) from the Joint Inspection Unit, in which she requested the President to submit a candidate’s name to the Assembly for appointment after consultations with Member States. Further to that matter, the Assembly decided to fill the vacancy for term of office beginning on 1 January 2017, and expiring on 31 December 2021.
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