Africa: UN Special Initiative, 07/11/96

Africa: UN Special Initiative, 07/11/96


Subject: Africa: UN Special Initiative

Africa: UN Special Initiative

Date Distributed (ymd): 960711

DEV/2115 3 July 1996


GENEVA, 2 July (UN Information Service)--Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali today chaired informal consultations with donor governments on the implementation of the United Nations System-wide Special Initiative on Africa.

The Special Initiative was launched on 15 March and brings together the development agencies of the United Nations system in partnership with the Bretton Woods institutions, in a broad-ranging programme designed to provide renewed impetus to African development over the next decade.

The Geneva meeting was not a pledging conference, but a continuation of the United Nations campaign to mobilize high-level political support for the Initiative focusing on the development needs of the poorest continent. Africa is home to 33 of the world's 47 least developed countries.

The role of the Initiative was highlighted in a statement entitled "A New Partnership for Development", which was issued on 29 June at the summit of the "Group of Seven" most industrialized countries in Lyon, France, following a meeting between the leaders of those nations and the heads of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The statement declared that all participants "decided to pay particular attention to sub-Saharan Africa. A medium-term strategy will be framed for this continent, taking as its starting point the initiative launched by the United Nations Secretary-General on 15 March."

The Initiative focuses on five main project clusters aimed at providing a basis for genuine sustainable development across the African continent. The five areas are as follows:

--Education: It involves the World Bank and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and seeks to achieve universal education by the year 2010;

--Health: It involves the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank and includes reforms geared to improve health-service delivery systems and provide better coverage of the population at large, as well as specific measures to fight malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other epidemic diseases, and takes into account reproductive health and population issues;

--Food security: The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) is in charge; it seeks to regroup priority actions in land degradation and desertification control, soil quality improvement and water for food production;

--Water: With the involvement of the World Bank and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), it aims at ensuring sustainable and equitable freshwater distribution through reliable assessments, household water security and proper water management; and

--Governance: Involving the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), it establishes strategies and support for peace building, conflict resolution and national reconciliation. Its implementation will lead to strengthening of the capacity of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in peace building and enhancing the role of civil society organizations.

Other components of the Special Initiative are information technology for development, assistance to the informal sector and employment generation to combat poverty, and trade access.

The total cost of implementing the Initiative is estimated at $25 billion over the next 10 years. The World Bank has agreed to lead the resource mobilization drive for the Initiative.

Also recognized in the Initiative is the impact of external indebtedness on African States. In 1994, sub-Saharan Africa's total debt stock stood at $211 billion, which equals 255 per cent of export income. In those countries, average per capita spending on debt servicing was $43, compared with $35 spent per capita on education and health.

The informal consultations included a presentation on the needs of countries that are currently experiencing or have recently emerged from civil conflict that destroyed the social fabric, disrupted the economy and resulted in prolonged human suffering.

Note: This document, and others dealing with the Special Initiative, can be found on-line at:

The declaration of the G-7 Lyon Summit, including the section on "A New Partnership for Development" can be found at:


Article from May 1996 issue of Africa Recovery.

A new impetus for African development

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

by Margaret A. Novicki

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:


Date: Thu, 11 Jul 1996 19:10:20 -0500 From: Subject: Africa: UN Special Initiative

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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