ECA Press Release No. 125/2011
New York, 10 October 2011 (ECA): For development to be sustainable, it is essential to harness and build strong linkages between the three pillars of economic growth, social development and environmental protection, said UN Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Abdoulie Janneh.
“Without such an approach, gains made in one pillar could undermine progress in the other two,” Janneh told the Second Committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations October 4 in New York on the theme “Integration of the Three Pillars is Important for the World … and for Africa”
The Second Committee, also known as the Economic and Financial Committee, was hearing briefs on various issues relating to economic growth and development such as macroeconomic policy questions, financing for development, sustainable development, human settlements, poverty eradication, globalization and interdependence, operational activities for development, and information and communication technologies for development. It had invited the heads of UN regional commissions to address it.
Mr. Janneh said evidence from several parts of the world shows that where the emphasis has been on only one pillar, it would be difficult to achieve sustainable development.
Citing two examples from the African experience, Janneh said while the region had achieved positive real growth rates since 2000, even in the face of the global economic and financial crisis, this had not translated into a commensurate reduction in unemployment and poverty.
“Similarly, although there has been a noticeable increase in foreign direct investment in the natural resources sector, environmental degradation and erosion continue unabated and the sector contributes little to value-addition,” he said.
African regional, sub-regional and national institutions have taken on board the need to balance economic, social and environmental objectives, as a basis for sustainable development, said Janneh, citing the New Partnership for Africa’s Development Programme (NEPAD) as an example of an integrated framework for sustainable development, “as it addresses the economic, social and environmental dimensions of Africa’s development challenges and priorities”.
NEPAD reflects a common vision and shared commitment to eradicating poverty and to placing African countries, both individually and collectively, on the path to sustainable growth and development, he said.
Africa’s Regional Economic Communities (RECs) lead in policy harmonization and the planning for regional integration, which are important elements for promoting the balanced integration of the three pillars of sustainable development.
Janneh said the Capacity Development Programme (CDP) of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was a good example of an integrated framework aimed at translating the long-term development strategy of the sub-region into coherent and concrete programmes of actions, focusing on ten strategic axes that cover the social, economic and environmental spheres.
At the national level, African countries have also developed diverse instruments to promote sustainable development such as long-term visions, national development plans, poverty reduction strategies, and specific national strategies for sustainable development. “In many instances, institutions have been established to oversee and coordinate the implantation of these plans and strategies,” he said.
Notwithstanding these positive approaches, the implementation of integrated frameworks and strategies has been generally weak, with limited effectiveness due to inadequate institutional, technical and technological capacities, often compounded by limited budgetary resources, said Janneh.
He said collective global and regional action is needed to have a balanced and meaningful integration of the three pillars of sustainable development. “Otherwise we will be faced with the classic prisoners’ dilemma which means a race to the bottom that further worsens the tragedy of the commons. As our universal organization, the UN has a key role to prevent this from happening,” said Janneh.
The ECA has been assisting in this regard through knowledge activities, consensus building forums and direct technical advisory services especially in partnership with other stakeholders like the African Union, the African Development Bank and the Regional Economic Communities.
There are several joint multi-stakeholder and multidisciplinary forums led by ECA that provide platforms for promoting integrated and interlinked approaches, including the African Development Forum, the Regional Coordination Mechanism for Africa (RCM-Africa),the AU/ECA Conference of Economic Ministers, the Committee on Food Security and Sustainable Development and its associated Africa Regional Implementation Meetings (RIMs) .
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New York, 6 October 2011—African countries should enhance the strength and resilience of their poor populations through targeted social safeguards, according to “Assessing Progress in Africa toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)”, a region-specific report released today.
This year’s annual report shows that such policies will help in the region’s steady progress on some of the MDGs, eight internationally-agreed targets to reduce poverty, hunger, maternal and child deaths, disease, gender inequality and environmental degradation by 2015.
In spite of this progress, recent food, fuel and financial crises, coupled with threats from climate change and the recent instability in North Africa are likely to affect the region’s MDG achievement.
“We urge policy-makers to recalibrate their social protection programs, so that they are perceived not as handouts but rather as measures to strengthen productive assets,” said the authors of the foreword to the report.
According to the report, national schemes, such as pensions, safety nets and school feeding programmes, can impact positively on several MDGs by addressing the immediate needs of the most vulnerable, providing them with labor market skills and safeguards against relapses into poverty.
The document lays out a number of success stories in the area of policy, including Algeria's social protection scheme that contributed to reducing unemployment from 30 to 10 percent between 2000 and 2009, and Ethiopia’s 2005-2008 public works projects that led to construction of nearly 4,500 rural classrooms and improved food security for 7.8 million citizens.
Ghana's National Health Insurance Scheme, covering 67 percent of the population, cut out-of-pocket expenditure for health by 50 percent. In Malawi, agricultural subsidies and outreach services resulted in an increase in the number of food-secure households, from 67 to 99 percent between 2005 and 2009.
Such schemes provide immediate protection for the poor while also making a longer term contribution to creating dynamic economies and more resilient societies, according to the report published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the African Union Commission (AUC).
Thanks to policy innovations and social protection schemes, Africa has made steady progress on a number of targets. For example, it increased primary school enrolment rates from 65 to 83 percent between 1999 and 2008.
In addition, 80 percent of the 36 African countries that have data for 1990 to 2010 increased the number of women in parliament during that period; and HIV/AIDS prevalence rates have dropped from just under six percent in 2001 to five percent in 2009.
However, while all regions of the world made progress on reducing maternal mortality, Africa faces a formidable task on this indicator, with several countries showing averages of 1,000 deaths per 100,000.
In addition, although the population with access to safe drinking water increased from 56 to 65 percent between 1990 and 2008, the rate of progress is insufficient for the continent to reach the 2015 MDG target of reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.
Progress on some of the MDGs may have stalled or been reversed by the impact of the global economic crisis on Sub-Saharan Africa where the proportion of those earning less than US$1.25 a day decreased from 67 to 58 percent between 1998 and 2008.
More than 20 percent of young people in North Africa, for example, remained unemployed in 2008, while more than 75 percent of the labor force in Sub-Saharan Africa had vulnerable jobs in 2009.
In addition to carefully targeted and fiscally sound social safeguards, the report says more attention should be focused on designing strategies that promote job-rich growth and increase agricultural productivity.
To access the report, please visit http://www.undp.org/africa/mdg/
For more information, please contact:
UNECA: Yinka Adeyemi, Tel: +251-11-5443537, firstname.lastname@example.org,
AUC: Noureddine Mezni, Mobile: +251911511723
New York: UNDP, Nicolas Douillet, +1.212.906.5937, email@example.com
Tunisia: AfDB, Pénélope Pontet de Fouquières, +216 71 10 12 50, firstname.lastname@example.org