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Message-Id: <v01530501ae0bc2617054@[]>
Date: Fri, 12 Jul 1996 08:52:23 -0500 (EST)
Sender: owner-nuafrica@listserv.acns.nwu.edu
From: M_Bastian@ACAD.FANDM.EDU (Misty Bastian)
To: "NUAFRICA: Program of African Studies Mailing List" <nuafrica@listserv.acns.nwu.edu>
Subject: Africa: UN Special Initiative

Date: Thu, 11 Jul 1996 19:10:20 -0500
From: apic@igc.apc.org
Subject: Africa: UN Special Initiative
To: apic@igc.org

A new impetus for African development

By Margaret A. Novicki, Africa Recovery,
May 1996 Special Issue

The Special Initiative aims to improve access to basic education and primary health care

Agencies of the UN system have begun devising implementation strategies for the Special Initiative on Africa, a multi-million dollar, decade-long programme to maximize support for African development which was launched by Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali on 15 March.

The Initiative, which commits the UN agencies and the Bretton Woods institutions to working together in a coordinated and synergistic fashion behind Africa's priorities, is the UN's most significant mobilization of international support for development in one world region.

It represents "a new approach to development cooperation which is goal-driven and which is focused on collaboration among all the donors for particular country-defined objectives," said Mr. James Gustave Speth, Administrator of the UN Development Programme and co-chair of the Special Initiative Steering Committee. The committee met in Nairobi in late April to begin to address implementation and resource mobilization for the Special Initiative's 14 components.

The Initiative devotes the bulk of its resources to expanding basic education and improving health care in Africa. It also focuses on promoting peace and better governance, improving water and food security, increasing the continent's competitiveness in world trade, and making available new information technology.

"All the agencies have worked well together to map out and allocate our tasks for the coming l0-year programme," said Mr. K.Y. Amoako, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa and co-chairman of the Steering Committee. "Our guidelines are laid out. We begin this campaign with a clear vision of how it will strengthen the capacity of African societies and economies for real growth," he said.

Give development a chance

The Special Initiative's components are based on four themes reflecting Africa's development priorities as expressed in the Organization of African Unity's (OAU) 1995 Cairo Agenda for action.

The first theme consists of actions which are required to create a conducive climate for development. In those countries wracked by war, conflict resolution, national reconciliation and peace-building must be addressed first before any discussion of development can take place. To support the peace process in Africa, the Special Initiative will:

  • strengthen the OAU's capacity to engage in conflict prevention, management and resolution;
  • strengthen selected organs of civil society engaged in peacebuilding and the promotion of human rights and democracy; and
  • promote the use of the mass media, particularly radio broadcasting, to support peacebuilding and political participation.

    At a time when official development assistance (ODA) is on the decline, the Special Initiative seeks to encourage the release of more resources for Africa's development through a combination of action and advocacy involving African and donor countries and institutions and the UN system itself. To assist in mobilizing the continent's internal resources, the Initiative will focus on improving revenue collection and domestic savings and investment. The financial intermediation system will also be strengthened for beffer resource allocation, and information technology for development will be promoted to improve links between African countries, its subregions and the rest of the world.

    The Initiative will also strive to galvanize external support for Africa's economic transition by:

    • encouraging multilateral and bilateral creditors to reduce Africa's external debt burden and make it more sustainable; encouraging African countries to manage their debt more effectively; and encouraging the UN system, with the Secretary General's leadership, to have a more integrated and active strategy on African debt;
    • helping to lessen Africa's aid dependency by expanding trade access, diversifying export opportunities, boosting the inflows of foreign direct investment, and increasing the continent's capacity to compete in the international economy; and
    • enhancing South-South cooperation and partnerships in trade, finance, production and services, particularly through stronger private sector linkages.

    Hope for the coming generation

    The major thrust of the Special Initiative, involving its largest resource commitment, is on greatly increasing the provision of basic education and health care so that African children will have improved opportunities for the future. Accomplishment of these goals will also have a positive impact on the empowerment of women and hence on development through a more manageable population growth-rate and enhanced human welfare.

    The Special Initiative will conduct a 10-year effort to ensure basic education for all children, with a special emphasis on girls, and literacy and numeracy for women. Evidence has shown that basic education is the best possible development investment, strongly correlated to greater participation in democracy, more productive farmers, better family planning and higher incomes. The World Bank will lead in the financial mobilization of this component, which, at between $12.5 bn and $15.5 bn, is the Initiative's largest.

    The Bank and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization have already organized consultations on the education sector with African governments and donors, and the Donor Association for African Education is preparing a proposal on its role in support of the Initiative.

    The Initiative will also include a campaign to reform the health sector, which will involve boosting the capacity of Africa's health systems to reduce, on a sustainable basis, the most common causes of morbidity and mortality. The coverage, quality and access to primary health care services will be expanded specially targeting the most common preventable and/or treatable diseases.

    Coordination meetings on the health sector have been convened in Brazzaville, Congo, by the World Health Organization's regional office for Africa, and a preliminary health strategy has been mapped out. WHO has invited the other cooperating agencies in the health sector to devise an implementation strategy.

    The Initiative also addresses poverty reduction by the promotion of employment and sustainable livelihoods, with efforts concentrated on the informal sector, which employs about 60 per cent of Africa's labour force, and on environmentally marginal areas.

    Strengthening governance

    African leaders' efforts to improve governance will be bolstered under the Initiative by supporting Africa's civil service to better manage development, helping build independent judicial systems, supporting the functioning of parlia- meets and electoral processes, and making public administration more accountable. The Initiative will also seek to strengthen the capacities of civil society to be more active in development and policy-making, including peace-building and conflict resolution.

    Urgency on survival

    Africa faces a formidable challenge in balancing the interrelated issues of food production, population growth and protection of its fragile environment from further damage. The Initiative places special emphasis on the need to control land degradation and desertification, encourage irrigation, improve soil quality, and support the role of women in food production. It also focuses on providing safe water for drinking and sanitation.

    Consultations have begun among the cooperating agencies on defining a strategy and outlining proposals for implementation of the water component, and a framework for action and a workplan will be presented to the Steering Committee. And the working group on food production will soon finalize its implementation strategy.

    Resource mobilization

    The Initiative's components are of two types: those which require substantial resource mobilization and implementation and those which call primarily for a strengthening and rationalization of existing efforts. The cumulative financial resources required over a 10-year period are estimated at up to $25 bn, most of which will come from a redirection of existing resources in African national budgets and reallocations of existing levels of multilateral and bilateral ODA.

    To this end, the Initiative contains three new mechanisms which are designed to help rationalize development assistance to Africa and maximize its impact. First, multilateral and bilateral donors will create goal-oriented regional forums to raise resources for key sectors. Second, African governments will prepare goal-oriented country investment programrnes to maximize the impact of resource mobilization. Third, participation in Consultative Group and Roundtable meetings is to be broadened to include non-traditional partners, such as leaders of business and civil society.

    The Initiative also recommends other ways of releasing funds for development, including deeper debt relief, an expansion of Africa's trade opportunities, and enhanced South-South cooperation.

    This all-encompassing effort to enhance Africa's development possibilities will require strong international support-and an effective partnership with donor countries and institutions-to achieve its goals, say UN agency officials. A one-year mobilization of political support has hence been launched to raise Africa's priority status on the international agenda.

    "We will all be making a concerted effort over the coming year through a series of parallel initiatives to elevate the attention [paid to] Africa on the international agenda and to mobilize additional support for Africa and for this Initiahve," said Mr. Speth, UNDP Administrator.

    Note: The May 1996 issue also contains other articles on the Special Initiative, on the Global Coalition for Africa, and other topics, including Zaire, Burkina Faso, AIDS, debt, and UNCTAD IX. Africa Recovery is not yet available on-line. Annual subscriptions are available to individuals for $20 and institutions for $35. A limited number of complimentary subscriptions are available for those without means to pay. Contact Editor, Africa Recovery, Room S-931, United Nations, NY 10017 USA. Tel: (212) 963-6857; fax: (212) 963-4556; e-mail: unafrica@undp.org.

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