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19 September, 2008


The United Nations humanitarian relief chief made a passionate plea today for more funding to avoid a famine in the Horn of Africa on the scale witnessed in the 1980s.

The Horn of Africa is facing a humanitarian crisis, with as many as 17 million people, including 3 million children, in urgent need of food and other critical assistance over the coming months, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes told the press in New York.

“The overall food security situation in the Horn of Africa – Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, parts of northern Kenya and north-eastern Uganda – is getting even more serious than it was before because of the combined effects of drought, rising food prices and in some places conflict,” said Mr. Holmes.

“This number could rise if the drought deepens and the hunger season continues,” added Mr. Holmes, who is also Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Coordinator of the High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis.

Mr. Holmes urged the donors and Member States to finance the $716 million shortfall in the emergency funding needed to provide the food and pay for the emergency relief effort, including medium-term agricultural recovery, for the rest of this year.

“What we need is more funds and more funds now. Otherwise the situation will become even more catastrophic than it is today,” Mr. Holmes urged. “We do need extra resources very quickly indeed if we are to avoid going back to famine situations [similar to the 1980s and 1990s].

“In particular in the Somali region of Ethiopia where the rains have failed for the third successive year. People there talk to me in desperation about the worst situation since 1928 when the whole of their livestock died.”

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Resolute leadership is needed to transform existing commitments to meet African development needs into action, a senior United Nations official has stressed, days before a major United Nations General Assembly gathering on the issue.

Under-Secretary-General Cheick Sidi Diarra, the UN Special Adviser on Africa, told a press conference yesterday that Monday’s high-level meeting in New York on African development is expected to be attended by representatives of more than 160 countries, including many world leaders.

He said the meeting should serve to help streamline actions and upgrade priorities towards the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the internationally agreed plan to help improve the continent’s economic performance.

Mr. Diarra warned that Africa’s economic development still faces enormous obstacles, including violent conflict, internal public mismanagement and, in some cases, a lack of international support.

Her added that “resolution and leadership [is needed] to turn existing African and international commitments into results,” urging the international community to show greater support. Many countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, are lagging in the race to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – such as the halving of extreme poverty – by the target date of 2015.

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23 July, 2008


The importance of African development and finding ways to reach the globally approved anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were under the spotlight during talks today between General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim and Guinea’s Planning and Cooperation Minister Djigui Camara.

Mr. Camara stressed the need to advance on the commitments made by United Nations Member States to achieving the MDGs, such as by exploring innovative ways of mobilizing resources, according to a statement released by Mr. Kerim’s spokesperson after the meeting in New York.

Mr. Kerim noted that the Assembly’s current session has a strong focus on development, with the MDGs and financing for development being among the main priority issues. The current global food and energy crisis is also being closely examined.

Mr. Kerim also drew attention to the Assembly high-level meeting on African development, scheduled for 22 September, and a separate leaders’ summit later that week on the MDGs, jointly organized by the Assembly President and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

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10 March, 2008


Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged scaled-up action – including raising agricultural productivity across Africa – so that the continent can meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the target date of 2015.

This year could be “the year of opportunity for the ‘Bottom Billion,’” Mr. Ban told reporters after chairing the second meeting of the so-called MDG Africa Steering Group in New York. “Tremendous gains are possible if the international community translates commitment to deliverables.”

He pointed to examples of achievements made, such as Malawi’s lowering of child mortality rates, Senegal’s accomplishments in enhancing its water and sanitation facilities and Tanzania’s improvements in primary education. “The challenge is now to replicate these successes in more countries,” he observed.

Today’s meeting identified several key programmes that need to be implemented by African nations, with assistance from the international community, in the near future, including launching an African “Green Revolution” to speed up economic growth and tackle hunger; controlling infectious diseases by providing comprehensive AIDS treatment by 2010 and bringing malaria mortality rates close to zero by 2012; and ensuring emergency obstetric care for all women by 2015.

The Secretary-General noted that there are several pressing challenges, especially that of rising food prices. It is essential to raise the productivity of farmers while also mobilizing resources to combat malnutrition and hunger, he said, adding that $500 million is required to meet the “most urgent needs.”

He voiced hope that the Group’s recommendations would spur action on the part of world leaders and encourage them to focus on specific steps that need to be agreed upon to reach development targets.

“We see a lot of leadership from African governments on these issues, and we are committed to working with them to support the design and implementation of country-led strategies and programmes,” he said.

Mr. Ban noted that on 25 September, he and the General Assembly President will convene a high-level meeting on the MDGs bringing together world leaders, civil society and the private sector. He voiced hope that this upcoming gathering will “make a real difference in bridging the implementation gap.”

Speaking to the press after the meeting, the Secretary-General also highlighted the role of the “digital divide,” noting the possibility that African countries lacking information technology capacity may “lag behind more and more.”

The MDG Africa Steering Group was set up last September after data showed that despite faster growth and strengthened institutions, Africa remains off-track to meeting the targets.

Also participating in today’s meeting were: Donald Kaberuka of the African Development Bank; Alpha Oumar Konaré of the African Union (AU); Robert Zoellick of the World Bank; Louis Michel of the European Commission; Dominique Strauss-Kahn of the International Monetary Fund (IMF); Mohammed Ennifar of the Islamic Development Bank; and Angel Gurría of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

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23 January, 2008


Security conditions in Kenya are deteriorating rapidly, according to United Nations officials who report that more than a dozen civilians have been killed in political violence, and 70 houses burned, in the past 24 hours.

The Government estimates that 685 people have been killed in the violence, which first erupted in the East African nation a few weeks ago after Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner over opposition leader Raila Odinga in December elections. The crisis has also forced some 255,000 to flee their homes.

According to UN security officials, seven people were killed in Kipkelion and 70 houses burned in the Aldai area of Rift Valley province. In addition, five people were shot dead and 30 shops burned in Trans Nzioa, while four people were killed in Korogocho, Huruma and Mathare slums.

Meanwhile, UN agencies have completed an assessment tour of internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in the town of Molo, where they found an urgent need for shelter, blankets, water and sanitation.

The UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) sent teams out to several towns, including Nairobi and Eldoret, to assess damaged homes, and verify the number of persons and conditions in IDP camps, as well as review water and sanitation needs.

There is reportedly a scarcity of cooking fuel in several IDP camps, according to the UN Country Team, which noted that IDPs in Eldoret have begun burning construction material for cooking.

Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has continued its immunization campaign against measles and polio in all the IDP camps. And, working with Kenyan authorities, the World Food Programme (WFP) has finalized a new distribution plan to assist some 67,000 people affected and displaced by the crisis in the Rift Valley.

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5 November, 2007


New York, Nov 5 2007 3:00PM United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro today urged all countries to come together in support of development initiatives for Africa.

“What is needed most now is to translate the current consensus on meeting the special needs of Africa into concrete and actionable sets of measures which would help transform people’s lives in the short and long term, she said in an address to the 8th Regional Consultation Meeting of UN Agencies and Organizations working in Africa in support of the African Union and NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, a strategic framework for the continent’s renewal adopted in 2001.

Appealing for a “positive spirit of inter-agency collaboration and partnership in support of the African Union and NEPAD,” she said all possible resources must be galvanized to support Africa’s development.

“When our many assets are brought into an integrated and more effective whole, the United Nations can better support post-conflict reconstruction efforts as well as the efforts of African States to achieve durable peace, sustainable development and human rights for all their people,” Ms. Migiro said.

She hailed the meeting’s theme – “Post-conflict reconstruction: UN coordination efforts in Southern Sudan, Burundi and Sierra Leone” – pointing out that rebuilding is key to stability.

“To prevent a relapse into conflict, it is crucial that the affected populations experience a real ‘peace dividend,’ that people’s living conditions be improved, that national capacities be strengthened at all levels,” she said.

Many African States have made good progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (>MDGs), she said, while cautioning that the continent is not on track to reach the anti-poverty targets, which were adopted at a 2000 summit with a completion date of 2015.

“Achieving the Goals requires a strengthened global partnership. It demands shared responsibility, including on the part of the United Nations system,” she said, calling for developed and developing countries alike to make good on their commitments.

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4 April, 2007


A multi-dimensional international force could be deployed to the troubled northeast of the Central African Republic (CAR) without the approval of neighbouring Chad, which is beset by its own civil strife, the United Nations’ top humanitarian official said today.

But John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told the Security Council that some sort of international presence is also vital in eastern Chad, where hundreds of thousands of refugees from the CAR and Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region, as well as internally displaced persons (IDPs), are living.

The CAR has said it supports the arrival of an international force to try to stabilize its northeast, where almost 300,000 villagers have become displaced in the past year because of clashes between rebels and Government forces and the torching of numerous towns and villages by rebels.

Many Central Africans have been forced to live in the bush out of concerns for their safety if they stay in villages or camps.

Mr. Holmes – who is also the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator – later told reporters that Chadian officials have said that while they are willing to have international gendarmes or police in the east of the country, they are not so enthusiastic about a foreign military presence.

“The position of the UN, as you know, is that you can’t have one without the other – that military protection is needed,” Mr. Holmes said.

He added that there was widespread support within the Security Council for an international force to be deployed in eastern Chad and the CAR, and said he hoped that discussions between Council members and the Chadian Government on this issue advance quickly.

The Under-Secretary-General was briefing the Council today on his observations from his recent two-week trip to Sudan, Chad and the CAR, where three separate conflicts are threatening to spill into each other.

“The humanitarian situation in all three countries is truly alarming,” Mr. Holmes said, adding that conditions were deteriorating despite the persistent efforts of UN humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Relief operations have become extremely fragile, especially in Darfur, because of increasing direct attacks on aid workers, mainly by rebels.

Mr. Holmes stressed to the Council that “in each country the fundamental and crying need is above all for political solutions brought about through dialogue and mediation.”

He said there was a clear regional aspect to the conflicts, especially in the spill over from the Darfur crisis to eastern Chad, where hundreds of thousands of Darfur refugees are living in camps.

But “there is a clearly internal aspect to each conflict too, tempting though it is for the governments concerned to shift all the blame on to Darfur. In other words, there have to be national solutions in additional to the regional approach.”

The worsening situation across the entire north of the CAR has also alarmed the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which yesterday called for more than $5 million in urgent funds to prevent a “humanitarian disaster” from emerging.

Four out of every 10 Central African children are malnourished, the abuse of women and children is widespread, and the recruitment of child soldiers is also on the rise, UNICEF warned.

In January the Fund launched an appeal for $12 million, but so far it has received just 22 per cent of that amount from donors.

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3rd April, 2007


The world will not achieve the series of anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) if the poorest countries in Africa are left behind, a United Nations envoy has told a conference of the continent’s finance, planning and development ministers.

Anwarul K. Chowdhury, UN High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS), said global efforts to attain the MDGs must be harnessed more closely with existing programmes such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to accelerate economic growth in Africa and ensure that poverty is defeated.

Some 34 of the 50 nations classified as Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are found in Africa. NEPAD is a strategic framework adopted by African leaders in 2001 to try to develop a more integrated approach to tackling socio-economic underdevelopment.

“I have underlined before that if the LDCs do not achieve the MDGs, neither will the world as a whole,” Mr. Chowdhury told the conference yesterday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. “With two-thirds of the LDCs in Africa, we can confidently say that Africa has to achieve the MDGs for the world to have any hope of doing so.”

The MDGs are a set of eight targets for slashing social and economic ills – from halving extreme poverty to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education – by 2015, and were agreed to by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000.

Mr. Chowdhury added that Africa must rein in its high rates of population growth, which have been eroding its otherwise healthy economic growth in recent years. Although the proportion of Africans living in extreme poverty increased only from 44.6 per cent in 1990 to 46.4 per cent in 2001, the actual number of affected people jumped by 38 per cent to 318 million because of soaring population growth.

The High Representative stressed the need for more transparency in both foreign assistance provided to struggling African countries and the use of internal resources to ensure that the poorest benefit most.

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2nd April, 2007


Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today led United Nations condemnation of the murder of five African Union (AU) peacekeepers in Darfur, saying it illustrates the need to send a hybrid UN-AU force to the war-torn Sudanese region and announcing plans to dispatch a team of experts to Addis Ababa as part of preparations for the planned operation.

“I would like to strongly deplore such killings,” Mr. Ban told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York today, one day after the peacekeepers with the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) were shot dead by unidentified men in an unprovoked attack in Um Baru, about 220 kilometres from the North Darfur provincial capital of El Fasher.

On Saturday armed men also fired at an AMIS helicopter as it was carrying staff from Zalingei in West Darfur to El Fasher.

In a statement, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) voiced deep concern at the attacks and called on all parties to the conflict in Darfur to respect the neutrality and impartiality of AMIS.

“Any attack against the African Union personnel deployed in Darfur is a serious violation of international law and relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council,” the mission said, calling on authorities to identify the culprits and hold them to account as soon as possible.

AMIS peacekeepers and humanitarian workers with UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have become increasingly targeted in Darfur, where rebel groups have been fighting Government forces and allied Janjaweed militias since 2003.

More than 200,000 people are estimated to have been killed, and at least 2 million others forced from their homes because of the fighting, and the conflict is threatening to spill into neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR), which have been beset by their own civil conflicts.

Last week at a mini-summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Mr. Ban, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, AU Chairman Alpha Oumar Konaré and League of Arab States Secretary-General Amr Moussa reached an agreement to re-double their efforts to resolve the Darfur conflict and to press ahead quickly with the plans for a hybrid peacekeeping force.

As part of the agreement a technical consultative briefing is to be held as soon as possible to finalize preparations for the force, which could be almost 20,000-strong.

Mr. Ban said today that he will send technical experts from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for that briefing on the force, also known as the “heavy support package,” hopefully by early next week.

On Thursday the Secretary-General plans to make an informal briefing to the Council in the latest developments concerning Darfur and will also convene a high-level consultation with Mr. Konaré when he visits New York later this month.

But Mr. Ban stressed the need for continuing progress on other fronts, especially promoting political dialogue and enhancing humanitarian access to the remote and impoverished region.

Last week the UN and Sudan signed a joint communiqué in which the Government pledged to support, protect and facilitate all humanitarian operations in Darfur, where an estimated 4 million people now depend on outside aid.

The UN Human Rights Council also agreed to establish a group of independent rights experts to work with Sudan and the AU to monitor the situation on the ground.

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30 January, 2007


The Security Council today extended the mandate by six months of the United Nations peacekeeping mission monitoring the ceasefire that ended the border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 2000, but cut the number of blue helmets as it voiced frustration with the lack of progress made by either country.

In a unanimous resolution, Council members agreed to an extension through the end of July, in line with the recommendation of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his most recent report on the operations of the mission, known as UNMEE.

The number of peacekeeping troops will be reduced from the current 2,300 to 1,700, including 230 military observers – one of four options for the Mission which the Secretary-General proposed last month in the face of the ongoing intransigence of Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Mr. Ban’s most recent report warned that the continuing stalemate in the peace process shows no sign of ending, and the impasse has the potential to not only lead to renewed hostilities between the two countries, but to destabilize the wider region, especially given the recent developments in neighbouring Somalia.

Ethiopia has refused to implement, fully and without pre-conditions, the Boundary Commission’s demarcation of the border with Eritrea, even though its decisions are supposed to be binding under a peace agreement that followed a two-year war in the late 1990s.

For its part, Eritrea has maintained a troop presence in the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) along the border, as well as tanks, rocket launchers and guns, and it has also imposed a ban on UN helicopter flights, severely restricting the work of UNMEE.

Today’s resolution demanded that Ethiopia accept the Commission’s decision and called on Eritrea to withdraw its troops and equipment from the TSZ and reverse its restrictions on UNMEE operations.

Mr. Ban said in his report that Ethiopia and Eritrea each needed to do much more than settle their border issue if they are establish a durable peace and reconciliation process.

“The two Governments need to take the political decision to put the conflict behind them, for the sake of their own people, and move forward in a number of other areas that would help them to normalize relations,” he wrote.

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29 January, 2007


Calling the situation in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on Africa’s leaders to use the same unity of purpose and partnership with the UN that brought peace to Burundi and Sierra Leone in tackling the intractable issue.

“Together, we must work to end the violence and scorched-earth policies adopted by various parties, including militias, as well as the bombings which are still a terrifying feature of life in Darfur,” he told an African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, of the conflict between Sudanese Government forces, allied militias and rebel groups that has killed at least 200,000 people and displaced more than 2 million others.

“Life-saving humanitarian work must be allowed to resume, and civil society in Darfur must have a voice in the peace process. And we must persuade non-signatories to join, while building consensus for the urgent deployment of a UN-AU force on the ground,” he said, referring to rebel groups seeking greater autonomy who did not join in a peace accord signed last May.

In a 90-minute meeting on the summit sidelines with Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir, Mr. Ban urged him and all parties to cease hostilities and grant humanitarian access. He told reporters afterwards that Mr Al-Bashir agreed to facilitate such access, and expressed willingness to cooperate with international efforts toward that end.

He said his Special Envoy on Darfur Jan Eliasson and AU Envoy Salim A. Salim would go to Khartoum and Darfur in early February to support peace-making efforts, and the President welcomed the mission. He also called for an early Government response to plans for a hybrid UN-AU force in Darfur of 17,000 peacekeepers and 3,000 police.

In his summit address, Mr. Ban also urged the leaders to bring unity of purpose to other intractable crises “that bleed like open wounds on the face of the Continent,” such as the conflicts in Somalia and Côte d’Ivoire.

He noted how the UN-AU partnership helped to resolve the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where last November’s elections, the first in more than 40 years and the largest such support operation in UN history, were “a remarkable peacekeeping achievement.”

“Liberia, too, shines as an example of what can be achieved through our collective will for peace and security in Africa,” he added.

He drew on his own experiences as a child growing up in war-torn Korea in the 1950s to deliver a message of hope to Africa. “I have seen the hardship and hunger, the degradation and disease, that come with prolonged warfare,” he said. “Elderly women scavenging for scraps, toddlers weak from malnutrition and unsafe drinking water, buildings dilapidated, corn fields rotting, an infrastructure on its knees.

“This I witnessed as a young boy, and the images haunt me to this day. But I also witnessed how, through unity of purpose, my country was able to transform itself from a traumatized nation with a non-existent economy, into a vibrant, productive society and a regional economic power,” he added. “Let us bring the same unity of purpose to bear on development in Africa.”

Turning to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the UN Millennium Summit in 2000 to slash a host of social ills, such as extreme poverty and hunger, by 2015, Mr. Ban noted that some African countries had made remarkable progress, but much remained to be done.

He announced that he planned to convene in March a working group on Africa and the MDGs, “a coalition of the willing” of African stakeholders and international organizations and donors, to accelerate progress on the goals, which also seek to reduce maternal and infant mortality and provide access to health care and education.

He noted that AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria are responsible for nearly 4 million African deaths every year, and he also cited the seventh MDG on ensuring environmental sustainability as an enormous challenge. “The time has come for the rest of the world to assist African countries in adapting to the effects of a warming planet, while strengthening efforts to mitigate climate change,” he said.

“How Africa fares in reaching the Millennium Development Goals is a matter of life and death for millions of Africans. It is also a test of the ability of the United Nations to carry out the mandate our membership has given us. It will be one of my priorities to ensure that we meet that test – and I will take steps to strengthen the Organization accordingly.”

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14 November, 2006


Arriving in Nairobi, Kenya, today to attend the closing stages of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on African leaders to act in their own backyards to prevent conflicts in one country from becoming a crisis for the whole region.

“Unless we resolve these conflicts it is going to be very difficult for us to focus on the essential issue of social and economic development,” he said at a ceremony at State House where Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki made him a knight of the Order of the Golden Heart. “Nobody invests in a bad neighbourhood and there are people in the broader world who see Africa as a continent in crisis, a continent in conflict.”

He noted that when governments try to advise their neighbours to adopt the right policies and respect the rights of their people, they are told they should not interfere in internal affairs.

“And we ourselves – I know, Mr. President, I’m not revealing any secrets – African Presidents tend to be reticent in interfering in internal affairs of others,” he declared. “But these problems, these crises, whether it is in Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, they don't remain internal for very long.

“It becomes sooner or later a problem for the whole region. It throws up refugees, guns move into the region destabilizing societies and so, as I leave [after 10 years as UN Secretary-General], I hope the African leaders will see a problem of their neighbour as theirs and intervene sooner rather than later, intervene before it becomes a regional problem,” he added.

Citing Africa’s many problems, including HIV/AIDS, high unemployment and food insecurity, he stressed that it is the only continent that did not go through the green revolution or cannot feed itself. “As we move on, things are going to be much, much more difficult, so we need to really begin to focus on the essential area of agriculture which also creates lots of employment for the rural population,” he said.

Mr. Annan, who is to address the Climate Change Conference’s high-level segment tomorrow when he is expected call for urgent action on the issue, arrived from Istanbul, where he accepted the report of the High-Level Group of the Alliance of Civilizations, an initiative he launched last year to tackle fear and suspicion between communities following a proposal by the Prime Ministers of Spain and Turkey.

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27 September, 2006


West African countries that have emerged from conflict to form democratically elected governments deserve international support to consolidate their fragile progress, ministers from the region have told the United Nations General Assembly as it continued its annual debate in New York.

“My delegation is pleased to see that peace has been restored to Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone and Liberia,” the Foreign Minister of Guinea, Mamady Condé, said on Tuesday.

But he cautioned that these gains remained “quite precarious,” and urged the international community “to strengthen its cooperation with the democratically elected governments of these countries in order to strengthen peace and ensure the rapid recovery of their economies.”

Mr. Condé also said the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire had entered a “decisive phase with the sensitive issues related to the holding of upcoming free and fair elections.” He urged the parties there to hold dialogue with a view to resolving the crisis.

Togo’s Foreign Minister, Zarifou Ayeva, echoed this call on Tuesday for attention to African countries emerging from conflicts, welcoming the fact that the newly established UN Peacebuilding Commission would consider Burundi and Sierra Leone. “Liberia must also be helped in strengthening its peace,” he said, adding that Guinea-Bissau deserved attention as well.

He also voiced concern about the situation in Côte d’Ivoire. “Given the
many pre-existing variables behind the organization of elections in this
neighbouring country, no matter how one looks at it, one can only be
concerned,” he said. “We hope that the resolution of these variables will
allow the holding of free and democratic elections that will lead Côte
d’Ivoire to sustainable peace.”

Regarding his own country, the Foreign Minister said Togo had reached a
critical stage in their history with the 20 August signing of a
comprehensive peace agreement. The first step in the agreement was to
promote policies of openness, peace and national reconciliation. Togo had
also established reforms that favoured free and democratic elections and
examined the role of army. Those changes allowed for measures to maintain
public order and for open social dialogue.

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22 September, 2006


Extreme poverty remains the greatest danger facing humanity, African nations told the United Nations General Assembly today as they outlined the challenges they face in attempting to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the target date of 2015.

Rosemary Museminali, Rwandan Minister of State for Cooperation, reminded delegates at the Assembly’s annual debate that 40 per cent of the world’s population – or about 2.5 billion people – live on less than $2 a day, and more than 800 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition.

“For sub-Saharan Africa, the statistics are even more staggering: in most cases 60 to 70 per cent of national populations live on less than $1 a day, while life expectancy at birth is less than 50 years,” she said.

Mrs. Museminali said improving the standard of governance and raising the levels of official development assistance (ODA) from industrialized countries were critical if sub-Saharan Africa is to attain the eight MDGs, which were agreed upon at the Millennium Summit in New York in 2000.

But she said the most serious challenge is the surging price levels of key fossil fuels and the burden that is placing on African countries that have to import these energy sources, a theme adopted by Youssouf Ouedraogo, Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister, in his address.

Mr. Ouedraogo said the recent jump in oil prices had pushed Burkina Faso towards developing bio-fuel technology using by-products from its cotton industry.

Calling for a revamp of the international trade regime, he said the current system was not free or equitable and punished Burkinabe cotton producers.

Lamenting the lack of progress towards the MDGs, Navinchandra Ramgoolam, the Prime Minister of Mauritius, voiced concern that the world is relying too much on the trickle-down effect to reduce poverty, “instead of taking a bottom-up approach.”

The result is that “globalization does not seem to be living up to its promises,” Mr. Ramgoolam concluded, insisting that it must be transformed into a wider process so that everyone can share in its benefits, and not just the few.

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12 September, 2006


Wrapping up an eight-day mission to southern Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Uganda and the Great Lakes region of Africa, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator today expressed cautious optimism about prospects for peace in the region.

“I’m more optimistic than I’ve been on any of my visits before to this region that some of the worst wars of our generation are coming to an end,” said Mr. Egeland at a press conference in Nairobi.

He arrived there from Juba, in southern Sudan, after stops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda.

Mr. Egeland said that the DRC and northern Uganda could see a dramatic return to normalcy in the coming months, with hundreds of thousands going back to their homes. He said that improving conditions in the region, where conflict has claimed millions of lives, is “the greatest challenge of our time.”

Mr. Egeland added that, after meeting with the Ugandan Government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group, he was hopeful that the LRA would soon begin releasing some of the thousands of women and children it has abducted.

He expressed concern that the UN system, though more than willing to help with recovery and the return of displaced persons, would not have enough money to get the job done.

He also voiced hope that African political, military and cultural elites would avoid the catastrophic mistakes they made in the past and that there would not be impunity for crimes against civilians, especially widespread rapes.

“Sexual abuse of women has become a cancer really in the whole culture, in the whole civilization of the Great Lakes Region,” he said noting that tens of thousands of women had been abused. “It is destroying the whole moral and social fabric of society.”

Help was needed to build a justice system, he said, while pointing out that “it takes five minutes to demote a colonel who is responsible for soldiers who have abused civilians; it takes five minutes to demote or fire a public employee who tolerated corruption or tolerated abuse.”

Asked whether he would be able to convince displaced persons that indictments against members of the LRA will not stop the peace process, Mr.
Egeland said that merely forgiving and forgetting could lead to violence starting all over again. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has indicted the five most senior LRA leaders.

“These are war crimes, crimes against humanity,” said Mr. Egeland. “Justice has to be served in a manner which is commensurate.”

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16 August, 2006


The number of people receiving HIV antiretroviral therapy in sub-Saharan Africa has surpassed the one million mark for the first time, but much work remains to be done to reach the goal of providing universal access to prevention, treatment and care by 2010, said a UN health care agency official at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto today.

The one million figure represents a tenfold increase since December 2003, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Sub-Saharan Africa still accounts for 70 per cent of the global unmet treatment need, however, and
95 per cent of the 38.6 million people living with HIV/AIDS live in the developing world, where countries face tremendous challenges in dealing with the epidemic.

“In many ways we are still at the beginning of this effort,” said Dr. Kevin De Cock, WHO’s HIV/AIDS Director. “We have reached just one quarter of the people in need in low and middle-income countries, and the number of those who need treatment will continue to grow.”

The WHO notes that many nations are suffering “crippling” shortages of HIV-related health workers, many of whom are either becoming infected themselves or leaving for better-paying jobs in larger cities and wealthier countries.

“The shortage of health workers is devastating public health systems, particularly in the developing world,” said Dr. Anarfi Asamoa-Baah, Assistant Director-General of WHO. “It is one of the most significant challenges we face in preventing and treating HIV.”

Some 57 countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, need more than four million HIV-related health care workers to fill the gap, the WHO estimates. To confront the problem, the agency has launched, in collaboration with the International Labour Organization and the International Organization for Migration, a new plan called “Treat, Train, Retain”.

The initiative is aimed at providing health care workers themselves with access to HIV/AIDS services while at the same time helping countries increase the number of health workers, maximize their efficiency and retain them.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is calling attention to the fact that millions of people still lack access to the most basic and available method for preventing HIV – the male and female condom.

“People are getting infected now,” said Steve Kraus, Chief of the HIV Branch of UNFPA, in a statement. He noted that promising new technology is on the horizon but will not be widely available for years. “The condom already exists and it hasn’t been delivered. It works and represents the best tool we have in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”

The UNFPA points out that, in sub-Saharan Africa, men have access to only 10 condoms on average per year, while the eight to 10 million condoms being used in low- and middle-income countries represent only half of the total need.

At the same time, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is highlighting food and nutritional support as an essential, and often overlooked, part of essential care for people living with and affected by HIV.

The WFP cites a new study by HIV Medicine, which found that such people most often list food as their greatest need and that patients who start new antiretroviral therapy while malnourished are six times as likely to die.

The WFP estimates that nearly one sixth of the people enrolled in antiretroviral programmes in 2008 will need some kind of nutritional support, which could be provided for a mere 65 cents (US) per patient per day.

"We cannot win the battle against AIDS by focusing on drugs alone,” said Robin Jackson, Chief of WFP's HIV/AIDS Service, at a press conference in Toronto today. “Funding antiretrovirals with no thought to food and nutrition is a little like paying a fortune to fix a car but not setting aside money to buy gas.”

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24 July, 2006


Every day 1,200 people, half of them children, are killed in the conflict-hit Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) because of violence, disease and malnutrition, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in a report issued today.

The report, Child Alert: DRC, also states that more children under age five die each year in the African country than in China -- a country with 23 times the population. It draws attention to the to the appalling fact that the total countrywide death toll every six months is similar to that for the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed more than 230,000 people in 12 countries.

Despite such grim statistics, the author of the report, UNICEF UK Ambassador for Humanitarian Emergencies Martin Bell, says that Sunday’s landmark elections in the war-ravaged country could be a turning point.

“It is easy to be overwhelmed by what has happened in DRC because of the sheer scale of it. But we owe it to the children to give them the future they deserve and these elections may be the opportunity of their lifetime.”

UNICEF says that around four million people have been killed in the almost decade-long conflict in the DRC, making it the world’s deadliest,humanitarian crisis, but despite the scale of the suffering it has not received the attention it deserves.

“Children bear the brunt of conflict, disease and death, but not only as casualties,” said UNICEF DRC Representative Tony Bloomberg, who attended the report’s launch in London. “They are also witnesses to, and sometimes forced participants in, atrocities and crimes that inflict physical and psychological harm.”

“While DRC has experienced death rates like that of the tsunami every six months, it has not received the attention it deserves, either from the media or the public. UNICEF issued this report to call attention to this hidden emergency and its impact on children. We stand ready to work with the elected government and all other actors to begin immediately improving the lives of Congo’s children.”

UNICEF has requested $93.67 million dollars through a consolidated appeal for its programmes in the DRC this year but so far it is under funded by 62 per cent. Relative stability has allowed more access in eastern parts of the country, but more resources are necessary to meet the growing need, the Agency said.

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7 July, 2006


The Transitional Government in Somalia, which, since establishing itself within the country earlier this year has been besieged by renewed factional fighting and the territorial gains of Islamic militias, must be strengthened so that the “painstaking” gains in the long-chaotic country are not lost, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a report released today.

“Effective transitional federal institutions will enable Somalia to strengthen its internal security and deal with such threats as terrorism,”
Mr. Annan writes in his analysis of political and humanitarian developments since February to be formally presented to the Security Council on Monday by François Lonsény Fall, his Special Representative for the country.

Among current priorities, Mr. Annan urges measures to ensure a sustainable end to factional fighting in Mogadishu, the traditional capital, and Baidoa, the seat of the Transitional Federal Institutions of a country which has been without a functioning Government since the collapse of President Muhammad Siad Barre’s regime 15 years ago.

Reviewing the recent flare-up of violence in both cities, he said that Mogadishu “saw some of the worst fighting for nearly a decade” during the reporting period, pitting militias loyal to the courts of Islamic law, or Shariah, who have been providing basic security and social services in the city, against the coalition of business leaders, Government Ministers, and faction heads that oppose them, called the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT).

The stated aim of ARPCT, which has no clear relationship to the Transitional Federal Government, is to uproot terrorist elements reportedly linked to some of the Shariah Courts operating in Mogadishu. Between February and early June, the fighting between the two groups resulted in the deaths of scores of civilians and control by the Islamic Courts over most of the city, the report says.

In regard to the humanitarian situation, Mr. Annan says that despite plentiful spring rains, the plight of the 2.1 million people affected by Somalia’s worst drought in a decade remains “alarming,” compounded by the continued fighting.

“If the dire effects of the humanitarian crisis are to be mitigated,” he says, praising the work of the UN humanitarian agencies that have continued to deliver desperately needed supplies despite the mounting difficulties, “the international community and especially the major multilateral and bilateral partners must respond generously to the Revised 2006 Somalia Consolidated Appeals Process and meet their pledges in timely fashion.”

In a related development, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) today released a summary of its wide range of activities in support of the Somali Transitional Federal Government in Baidoa, from the rehabilitation of structures to be used as conference facilities to technical assistance in governance.

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31 May, 2006


International strategies for conflict resolution in Africa such as those put forward by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan take into account the many dimensions of the violent crises shaking the continent and could pave the way for their resolution, the President of the Republic of Congo, as chairman of the African Union (AU), told the Security Council today.

Scenarios have been developed for ending such African conflicts as those in Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Sudan’s Darfur region, thanks to the international community’s road maps and timetables, President Denis Sassou-Nguesso said in his briefing to the Council. The Republic of Congo currently holds the Council’s rotating presidency.

The stabilizing actions undertaken by the Council, and its partnership with the AU, were to be welcomed and encouraged, particularly since today’s meeting was taking place on the eve of the Council’s mission to Africa next week.

The mission will leave New York on 4 June, heading first to Khartoum for meetings with the leaders of Sudan, for which an expanded UN peacekeeping mission has been proposed to take over from the AU’s African Mission in Sudan (AMIS). Then from 11 to 12 June, the Council will visit the DRC to encourage the transitional authorities there to intensify their efforts to guarantee the democratic character of the presidential and legislative elections now scheduled for 30 July.

In the case of Darfur, Mr. Sassou-Nguesso said, there was a framework for a transition towards a UN peacekeeping operation, with a strong African component, following the accord reached in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, on 5 May. Some post-conflict situations needed sustained international support to prevent a relapse into conflict, he added.

Most of Africa’s current conflicts were not new, including the tragic case of Somalia, the situation over the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the crisis in northern Uganda and the Western Sahara dispute, he said.

These had lasted either because they had not been appropriately dealt with or because of a lack of mutual commitment or confidence on the part of the main protagonists, he said.

On the other hand, conflicts that had been among the fiercest on the continent had now been settled in an encouraging way. The Angolan civil war was “just a bad memory,” as were the crises in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and, more recently, Burundi, Mr. Sassou-Nguesso said.

The several resolutions adopted by the Council in 1998 continued to be relevant, stressing as they did the close links between international peace and security and sustainable development, on the one hand, and the necessity for the international community to confront the illicit flow of weapons to and within Africa, which has affected not only security, but also social and economic development, he said.

A fortunate coincidence had placed Congo, as Chair of the AU this year, in a position to play its own modest part at the Council’s side as it undertook its initiatives in Africa. Harmonizing the actions of the two bodies required efficiency and credibility and justified the regular consultations between them, he said.

Mr. Sassou-Nguesso said Africa could now see possibilities for a brighter economic future, where the indicators seemed to show a considerable movement towards consolidating and establishing longer-lasting growth.

Africa was going in the right direction, even if that movement was not following a straight line and often remained fragile, he said.

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26 May, 2006


Foreign Ministers from West and Central Africa meeting in Madrid today agreed on a political declaration and a plan of action to improve terrorism prevention, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which helped to organize the gathering, said.

The two-day Ministerial round-table was convened to strengthen national and sub-regional counter-terrorism efforts and to identify areas for further action, particularly in bolstering the legal regime against the threat.

The declaration adopted by participants reaffirmed the commitment of 27 countries from West and Central Africa to ratify and implement all universal instruments against terrorism. The ministers and senior officials also pledged to enhance cooperation to prevent and combat the scourge.

In a message delivered on behalf of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Executive Director of the UN Counter Terrorism Committee, Javier Ruperez, said the meeting, organized by UNODC with the support of the Government of Spain, met on 25 and 26 May, was an excellent example of the steps countries and regions need to take to unite against terrorism.

Noting that no country or region is immune from the threat, UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa stressed that preventing and combating terrorism requires trans-border cooperation in areas such as sharing intelligence, providing mutual legal assistance and extradition.

He urged States to translate legal commitments into practice. Noting that this may require new skills or the upgrading of existing capacity, for example in law enforcement, criminal justice or improving financial inteligence and anti-money laundering, he pledged the world body’s full support. “UNODC is at your disposal,” he told the ministers.

Participants identified a number of areas where they would welcome technical assistance from UNODC, particularly in training criminal justice officials and harmonizing national laws.

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25 May, 2006


The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today launched two projects for east and southern Africa to modernize the subsistence farming on which some national economies largely depend and to promote local commerce and foreign trade.

The first project will group Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda in the Great Lakes region. Agriculture there is highly dependent on rainfall and farmers will be encouraged to make their use of water more efficient and to strengthen their organizations through training courses and field schools, at a cost of $3 million, the Rome-based FAO said.

The second project, estimated to cost $1.5 million, is designed to improve cassava yields in Malawi and Zambia, with the aim of processing it commercially into such exportable items as starch, according to the agency.

“Recurrent droughts and poor yields of traditionally produced maize, which is oversensitive to climatic variations, have encouraged the widespread farming of cassava, making it Africa's fastest growing food crop today,” FAO said.

Both projects, which are being funded by the Italian Government, will rely heavily on spreading information to the most isolated farmers through local radio broadcasts.

The five beneficiary countries are members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), a partnership established in 1994 to foster regional economic integration, and the projects follow the broad strategy agreed in 2001 by the members of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

"It is important that the countries concerned have committed themselves to giving priority to modernizing every aspect of agriculture, that is to say, from production to processing and marketing," said M.E. Chipeta, Director of FAO Policy Assistance Division.

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15 May, 2006


Kenya has achieved notable progress in slowing the HIV/AIDS pandemic but attention must be paid to its devastating effects, including its legacy of orphaned children, the United Nations envoy spearheading the fight against the disease in Africa has said in Nairobi.

While hailing a drop in prevalence rates from 14 per cent in 1999 to 6 per cent according to the latest surveys, Stephen Lewis told reporters on Saturday in the Kenyan capital that “the human consequences of the pandemic continue to be catastrophic.”

He called particular attention to the plight of children whose parents have succumbed to AIDS, citing the burden on family structures, especially on “grandmothers with sole responsibility for the orphans and no resources to speak of” and warned that “the longer the orphan situation continues the more likely it will be a larger problem in the future.”

The Special Envoy also made a strong call for donor support for the UN World Food Programme (WFP), pointing out that it is “hard to take anti-viral drugs on an empty stomach.”

During his visit, he visited a post-rape trauma centre in the Thika District Hospital, near Nairobi, commending it as a positive model that should be emulated in other parts of the country.

In the month of April, Thika District Hospital treated 46 rape cases, nearly half of which – 22 – were children. Mr. Lewis said he was deeply disturbed by the high levels of reported rape cases, noting that “sexual violence is a critical element in fuelling the pandemic.”

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