African leaders urge action on poverty goals

African leaders said on Tuesday they could do more to meet UN goals to slash extreme poverty and urged stronger leadership among developing countries to tackle hunger and disease and attract investment.

“If Africa fails to achieve the MDGs, the world would have failed,” South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told a summit of the UN General Assembly reviewing progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals agreed to in 2000.

While the world looks set to halve poverty and hunger by 2015, the United Nations agrees countries are behind on other goals such as improving education and maternal health, reducing child mortality, combating diseases including AIDS, promoting gender equality and protecting the environment.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is set to announce a multibillion-dollar strategy on Wednesday — the last day of the poverty summit — to boost women’s and children’s health.

The goals have been set back by the global economic crisis, which has forced some rich donors to cut development assistance as they try to trim their budgets and focus on job losses.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame urged developing countries to examine why some were behind on meeting the goals and to take charge of their own development agendas instead of leaving it up to donors and aid groups to dictate them.

“Despite their good intentions, their perspective is often predicated on paternalism not on partnership, on charity not on self-reliance, and on promises unfulfilled rather than real change on the ground,” he said.

The global political and economic landscape had changed significantly since the goals were set, said Kagame, whose development strategies and anti-corruption fight have won applause from donors and investors.

“We in the developing world could do more. We have to reflect deeply on how we have driven this agenda so far and why we are lagging behind on these targets … we must assume effective leadership,” he added.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who has long championed African solutions, said it was time for developing countries to take ownership of their own development.

“There is no doubt in my mind that we in the developing world have to do more and better to take charge of our destiny, to design programs and strategies appropriate to our circumstances and mobilise our own resources as the primary means of achieving the MDGs,” he said.

Blaming sanctions
The views of Kagame and Meles chimed with those of some Western leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said her country had not cut aid but that poor countries should not rely indefinitely on handouts.

“The primary responsibility for development lies with the governments of the developing countries,” she said. “It is in their hands whether aid can be effective. Therefore, support for good governance is as important as aid itself.”

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe blamed “illegal and debilitating” sanctions for widespread poverty in his country.

The United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on state firms and travel restrictions on Mugabe and dozens of his associates nearly 10 years ago after a violent re-election campaign and commercial farm seizures.

“As a result of these punitive measures and despite our turn-around economic plan, Zimbabwe has been prevented from making a positive difference in the lives of the poor, the hungry, the sick and the destitute among its citizens,” he said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose fiery speeches are watched closely at UN gatherings and have often prompted walkouts by the United States, told the summit capitalism was dying and a new economic system was needed.

“Now that the discriminatory order of capitalism and the hegemonic approaches are facing defeat and are getting close to their end, all-out participation in upholding justice and prosperous inter-relations is essential,” he said.

“The world is in need of an encompassing and of course just and human order in light of which the rights of all are preserved and peace and security are safeguarded.”

Several speakers said the goals would not be achieved unless more was done to improve the lives of poor women.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa’s first female head of state, called for more investments in sectors that help women, including agriculture and small-scale enterprises.

“As we renew our resolve in the year 2010, we must recognize the need for inclusive economic growth … rapid, sustained growth that creates jobs especially for youth and that help the poor and in sectors that help women,” she said. – Reuters

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Lesley Wroughton
Lesley Wroughton works from Washington. I write about U.S. Foreign Policy for Reuters based in Washington. Opinions are my own and retweets are not an endorsement. Lesley Wroughton has over 1577 followers on Twitter.

Stella set to retain her perks

Communication minister will keep Cabinet perks during her two months of special leave

Not a sweet deal, Mister

Mister Sweet workers say they will not risk their health, and the lives of others, to continue producing and packaging confectionaries

Covid-19 grounds Nigeria’s medical tourists

The country’s elites, including the president, travelled abroad for treatment but now they must use the country’s neglected health system

Nehawu launches urgent court bid over protective gear for health...

The health workers’ union says the government has rebuffed its attempts to meet about mitigating risks to workers

Press Releases

Rahima Moosa Hospital nursing college introduces no-touch facial recognition access system

The new system allows the hospital to enrol people’s faces immediately, using artificial intelligence, and integrates easily with existing access control infrastructure, including card readers and biometrics

Everyone’s talking about it. Even Kentucky

Earlier this year South African fried chicken fast-food chain, Chicken Licken®, launched a campaign for their wallet-friendly EasyBucks® meals, based on the idea of ‘Everyone’s talking about it.’

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world