Southern African leaders underline importance of regional efforts for sustainable development

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In their respective addresses to the United Nations General Assembly today, Southern African leaders stressed the importance of regional efforts, such as within the African continent through the African Union (AU) to realize a better and sustainable future for all.

“The mission of every generation should be to leave our world a better place for next generations,” said President Arthur Peter Mutharika of Malawi in his address to the UN General Assembly.

“We are the generation that must transform the world. History demands our collective leadership,” he added, stressing the potential of the SDGs to transform the world.

In his address, the President said that Malawi will do its part and that it is doing its part, by offering refuge to people fleeing violence elsewhere as well as send peacekeepers to places where there is need, and noted that it actively pursues the AU Agenda 2063 to ‘Silence the Guns’ by 2020.

He further reported that Malawi continues to register steady but considerable progress in spite of the challenges it faces, in particular noting the effects of climate change which manifested as devastating floods in 2015 followed by severe droughts in 2016.

In responding to the natural disasters and the ensuing food insecurity, he stressed that the Government will do all it can to provide for the estimated 6.5 million affected people, but added that the country will need external support from the UN, multilateral institutions and other cooperating partners.

Describing additional progress in the areas of health, gender equality, trade, investment and market access, he emphasized “we are ready to do business with the world” but stressed that regional and global markets must be free of distortions such as subsidies, tariffs and non-tariff barriers and that international community must live up to the aspirations of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Agenda.

Also speaking in his capacity as a UN Youth Champion, President Mutharika underscored that he is “More than committed to the promotion of youth development and harnessing the demographic dividend in Malawi, across the African Continent and beyond,” and called upon world leaders to follow the example of AU adoption of Demographic Dividend as its theme for 2017.

In his own address to the plenary of the General Assembly, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa recalled the commitment made by world leaders last year in adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to address poverty, unemployment and inequality, three major challenges of this century.

Noting that though the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the SDGs’ predecessor, played a major role in the world, and in particular in Africa, President Zuma added, however, the continent and particularly sub-Saharan Africa, did not achieve the targets that were set in the MDGs.

“We have an interest therefore to ensure the improved implementation of the SDGs, as we take forward the agenda of promoting Africa's sustainable development,” he underlined, adding that if the African is to develop faster, constraints, such as inadequate infrastructure, price volatility, limited investment in research and development and low private sector investment needed to be addressed.

Referring specifically to his country, the President added that the Government has put in place a national development plan that is aligned to the AU Agenda 2063, the AU Plan as well as the SDGs.

Citing challenges at the regional level, in particular in resource mobilization, President Zuma told the General Assembly that according to estimates from a joint AU-UN Economic Commission for Africa's (UNECA) panel, illicit flows from the continent could be as much as $50 billion per year.

“If we can arrest and robustly deal with this scourge, the continent will have all the domestic resources required for the implementation of its own development agenda,” he stressed.

He further underlined the need to close the gap between the rich and the poor which has divided countries between big and small economies, “Inclusive growth has thus become a peace, security and prosperity imperative,” he added.

Further stressing that inclusive growth would remain a dream if powerful nations continue to put their national interests ahead of the global collective interest and that conflicts around the world continue, he undermined “As a continent, we remain committed through the AU and its Peace and Security Architecture to resolve the few remaining conflict areas.”

In his address, President Zuma also highlighted the importance of the Paris Agreement on climate change as well as for reforms in the UN system and said that he was pleased to see that the General Assembly “for the first time in the history of this organization been at the centre of the process of finding a new Secretary-General.”

Further today, addressing the General Assembly, President Edgar Chagwa Lungu of Zambia hightlighted  the synergies between the African Union’s 2063 Agenda and the 2030 Agenda, and said that the two clearly show that the aspirations of the African continent and those of the broader international community are well aligned for achieving a better world for all global citizens.

Underscoring that elimination of poverty is at the core of sustainable development, he called for : “Special attention [for] the least developed countries (LDCs), who are more vulnerable and in need of more support to strengthen their economies in order to overcome the challenges they face.”

Speaking of his country’s efforts to overcome poverty, unemployment, hunger and inequalities, President Lungu highlighted efforts to develop value-chain clusters, diversity agriculture, promote forestry, as well as foster industrial growth through multi-facility economic zones and industrial parks, as well as developing skills of the population and promoting education.

At the regional level, the Zambian leader underscored that development of infrastructure is fundamental to fulfilling the continents desire to accelerate economic growth and enhancing its competitiveness on the global market.

Noting the importance of the Paris Agreement, he informed the UN body of some of the steps his country has taken to address the threat of climate change, reporting that it has been pursuing greater energy mix through investment in alternative sources of energy. He added that in the agricultural sector, Zambia is exploring technologies that strengthen sustainable agricultural practices as well as increasing food production.

He also spoke about the advances the country has made in improving standards of health for its people as well as strengthening legal frameworks for gender equity and equality that has domesticated the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

As recognition of the country’s efforts to promote gender equality, he noted that Zambia was among 11 countries in Africa to be presented with the gender award for promotion of gender economic rights, and that he, himself, was conferred with the title of promoter for the He for She campaign by the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women).

Furthermore, in his address, the President spoke of the need of reforms at the UN so that it can reflect the contemporary realities of today’s global order. He also noted that Zambia fully supports the Ezulwini consensus and the Sirte declaration, representing the common African position on the reform of the UN Security Council.

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