UN Deputy Secretary-General, Mr. Jan Eliasson, says Africa will always find a ready and willing partner in the UN as it progresses on the road of economic development to provide peace, more jobs, greater equality and better living conditions to its peoples. 'The United Nations stands firmly at the side of the African Union and its member states as you advance for the benefit of all the people of this great continent, offering them a better future and a life of dignity,' he said.
Mr. Eliasson made the statement on Thursday while addressing African leaders at the opening session of the 22nd session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The UN official said the United Nations was the AU's unwavering partner in this pursuit, and there was hardly any higher priority for the United Nations than tangible and sustainable development in Africa.
He said: 'We support African-owned and African-led efforts to achieve this objective. Peace, development and human rights as well as the rule of law are inextricably linked.'
He said that conflict-shattered economies could take a quarter of a century to recover, but the United Nations aimed to deepen its partnership with the AU Peace and Security Architecture to ensure peace and stability on the continent.
Mr. Eliasson noted that Africa lagged behind in achieving many of the UN’s anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the 2015 deadline, stressing the essential role of agriculture and food security in reducing poverty and achieving the MDGs.
But he also noted the strides that had been made towards some of the Goals, especially education, maternal and child health, and gender equality, and cited Africa’s 'advancement and impressive growth at a time when the rest of the world is struggling to recover from the global economic crisis'.
'Now this growth should be translated into transformative economic development, more jobs, greater equality and better living conditions,' he said.
According to him investing more in education, health, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship would permit the acceleration of development on the whole continent and offer new opportunities.
Turning to conflicts in various African countries, Mr. Eliasson voiced deep concern at the situation in South Sudan, calling for their combined efforts to focus on protecting civilians, preventing gross human rights abuses and facilitating humanitarian aid.
The UN deputy scribe also urged the parties to strictly fulfil the cessation of hostilities accord signed last week, and intensify efforts for reconciliation.
On Central African Republic (CAR) he said the common AU-UN goal must be to end the atrocious confrontation between Christians and Muslims and restore the harmony that had for long marked relations between the two communities.
He called on all UN member states to offer generous donations for the seriously underfunded AU peacekeeping mission known as MISCA, that is trying to restore stability in the country.
'As we address crises facing African countries, we celebrate Africa’s impressive progress,' Mr. Eliasson noted.