Biography Newsroom Writing & Statements

ROME, November 24-26, 2005 

It is indeed a privilege and an honour for the International Peace Bureau (IPB), which I represent, to participate in this discussion on “African Emergency - Strategies to Eliminate Poverty” – a theme that is clearly timely and relevant in the current context of global affairs. The IPB was founded in 1892 as a direct result of the third Universal Peace Congress held in this eternal city of Rome in 1891. As the world’s oldest and most comprehensive international peace federation and the Nobel Peace Laureate in 1910, we continue to be proud to be associated with the Nobel Laureates Summit and thank the Gorbachev Foundation and the City of Rome for your hospitality and the arrangements at this Sixth Summit

Let me at the outset congratulate this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, my good friend Dr.Mohammed El Baradei, the Director-General, and the organization that he leads so ably - the International Atomic Energy Agency. My own professional career in peace and disarmament has led to a close association with Dr.El-Baradei and the IAEA and I am well aware of the outstanding role they have played, and continue to play, in containing the spread of nuclear weapons in the world. May I also on behalf of the IPB congratulate Sir Bob Geldof on the ‘Man of Peace’ award that we have presented to him. It is appropriate that we do so in this Summit which we have devoted to the needs of Africa for which Sir Bob has dedicated so much of his time and energy.

This annual Summit is an event fast acquiring international significance due to the distinguished presence of so many of the Nobel Laureates as well as the moral compass our final document provides in a world which is clearly in need of consensus building with regard to common objectives. The Outcome Document from the UN´s 60th Anniversary Summit last September was not as comprehensive as was hoped. Nor was it definitive in the areas it addressed, leaving much to be done in the months ahead. With UN reform a matter of work in progress, the future of Africa must depend on the far-reaching influence of other international fora to supplement the United Nations. The Nobel Laureates Summit fulfills that need. And there is no cause more worthy than the special needs of Africa. We are all stakeholders in the security and development of Africa.

The IPB is gratified that our consideration of this agenda item is structured in the manner that has been proposed in the programme. That is, we discuss the Strategies to eliminate poverty in Africa this morning highlighting the political approaches needed. This afternoon we discuss economic aspects and tomorrow we discuss Human Rights aspects. We would thus be following the theme of the High Level Panel Report on Threats, Challenges and Change submitted to the UN Secretary-General in December last year, which Kofi Annan himself adopted as his thematic motif in his own report "In Larger Freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all." Put simply security, development and human rights are the tripod on which Africa´s future must be built. To weaken one of the legs of this tripod or to pay insufficient attention to any one of them would have grave  consequences.

Our focus at this Summit on Africa is as timely as it is well deserved. While the Outcome Document of the High-level Plenary meeting of the United Nations General Assembly did include Africa in its general prescriptions of policy, a special section was included for that continent. No other continent received such attention. No other continent is in such dire need of political institution building, economic development and international assistance as Africa, building on the progress that the Africans themselves have achieved in overcoming the burdens that history has imposed on them. The special section was an encouragement to Africa to carry forward the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa´s Development -NEPAD - and to welcome the many acts of partnership for development so that Africa - the only continent not on track to meet any of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 - can be helped in concrete ways. This covered areas like financial resource mobilization, education and health for all children by 2015, investment, external debt cancellation, trade reform, agriculture, affordable and accessible drugs for HIV/AIDS and the treatment of other diseases and conflict-resolution through the African Union, sub-regional bodies and the UN. We at the Nobel Peace Laureates Summit must endorse and support this.

But we can do more. Indeed we must do more because the moral conscience of humanity cannot countenance a situation where, according to the 2005 Human Development Report of the UNDP, someone living in Zambia today has less chance of reaching the age of 30 than someone born in England in 1840 – one hundred and sixty five years ago; where sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 20% of births worldwide and 44% of child deaths; where aid flows to sub-Saharan Africa, which fell by one-third in the 1990s, must double over the next five years if the estimated cost of achieving the MDGs on target is to be met; where if the share of world exports from sub-Saharan Africa in 1980 had remained the foreign exchange gain would be eight times the aid this sub-region received in 2003; and where the death toll in the Democratic Republic of Congo´s conflict exceeds the losses of Britain in both World War I and World War II. Silent tsunamis are causing the inexorable trend that we must collectively seek to reverse so that the MDGs can be met in Africa. Our collective hand wringing will not do. Our fellow human beings in the continent of Africa need immediate and urgent help in concrete ways and means, which can only come about through a combination of policy decisions and practical action. Failure to honour the promises made by nation states will lead to a questioning of the global compacts we make. There must be hope for a better future with co-operation and not exploitation and basic human needs met. In a globalized world our actions benefit all other continents as Africa develops its export and import potential in a tide that lifts all boats.

Africa’s historical legacy bears deep scars from her colonial experience. We recall the ‘scramble for Africa’ when the greedy exploitation of that great continent’s rich resources took place in the
19th and 20th centuries. The Berlin Act of 1885 - 120 years ago - superimposed an artificial order on a continent of indigenous cultures and regions fragmenting it politically. That exploitation led to inter-state wars. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s prestigious Yearbook records that in 2004, there were 6 major armed conflicts going on in Africa out of the total of 19 in the world. They have revolved around questions more of Governmental power and less on ethnic issues. We must therefore address the issue of security in Africa, which is undeniably the most conflict prone region in the world. In doing so we have to make an effort to understand the nature and causes of poverty in the African context.

We should note in this regard that political science and economic approaches to conflict have assumed different motivations – grievance versus greed – and different explanations – atypical grievances versus atypical opportunities. The economic approach, based on quantitative analysis, asserts that the incidence of conflict is not explained by motive, but by the atypical circumstances that generate profitable opportunities in contrast to the political science approach, based on qualitative analysis, which argues that conflict occurs when grievances are sufficiently acute that people want to engage in violent protests.

‘Greed and grievance’ models of civil wars developed by Collier, Hoeffler and others, which emphasize the motives and costs of organizing and maintaining rebellions, have been influential in explaining conflicts in Africa and elsewhere. For this purpose, civil war is defined as an internal conflict with at least 1,000 combat-related deaths per year. The Collier-Hoeffler model indicates that the average probability of a new war in the 1960-95 period was 26% for Burundi, as against 7% for the sample. That is, the economic variables that fed the model were useful in predicting the conflict in Burundi.

There is a fallacy that ethnic differences are instrumental in producing violent conflicts in Africa. For example, it is common to see reports implying that violence in Burundi is due to ethnic differences between Tutsis and Hutus. More analytical studies present the case that ethnic or ethno-regional difference could lead to violent conflict only if the allocation of resources among these groups is unequal. Distributional conflicts are often very much of an economic issue. Moreover, violent conflict exacerbates the very conditions that gave rise to it in the first place, creating a classic ‘conflict trap’.

Yet there are signs of hope. The number of cases of ‘one-sided’ violence—defined as the slaughter of at least 25 civilians in the course of a year and called one-sided because the victims cannot fight back—declined from 17 to 11, a drop of 35%, from 2002 to 2003. The National Committee for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (NCDDR) in post-conflict Sierra Leone successfully ended its operations on 31st March 2004. Foreign aid/debt has a critical role to play in consolidating these gains and laying the foundation for lasting peace and sustainable development. It is also important to realize that aid conditionalities could very well upset a delicate political balance that prevails in post conflict situations. As Boyce and Pastor (1998) note, “Unless politics of peace are allowed to shape economic policy both will fail.”

Also, the governments of conflict-affected Africa have much internal capacity building to do in order to muster all local resources for peace building purposes. The diamond industry in Sierra Leone is a classic example. Though the industry has been prospering since the official cessation of hostilities in 2002, its contribution to the ongoing peace process has been disappointing. Illicit mining and smuggling have deprived the country of much needed revenue. Hernando de Soto points out, “it is easy to make a country prosperous. It needs only security of life and property, and markets in which property rights can be valued and traded.”

We have begun to have good news from Africa as a sign that Africans can and do engage in self-reliant development. Elections in Liberia which elected the first woman President in Africa, and in Burundi are encouraging. So also are developments in Sierra Leone while South Africa and Mozambique continue to be inspiring models. As the African proverb says "However long the night, dawn will break."

While I represent the IPB I also come from Asia which, like Africa, suffered from colonialism. Fifty years ago as a result of an initiative that began from the capital of my country, Sri Lanka, an Asian-African Summit was held in Bandung, .Indonesia. In April this year I was present when this remarkable example of South-South co-operation was commemorated, consolidated and reinvigorated. The Declaration on the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASAP) that came out of this Summit was issued by countries who had made political gains as independent nations but sought commensurate advances in the social and economic spheres through co-operation, a common commitment to realizing multilateral goals and new linkages to sustain for the common benefit and prosperity of the peoples of the two continents.

While foreign aid flows must increase and foreign debt has to be cancelled or rescheduled, we are aware that foreign direct investment (FDI) is the key to growth. UNCTAD figures show that globally we had inflows of $ 648.1 billion in 2004 of which $ 637.4 came from developed economies. $ 380 billion, or more than half, went back into developed economies. Africa received just $ 18.1 billion as FDI. Of this a growing percentage is coming from Asian countries like China, India, the Republic of Korea and the ASEAN countries. Clearly this figure has to increase significantly especially from developed countries if we are to make an impact on Africa´s development.

But terms of trade are also important as Africa´s exported primary products earn less and less on world markets while imported manufactured products cost more. The forthcoming Hong Kong Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization´s Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations is a key milestone and an opportunity to address this issue so that free trade in fact translates into fair trade through dismantling of the agricultural and other subsidies that protect the developed economies. It is not enough to beat the drums about globalization. We have to democratise globalization and make its benefits meaningful to every village in Africa. Agriculture is indisputably the key area. The Doha Round must be more than a bargaining session between the big economic centres of the world.

We have many opportunities to help resolve the problems of Africa. We must all pressure our Governments to act in international fora to take collective action. We can also act individually as Sir Bob Geldof has shown us. Let me end by quoting from one of Africa´s greatest sons, Nelson Mandela, who ended his autobiography "Long Walk to Freedom" with these words: "I have walked that long walk to freedom….But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb….with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended." Let us walk together with our African brothers and sisters in their journey, which is our journey.

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