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Member States participating in the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on Africa’s development needs also stressed that poverty eradication, particularly in Africa, is the “greatest global challenge facing the world today,” according to a political declaration adopted at the end of the day-long event.They noted that, despite recent considerable improvements, the full and timely achievement of the global anti-poverty targets that make up the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) “remains elusive.” While welcoming the commitments made by Africa and its partners so far, participants recommitted themselves to “reinvigorate and strengthen a global partnership of equals… with the explicit objective of turning existing commitments into concrete actions.”In doing so, they committed to strengthen support for the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) – the continent’s overarching framework for socio-economic sustainable development. The declaration highlights a number of areas where further efforts are needed, including the mobilization of resources, debt forgiveness, tackling HIV/AIDS and other diseases, and boosting conflict resolution, as well as addressing the impacts of climate change and the global food crisis. “Africa’s challenges are still enormous. Brave as its nations may be – and we know that they are brave indeed – Africa cannot move ahead on its own,” Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto said, as he opened the meeting this morning.“To consolidate the progress made and reach our goal of empowering Africa to meet the development challenges it faces, all of us in the international community, especially donor countries and the Bretton Woods institutions, must fully honour our commitments and substantially complement the efforts of the African nations,” he stated.A new report by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, released ahead of today’s meeting, showed that while most of Africa’s economies are now growing more rapidly than they did a decade ago, the continent remains “off track” in its quest to achieve the MDGs.“No one is more alarmed than you at the current trends, which indicate that no African country will achieve all the Goals by 2015,” Mr. Ban told the Assembly. “But I am convinced that through concerted action by African governments and their development partners, the MDGs remain achievable in Africa.”He noted that it will cost an estimated $72 billion per year in external financing to achieve the Goals by 2015. “This price tag may look daunting. But it is affordable, and falls within existing aid commitments,” he added. Today’s meeting, which included a series of round-table discussions, was held ahead of a high-level gathering to be convened by Mr. Ban and Mr. D’Escoto on 25 September to review progress to date, identify gaps and commit to concrete steps to ensure that all countries can achieve the MDGs. 22 September 2008World leaders meeting at the United Nations today have underscored the urgency of finding solutions to the major challenges facing Africa, and have recommitted themselves to a global partnership to help the continent halve poverty, illiteracy and other socio-economic ills by 2015. read more

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The United Nations is putting in place better management practices that address the shortcomings revealed in the latest interim report by an independent panel looking into allegations of wrongdoing in the Oil-for-Food programme for Iraq, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Chief of Staff said today.Mark Malloch Brown stressed, in reference to the Independent Inquiry Committee (IIC) headed by former United States Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, that “the important bit of Volcker” is the “forward-looking bit of Volcker, which is: having disposed of any charges of criminality and corruption against the system and against the Secretary-General, but having pinpointed failings by others, how do we move forward to put in place the management reforms that address that.”And I would argue, the kind of things we’re doing on more open, high-quality selection of senior staff, the reform of procurement and audit, the strengthening of OIOS going forward – all of these issues are a very serious response to the issues raised and show that the Secretary-General takes this very seriously,” he said at a news conference.Responding to several questions about the Secretary-General’s involvement in the awarding of a contract to a Swiss firm that previously employed his son, Mr. Malloch Brown said it was now no longer up to Mr. Annan to prove his innocence, but for his accusers to prove his guilt.”I think that the onus is now on those of you who wish to continue to pursue this; the burden of proof has shifted,” he said.”You don’t get much clearer than no evidence,” he added, referring to allegations that Mr. Annan improperly influenced the awarding of a contract to Cotecna to monitor the now defunct multibillion dollar programme that allowed the sanctions-bound Iraqi regime to sell oil in exchange for humanitarian supplies from 1996-2003.”Let’s first agree that the story has probably moved decisively on today from a probably, a final slaying of the ghosts [that] there was corruption in this by the Secretary-General to a second issue which is, ‘Was the management [of the programme] effective enough?'” he said at another point.”On that, [Mr. Annan] is the first to acknowledge it evidently wasn’t. A number of individuals have now been cited in ways that are enormously damaging to the organization,” he added.Asked about the shredding of some documents that dated from the time when the contract with Cotecna was awarded, Mr. Malloch Brown said: “The point is surely: Volcker looked, he looked under every stone, he threw millions of dollars of investigation at this and concluded ‘No Story.'”But, the Chief of Staff added, it was “an issue we have to look very carefully into because it is clearly deeply damaging to any investigation to have documents destroyed, particularly after an instruction has gone out to preserve documents.”But as the report says, there appears – and the report appears to side with this – [that] there is a very reasonable explanation for this,” he said, noting that the shredded documents were duplicates that were destroyed for reasons of space.Asked about reports of meetings between Cotecna executives and Mr. Annan, he replied: “Whatever Cotecna’s aspirations in terms of developing a relationship with the Secretary-General, it was a dud, they didn’t, and there was no influence over that contract.” read more

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