It is clear from developments in Africa that keeping commitments bears fruit. There are multiple examples of this, from improved governance to fighting corruption to advances in sectors such as education, healthcare and sanitation.
However, at the mid point of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), sub-Saharan Africa is the only region which, at current rates, will meet none of the MDG targets by 2015. In 2006, Africa’s growth stood at 5.4%, despite a booming global economy - far short of the 7% annual growth that needs to be sustained to make substantial inroads into poverty reduction.
Our consensus is clear. Both Africa and its development partners must embrace the partnership that was adopted by the UN at the landmark summit in Monterrey in 2002. Leaders have made precise commitments in the G8, European Union (EU), African Union (AU) and UN contexts to place this partnership at the core of development co-operation. Statistics and figures about Africa are difficult to come by. It is nevertheless evident, as the Africa Progress Panel begins its work, that leaders in Africa and development partners have fallen well short on delivering their commitments.
The urgent need for leaders to build on what works and scale up efforts to keep commitments is therefore clear. There is appetite and opportunity for change in Africa. With strong commodity prices and foreign direct investment at an all-time high, Africa is a continent of enormous potential and opportunity. This opportunity must not be wasted. Urgent action to put existing commitments back on track is the way to seize the opportunity, rather than succumb to the challenges.
The backdrop of growing natural, economic and political challenges including widespread urbanisation and climate change, with its implications for disease, displacement, unemployment, food shortages and ‘water conflicts’, have the potential to aggravate already fragile situations in Africa and raise the stakes ever higher. Failing to rise to this challenge will result in deaths in Africa and growing instability, within the African continent and also further afield. In simple terms, in a globalised world, the stability and prosperity of the world is at risk when an entire continent is lagging behind. Africa needs either to be put on a sustainable trend of development or the entire human family is at risk. Global solidarity and the stake the world has in creating a well-governed, stable and prosperous Africa should compel political will to achieve the agreed goals.
Achieving the growth rates and productivity that will reduce poverty and deliver the MDGs requires focused action, rather than plans and good intentions. Undelivered commitments are creating a crisis of credibility. Leaders in both Africa and more broadly in the international community urgently need to prove they are serious about delivering on the commitments they have already made, in order to make the global development partnership work.
To date, the Panel has looked at initial findings drawn together by the Secretariat from a number of different sources to establish progress towards these commitments. Our task in the future will be to analyse these and other assessments further, particularly those from Africa itself, in order to establish our complete picture of priorities. However, it is already clear to the Panel from these preliminary baseline findings that there is just cause for concern. By engaging directly with decision-makers on the priority issues that can make a difference, the Africa Progress Panel will help leaders to do this.