NEW YORK — The 69th session of the U.N. General Assembly convened September 16, 2014 at U.N. Headquarters in New York City. General debate in the U.N. General Assembly Hall began on September 23 and ended September 30 with leaders from all over the world addressing the General Assembly on pressing international topics such as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS or ISIL, the situation in Ukraine and the post-2015 development agenda.
Leaders from various African countries took the podium September 27-29 in order to emphasize the developmental progress the African continent has made. In 2000, an article in the Economist famously coined Africa as “the hopeless continent” plagued by war and severely underdeveloped. The war in Sierra Leone took center stage at the U.N. fostering doubts within the international community about the world’s ability to help Africa.
Fourteen years later the President of Angola stood before the General Assembly and declared that “Africa has ceased to represent that image of desolation that it did in the beginning of the millennium.”
Through a concerted international effort to meet the Millennium Development Goals and speed up development efforts the African continent is relatively better off than when that article was published in the Economist in 2000.
At this year’s general debate African leaders asked the world to consider the specific realities and challenges that continue to plague the African continent as the international community debates the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. In order to guide their own sustainable development efforts tailored to the aspirations of the African peoples, African leaders have agreed to six pillars of sustainable development that will guide African efforts.
These six pillars are, “structural economic transformation and inclusive growth; science, technology, and innovation; people-centered development; environmental sustainability, natural resource management and disaster management; peace and security; and finance and partnerships.”
African leaders, along with other world leaders, stressed the need for a coordinated international response to the many conflicts and humanitarian disasters currently occurring throughout the world. Regionally specific problems such as piracy, drug trafficking, terrorism, food insecurity, the inability of African economies to add value to their goods, climate change, the Ebola outbreak and general political instability were also highlighted as areas in need of greater national, regional and international attention.
Countries such as the Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Togo, Sao Tome and Principe, Angola and Algeria emphasized that economic development is difficult where political instability exists. All African leaders emphasized that global security is the most important prerequisite to irreversible sustainable development.
In addition, African leaders sought to emphasize the progress made with regard to the stabilization and peace efforts and successful transitions to democracies in several countries. Violence in Guinea-Bissau, Chad and Angola where civil war has raged for years stopped last year after citizens grew frustrated with fighting that killed millions.
Wars in Ethiopia, Mozambique and Sierra Leone have also ended signaling a larger transition to peace and stability on the continent as a result of regional and international efforts to halt violence. Conflicts in Mali and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have also improved partially due to U.N. Peacekeeping interventions.
Leaders from Burundi highlighted the progress the country has made in providing free education and healthcare to children, as well as its improvements in good governance with respect to elections. Algeria explained the strides being made in mediation efforts in Mali and the importance of addressing terrorism and organized crime in the Sahel region.
Despite the recent outbreak of Ebola, continuing conflicts and Africa’s high poverty and vulnerability levels, African leaders at the U.N. General Assembly remained optimistic about the progress that was made in the past 14 years and the ability of the continent to continue that progress moving forward. African leaders also urged the international community to remain committed to development, peace and stabilization efforts on the continent as African countries being implementing its six pillar strategy for sustainable development.
Sources: UN 1, UN 2, UN 3, UN 4, UN 5, UN 6, UN 7, UN 8, International Institute for Sustainable Development, The Economist 1, The Economist 2