This year could be “the year of opportunity for the ‘Bottom Billion,’” Mr. Ban told reporters after chairing the second meeting of the so-called MDG Africa Steering Group in New York. “Tremendous gains are possible if the international community translates commitment to deliverables.”
He pointed to examples of achievements made, such as Malawi’s lowering of child mortality rates, Senegal’s accomplishments in enhancing its water and sanitation facilities and Tanzania’s improvements in primary education. “The challenge is now to replicate these successes in more countries,” he observed.
Today’s meeting identified several key programmes that need to be implemented by African nations, with assistance from the international community, in the near future, including launching an African “Green Revolution” to speed up economic growth and tackle hunger; controlling infectious diseases by providing comprehensive AIDS treatment by 2010 and bringing malaria mortality rates close to zero by 2012; and ensuring emergency obstetric care for all women by 2015.
The Secretary-General noted that there are several pressing challenges, especially that of rising food prices. It is essential to raise the productivity of farmers while also mobilizing resources to combat malnutrition and hunger, he said, adding that $500 million is required to meet the “most urgent needs.”
He voiced hope that the Group’s recommendations would spur action on the part of world leaders and encourage them to focus on specific steps that need to be agreed upon to reach development targets.
“We see a lot of leadership from African governments on these issues, and we are committed to working with them to support the design and implementation of country-led strategies and programmes,” he said.
Mr. Ban noted that on 25 September, he and the General Assembly President will convene a high-level meeting on the MDGs bringing together world leaders, civil society and the private sector. He voiced hope that this upcoming gathering will “make a real difference in bridging the implementation gap.”
Speaking to the press after the meeting, the Secretary-General also highlighted the role of the “digital divide,” noting the possibility that African countries lacking information technology capacity may “lag behind more and more.”
The MDG Africa Steering Group was set up last September after data showed that despite faster growth and strengthened institutions, Africa remains off-track to meeting the targets.
Also participating in today’s meeting were: Donald Kaberuka of the African Development Bank; Alpha Oumar Konaré of the African Union (AU); Robert Zoellick of the World Bank; Louis Michel of the European Commission; Dominique Strauss-Kahn of the International Monetary Fund (IMF); Mohammed Ennifar of the Islamic Development Bank; and Angel Gurría of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).