Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The EU-Africa Lisbon Summit

from All Africa

Accra Mail (Accra)


By David Miliband and Douglas Alexander

British Foreign Secretary and Minister for International Development respectively Globalisation is increasing interdependence. It is creating shared interests that demand co-operation between countries and regions.

From climate change and economic growth, to conflict and terrorism, Europe and Africa's futures are intertwined. We must use this weekend's EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon to strengthen our relations and create a better future for the next generation.

The UK has in the last ten years made massive efforts with many African countries to support African-led development. From aid to trade to debt relief to education and health we are committed to put our money and people behind a transformation in African fortunes.

Whether it be £6bn in trade with South Africa, our efforts to restore peace to Sierra Leone, or the £700m of aid announced last week to fight poverty in Uganda, we are investing more in African countries than ever before.

But we also know that the EU, as a regional player of 27 states, needs to fashion a new relationship with Africa. It can add value. After all it was under the UK Presidency that in 2005 the EU signed up to a strategy for Africa and made commitments to support peace and security, sustainable development and good governance.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo for instance the EU provided support for last year's landmark presidential elections, and we are supporting reform of the Congolese armed forces, police and justice system. The EU is Africa's biggest donor, helping to build the schools, health clinics and infrastructure to help Africa thrive. And we are playing a more active role in tackling violent conflict, both by supporting the AU and UN, and directly by despatching European troops for instance to Eastern Chad.

We want to strengthen this co-operation. The EU and Africa should be more ambitious about what we can achieve by working together. This is what the summit is about. We want to see progress in five key areas.

First, on the Millennium Development Goals. Seven years have passed since world leaders pledged to "spare no effort" to free men, women and children from extreme poverty. Seven years remain before the 2015 deadline. Some progress has been made. Debt relief and aid increases helped put 20 million more African children into school between 2000 and 2004. But we are not moving fast enough. We want the Summit to agree a new partnership on the MDGs. The EU must live up to its promises on financing and accelerate efforts on health, education and economic growth. African Governments, in turn, must redouble efforts to deliver public services, building and improving schools and hospitals, and providing access to water and sanitation.

Second, more joint efforts on conflict prevention and resolution. It is in all our interests to work together on this. As the wars in the Great Lakes have shown, conflict does not respect national boundaries. The AU is taking responsibility for conflict in Africa. It has developed an African-owned vision for early conflict warning, mediation and peacekeeping. It now needs to be made fully operational. The EU is already helping. We have helped fund the African Union mission in Darfur to the tune of $650m. But we can and should do more to share expertise, build African capacity and provide more predictable funding.

Third, climate change. This is potentially the biggest threat to peace, security and development in the twenty-first century. We have already seen the devastating effects in Darfur, where friction over water shortages have played a role in turning the age-old struggles into violent conflict. Africa has a real stake in negotiations to address climate change following the end in 2012 of the first commitment period of the Kyoto protocol. It is important to work together on this. Europe and Africa's national and regional plans should take account of the need to adapt and cope with climate change. And there is much more that we can do together to better manage our natural resources and environment.

Fourth, governance and human rights. Progress has been made. Since 2002 Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has recovered US$ 5bn of stolen money and assets. The African Peer Review Mechanism is an important tool to review governance between African countries. We want the EU to do what it can to support this, and to continue to provide its significant assistance with election monitoring.

Fifth, the Commission for Africa argued that Africa needs better trade deals and more aid to support the continent's ability to trade. We want the Summit to recommit to the Doha Development Round and express support for the EU's "aid for trade" strategy.

We welcome the Economic Partnership Agreements that have been signed by several African countries, and hope that others will follow before the end of this year, providing better access to EU markets and thus helping Africa to trade its way out of poverty.

We have been arguing for these priorities in discussions in the run-up to the Summit. However, the Prime Minister will not be attending - because of our distress at the tragedy unfolding in Zimbabwe, which affects people of all races, which we believe can be traced back directly to Robert Mugabe - the only African leader with an EU Visa Ban against his name.

It would be wrong for the UK Prime Minister - or other senior members of the British Government - to stand by his side. This man's misrule has brought starvation to a country that was once the breadbasket of Africa. In the face of his brutal tyranny and abuse of human rights, a third of the population have fled. Those who remain face a daily struggle for survival - and the lowest life expectancy rates in the world. The idea that we pretend this isn't happening is not right.

A solution to Zimbabwe's problem can't come soon enough for its people. We back President Mbeki's efforts to help negotiate a process towards free and fair elections. For these to happen we will need a repeal of the draconian security laws and the violence against the opposition, a free press, independent monitors, and an independent electoral commission. We stand ready to support Zimbabwe, if freedom returns, to rebuild its shattered economy and infrastructure

Working together, the EU and Africa will play a significant role in shaping the world for the next generation. This summit is an opportunity to take decisions that will help provide security and prosperity for our peoples. The UK will play its part in making sure this important partnership is strong, productive and lasting.

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