Remarks by UNDP Ethiopia Resident Representative at the RIO+20 Africa Day Event

Jun 19, 2012


Senior Colleagues at the High Podium

The many fellow Africans

Distinguished Ladies and gentlemen


It is an honour and a real pleasure for me to have this opportunity to make these short remarks on behalf of UNDP at this historic event ----- a historic event whose outcome has significant implications for the good of Africa, or could undermine the solid progress that the continent has registered in the recent past.


I make this point because, perhaps more than any other continent, we at UNDP see Rio+20 as a defining moment for Africa.  An unqualified positive outcome of Rio+20 would be a major catalyst for accelerating real progress and the ongoing transformation that is taking place on the African continent. It would help bridge the gap between our continent and the developed world, and bring about a more inclusive, dynamic and sustainable world  ---- the future that we all want!


Africa has seen significant development progress over the past decade, but the deficit in development still remains monumental. The number of deaths of children under the age of five, the millions that do not have access to basic social services, including safe water and modern sanitation systems remain troubling. Desertification in the Sahel is threatening the livelihoods in the drylands which is home to millions of Africans.


But things can be different ---- as shown here in Brazil – our host for Rio+20. Brazil during the past decade has enjoyed strong economic growth and major reductions in poverty and inequality, while also extending the share of the Amazon rainforest covered by protected areas, slowing the rate of desertification, and further boosting the share of renewable in its energy mix.


Sustainable development and green economy have become synonymous in the minds of many with the colour GREEN. While greening development is imperative, the social and economic strands of sustainable development are equally vital. Sustainable development is about health, education, women’s empowerment, and jobs, as much as ecosystems. It is about ever widening inclusion and movement away from decisions that erode democratic space and breed social inequality, intolerance and violence.


In this time of multiple crises in parts of the world, it is tempting to focus on short-term fixes. But what we need – what Africa needs is to a re-setting of the global development agenda. The World needs a long term plan. Getting there will require keeping six things in mind:


·       First, we must sustain the progress being made on the MDGs, and accelerate actions to bridge remaining MDG gaps. At the same time we must effect a post-2015 transition by building on what worked and learning from what did not work from the MDG process


·       Second, while greening development is imperative, the social and economic strands of sustainable development are equally vital. The key is intertwining the economic, social and environmental strands of sustainable development. A particular example is energy, that offers clear opportunities for integrating the three strands of sustainable development.



·       Third is that – Governance matters. Governance is the glue that will bind together all the three strands of social, economic and environmental development.


·       Four ---Finance for development must be revisited, so that ODA can be used to access larger pools of development finance, including crucially domestic resource mobilization in African countries.



·       Five – Beyond GDP and the bottom line, we need new metrics to measure progress. We need a new approach that build on the Human Development Index and reflects environmental values, for a more holistic measure of human well being and sustainable development


·       Six – we need to leverage knowledge and innovation to deliver development results ---- particular true for African countries.


Finally, on a day like this, I will be remiss if I do not say a few words about a subject that should be dear to the hearts of all of us ----- that is Food Security, and ensuring a food secure future for Africa. The impressive economic growth which much of Africa has been recording must be accompanied by decisive actions to improve food security and nutrition. I make this point because food security is basic to human development -- it is about the dignity of Africans and the African continent – and that food insecurity can trap generations of Africans in under-development.

By improving food security and nutrition, Africa can accelerate progress on the MDGs, advance sustainable development, and build resilience to the climatic and other disasters which affect food security in the region. Africa has ample agricultural land and water, and a generally favourable climate for growing food. Africa can build a food secure future!

But this will require high level political commitment and coordinated public policy and initiatives will play a critical role in overcoming food insecurity. It will require smart leadership! We all need lift our levels of ambition to eradicate hunger and malnutrition, and keep human development moving forward in Africa, within the boundaries of nature.


Finally, I would like to acknowledge the solid partnership that exists between UNDP, UNECA, AfDB and the African Union, and the work that our four institutions did in supporting Africa come up with a Consensus position for Rio+20.


I thank you

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