Tuesday, August 22, 2006

[Southern Africa] SADC Summit Serious On Poverty

from All Africa

New Era (Windhoek)

Petronella Sibeene

Although the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has delivered political freedom and democratic governance, the regional body has failed to address issues related to poverty eradication.

Lesotho's Prime Minister, also the new Chairperson of SADC during the 2006 Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government, Pakalitha Mosisili, stressed that in its 26 years of existence, the body has not delivered on poverty eradication through economic integration.

The summit acknowledged improvements that have been recorded in the overall food security situation, mainly attributed to improved access to inputs by farmers and increased rainfall during the 2005/6 season.

However, in its 18-point communiqué, the summit agreed that a task force comprising ministers responsible for finance, investment, economic development, trade and industry should work with the secretariat with a view to defining the roadmap for eradicating poverty and to propose measures for fast-tracking its implementation. It was also agreed that this task force reports at the next extra-ordinary summit to be held before October 2006.

"The Summit approved the convening of a SADC Conference on Poverty and Development and directed the Secretariat to make the necessary preparations in consultation with Mauritius," the communiqué reads.

It says that in 2005 the region recorded an overall growth of 5.0 percent Gross Domestic Product, which is below the United Nations target that stands at 7 percent for developing nations to attain by 2015.

Another topical issue that calls for the region's urgent address involves the high rates of mortality especially for women and children. The situation, which is currently worsened by the HIV pandemic, has depressed most countries' health sectors.

Southern African leaders resolved that interventions such as programmes aimed at combating the spread of HIV and mitigating the impact of AIDS be up-scaled within the context of the Maseru Declaration on Combating HIV and AIDS of 2003. On issues related to equality and gender, the summit noted the progress that has thus far been made towards the achievement of the set target of 30 percent women representation in decision-making. The heads of state reaffirmed their commitment to the new target of 50 percent.

Matters pertaining to access, equity and quality of education in the region remain a great concern and thus formed part of the discussions during this gathering in Maseru.

Outgoing SADC Chairperson and President of Botswana, Festus Mogae, observed that the implementation of the region's programmes show limited progress in the achievement of full integration. He urged member states to show commitment by contributing significantly towards the region's projects and programmes. In light of that, the summit mandated the SADC Secretariat to accelerate the process leading to the establishment of the SADC Regional Development Fund to finance development projects based on mobilization of member states.

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