Media Center



December 11, 2002 - WAshington, DC

Mr. Chairman,
Mr. Assistant Secretary General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset I wish to express to you, Mr. Chairman, the deep appreciation and gratitude of the African Ambassadors and the entire African Diplomatic Corps for this unique initiative that brings us together for the first time under one roof here in Washington, D.C.. At the end of the day the symbolism of this encounter is clearly far more important than any possible outcome.

The purpose at this initial meeting is to explore ways and means of strengthening and enhancing our shared common interests and issues as they relate to cooperation for development, trade, democracy and human rights. I have no doubt, that we shall be able to find many critical areas that are of common concern to us all, and that require further dialogue and contacts.

These countries in this hemisphere have made substantial progress in the improvement of their economies in recent decades. You also possess some of the world’s largest and most diversified economies, high levels of private investment and trade, and impressive examples of both real and potential economic growth and development. This is not to say there are no fluctuations in your business cycle, real snags in human and capital development, or persistence of poverty, in a number of countries.

Mr. Chairman,

Our aim in Africa is to forge mutually beneficial partnerships with a view to be gradually integrated in the global economy. With its expanding population, abundant resources and growth potential, Africa presents a necessary market for the economies of countries in this hemisphere. To be sure, we are not short of impediments or constraints to development, however. Facing the challenges of globalization, development and good governance, as separate or individual countries, we have come to understand, is a recipe for economic and social disaster. Given the colonial legacy of many balkanized, small, marginally viable economic entities, African development must in some respect be approached both from sub-regional and continental perspective. The new African Union which replaces the forty year old OAU, together with the New Economic Partnerhsip for African Development (NEPAD) bring new impetus, commitments and enhanced determination on the part of our leaders to tackle pernicious political, economic and developmental problems that for too long militated against realistic progress in African. Most of all, however, these new entities demonstrate that African leaders have accepted the collective need and responsibility in addressing Africa’s ills. Authoritarian regimes that demonstrate a lack of respect for human and democratic rights can now be challenged by the continent. Overtime, there can be improved coordination to resolve conflicts and to combat natural disasters as well as effects of health crisis, such as AIDs, Malaria and other diseases. Sub-regional trade blocks, in anticipation of an emerging continental trade association will provide positive internal and foreign investment opportunities and wider markets. With these and other measures, Africa will be in a much stronger position to tackle perhaps its most critical problem --- poverty, which limited the ability of governments and businesses to provide level of employment, services, infrastructure and investment required for consistent growth.

Mr. Chairman,

The historical links between Africa and the countries of this hemisphere go back several centuries, primarily through the infamous institution of slavery. As a result, most, if not all your countries have citizens, some in the majority, that descended from African ancestry. Also many countries in Africa and in this hemisphere had the same colonial history, a legacy which is today demonstrated by common memberships in the Francophone bloc, the Commonwealth, and to some extent, the Hispanic and Lusophone countries. Pressures during the cold war era, coupled with sheer common sense for survival, have caused us to pull together under common organizations like the Non-aligned Movement, the Group of 77, the ACP, etc. Despite the many disparities in the size of our economies, relative levels of development and growth, the common membership by most of us in the large, unofficial group of developing countries offers us key additional opportunities for cooperation, trade and investment. Poverty, ill-health and economic stagnation are prevalent to varying degrees in our countries. With the Millennium Declaration and its goals, the international community has accepted a number of targets and deadlines designed to correct these problems particularly that of worldwide poverty. In this regard, it is worth mentioning that over the past several months several major summits have been in focus of current developments in both our regions. These included the March Monterrey Conference in Mexico, the June 8 Summit at Kananaski, in Canada, in which the New Economic Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) featured as a major issue on the agenda; and the September Earth Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, together we can look also into ways of cooperating in the field of democracy and human rights. Cooperation in the war on terrorism is crucial as this threat could weaken directly and indirectly international institutions, and fragment societies and economies around the world. We must also take concerted action to end illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons. Together we must also strengthen support for the new International Criminal Court, and must as well cooperate in protecting the rights of women, children, refugees and other defenseless people in our respective regions.

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, let me say that this is a wonderful occasion that we need to build upon. At the minimum, knowing one another better, networking, enhancing mutual and bilateral relations, attending each other’s functions, and improving diplomatic contacts will, no doubt, result in benefits to all of us. Let us do that. Once again, On behalf of my colleagues, I offer you Mr. Chairman, our deep gratitude for your exemplary efforts and in full recognition of your wisdom and resourcefulness.

Thank you!