UN chief urges African leaders to tackle uneven progress on eradicating poverty, exclusion

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that progress remains slow and uneven in Africa’s efforts to eradicate poverty and end exclusion.

Guterres called for the scaling-up of efforts to eradicate poverty while addressing the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) Summit at the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Sunday. “This remained an essential social and moral obligation for humankind.”

The UN chief commended the 55-member pan-African bloc for completing the first report on the country-level implementation of the ten-year implementation plan of Agenda 2063, hailing it as “a key milestone on the path to realizing the Africa we want.”

Guterres said the AU’s 50-year continental development Agenda 2063 and the global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development had “galvanized Africa’s governments and their development partners on poverty.”

“We can point to significant improvements in living standards, including access to quality education, health care, food security, basic social services and infrastructure,” he said.

“But progress remains slow and uneven when it comes to eradicating poverty and ending exclusion.”

One of the key instruments toward poverty eradication in Africa and beyond is the promotion of gender equality and the rights and meaningful engagement of women and girls, Guterres said.

He praised the AU Commission for making “Silencing the Guns” a prominent part of its work for the year 2020.

“I can guarantee the full support of the United Nations for this landmark initiative,” Guterres said. “Ultimately, silencing the guns is not just about peace and security but also inclusive sustainable development and human rights.”

He highlighted three challenges of particular urgency for the continent during the year 2020 and beyond: making further inroads against poverty through a critical decade of action to deliver the sustainable development goals, tackling the climate crisis, and silencing the guns.

The UN chief also hailed the UN strategic partnership with the AU, saying that “since I took office, I have sought to build stronger ties between our two organizations, based on shared values, mutual respect, common interests and, if I may, my own deep personal commitment to Africa’s peace, prosperity and well-being and my conviction that Africa’s challenges can only be solved by African leadership.”

On the climate crisis, Guterres said the rise of temperature in Africa has been twice the global average, resulting in devastating destruction by cyclones and related climate-linked crises, including a locust infestation now causing misery across vast swathes of east Africa.

“Major emitting countries and industrial sectors have a particular responsibility. If they don’t deliver, all our efforts will be in vain,” he said. “We need more ambition on mitigation and, especially for Africa’s sake, more ambition on adaptation and financing to build the resilience of African countries and communities and allow for effective recovery and reconstruction.”

Guterres called for international support to end conflicts in Africa, in particular in the Central African Republic.

He said in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, the increasing number and complexity of terrorist attacks on both civilian and military targets demonstrated the need for a more robust and integrated response with a focus on cross-border issues.

Guterres called for an end to the Libyan conflict, emphasizing that “only a political solution, nationally-owned and nationally-led, will bring peace in Libya.”

“Foreign intervention in the conflict will only make things worse,” he said. “An immediate cease-fire is absolutely essential.” Enditem

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