Africa and Millennium Development Goals
U.K Calls for a Global New Deal with Africa
Abuja, 24 May 2006 – A two-day conference of African finance and education ministers as well as other stakeholders on Financing for Development ended in Abuja on Monday with the adoption of a series of actions to be taken by the countries and their development partners aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
The actions are contained in a document titled ‘Abuja Commitment to Action’ reiterated the commitment of the parties concerned to accelerate efforts aimed at attaining the MDGs.
The participants said they recognized the interdependence of the various MDG targets and the need to scale-up investments in all related sectors such as education, health, infrastructure and agriculture.
The peculiar situation of countries emerging from conflict was also considered by conference participants who also pledged to pay attention to the special needs of middle income countries where increasing aid is as necessary as addressing the issue of HIV/AIDS.
On the implementation of these ambitious plans and budgets, the conference noted that a growing number of African countries had prepared national development plans outlining a set of priorities for poverty reduction. "We acknowledge the importance of these plans being owned by national governments, parliaments and citizens to facilitate effective implementation," the participants said, noting that they expected development partners to respect the right and responsibility of African governments and citizens to decide, plan and appropriately sequence their growth and poverty reduction policies.
The meeting welcomed the pledge made by the U.K. to provide at least US$ 15 billion in support of education in Africa over the next ten years, urging other development partners to contribute their share and allocate long-term predictable financing through the expansion of the fast tract initiative and bilateral programs.
Recognizing the macro-economic challenges of effectively managing the large resource inflows from the commitments, conference participants said the current aid flows volatility constrains budget planning and therefore called on donors to provide long term and predictable financing. "Achieving the MDGs will require more effective fiscal and monetary policies including stronger linkages between national plans and the budgets," they said.
The ministers expressed disappointment with the slow progress of the Doha trade talks and called on the WTO to intensify negotiations with a view to concluding an ambitious deal in this round.
The meeting listed a serious of "action points" for implementation by governments, donors and civil society to ensure the achievement of the MDGs on target.
Nigerian President, Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo, presented the gathering’s orientation earlier in his inaugural address saying "It signals our readiness to take hold of the development agenda and drive the process forward as an African agenda".
British Chancellor of the Exchequer echoed a similar sentiment. "I see a vision of Africa enabled with the power to realize and fulfill your countries potential and to make the most of our people’s talents and to be the best they can be."
This, Brown said, can only be achieved through partnership between rich and poor in a global new deal between developed and developing counties as bold and as far sighted as the Marshal Plan of the 1940s.
"We have a duty to keep our promises. And last month following the earlier IMF deal, the World Bank agreed their write-off – a total write off of multilateral and bilateral debt of $170 billion. And we Britain are not satisfied: we will fight for debt relief for all 67 poor countries, and as an affirmation of our faith in this Britain will unilaterally offer to service, 10 per cent, our share of debt relief to all of the poorest countries – not just HIPCs -- who make debt relief the basis of poverty reduction," he emphasized.
The meeting on those themes was Financing for Development: From Commitment to Action in Africa, was organized by the African Development Bank Group, the Economic Commission for Africa and the Government of Nigeria.
Key participants included AfDB Group President Donald Kaberuka, Nigerian Finance minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and her colleagues from more than 20 African countries, donor representatives and the IMF. Renowned economist, Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, told ministers to forget IMF-imposed spending controls and work on more ambitious plans that would deliver the targets which include halving poverty and cutting child mortality by two-thirds.
"The days when the IMF said 'Freeze public sector spending' are over," Sachs told the conference.
"It cannot be business as usual, because business as usual will not bring us to the Millennium Development Goals. Business as usual will take us even farther than we are today," Sachs emphasized.
Representatives of the World Bank, the UN system, the African Partnership Forum Secretariat and the African Union participated in the meetings. The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Most Rev Njongonkulu Ndungane, and the Irish rock musician, Bono (Paul Hewson) were also present at the meeting.
Ghana will host the next conference on financing for development.