In­ter­view with Maged Ab­de­laziz

Africa Renewal - - Contents - — Maged Ab­de­laziz

In 2012 the United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly cre­ated a mech­a­nism to mon­i­tor com­mit­ments made by African coun­tries and their part­ners to im­prove Africa’s economic devel­op­ment. The Of­fice of the Spe­cial Ad­viser on Africa (OSAA) is the sec­re­tariat for the mech­a­nism, and works with other UN agen­cies to track progress on th­ese com­mit­ments. In an in­ter­view with

Africa Re­newal’s Kings­ley Igho­bor, Maged Ab­de­laziz, the sec­re­tary-gen­eral’s spe­cial ad­viser on Africa, ex­plained what the UN hopes to ac­com­plish with the mon­i­tor­ing mech­a­nism. The fol­low­ing are ex­cerpts.

Africa Re­newal: How would you as­sess the pace of Africa’s economic devel­op­ment?

Maged Ab­de­laziz: There is a lot of po­ten­tial in Africa. Six of the 10 fastest-grow­ing economies in the world are from the con­ti­nent, a re­gion with a lot of nat­u­ral and hu­man re­sources. But what is required is a trans­for­ma­tive agenda, one that is now ap­pear­ing in dif­fer­ent doc­u­ments that have been ap­proved by the African Union. It will be crowned when Agenda 2063 [the AU’s 50-year devel­op­ment plan] is adopted at the next AU sum­mit in Ad­dis Ababa. Many com­mit­ments and plans have been made. What we need now is to de­cide

what will be the short- and medium-term ob­jec­tives and what we can leave for future gen­er­a­tions. The prob­lem has never been a lack of ideas or frame­works or agen­das or blue­prints. The prob­lem has always been im­ple­men­ta­tion. What has changed this time around?

What I can say is that this trans­for­ma­tive agenda is turn­ing into con­crete steps that can be im­ple­mented. This di­rec­tion is to­wards in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion, and that is very im­por­tant. In­clu­sive growth, mean­ing that ev­ery per­son in Africa should ben­e­fit from its nat­u­ral re­sources. It should also ben­e­fit the poor.

That’s the ideal. How do you en­sure com­pli­ance?

I trust that when African gov­ern­ments make com­mit­ments, they mean good for their peo­ple and that they will im­ple­ment those com­mit­ments.

So your hope is based on trust?

Do I have a choice? I have no en­force­ment mech­a­nisms, nei­ther has the UN or the AU, to com­pel any pres­i­dent or prime min­is­ter to do any­thing.

Do you have a feel­ing that there is more se­ri­ous­ness now than be­fore?

Yes. What makes me think that way is the spirit of re­gional in­te­gra­tion that is hap­pen­ing now. Each sub­re­gion now has an in­te­gra­tion plan, be­gin­ning with a free trade area in 2017, a mon­e­tary union by 2034 and even­tu­ally an over­all African cus­toms union. You will ask me if this is re­al­is­tic. I will tell you: let’s try to achieve it. If we don’t, we will give it two or five more years, but let’s try. Then there is the link­age between peace and se­cu­rity and devel­op­ment. You can’t im­ple­ment a trans­for­ma­tive agenda when there is no peace and se­cu­rity.

Your of­fice is set­ting up a mon­i­tor­ing mech­a­nism to track com­mit­ments made to­wards Africa’s devel­op­ment. Why such a mech­a­nism?

In 2008, the Gen­eral Assem­bly adopted a res­o­lu­tion on Africa’s devel­op­ment with spe­cific com­mit­ments to be im­ple­mented by the African coun­tries them­selves and oth­ers by their devel­op­ment part­ners. Un­for­tu­nately there was the fi­nan­cial

cri­sis of 2008 that made it dif­fi­cult to im­ple­ment many parts of the dec­la­ra­tion. In 2010 the assem­bly re­quested, and the sec­re­tary-gen­eral pro­posed, a mech­a­nism to check progress on the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the com­mit­ments in that dec­la­ra­tion and those made at other main UN con­fer­ences on Africa. The res­o­lu­tion was very clear: it said that the new mon­i­tor­ing mech­a­nism would build on ex­ist­ing ones. We counted 52 ex­ist­ing mech­a­nisms! So we are not rein­vent­ing the wheel; we will rely on the in­for­ma­tion from other mech­a­nisms. Are you go­ing to an­a­lyze com­mit­ments made over the past decade or so?

No. In each re­port we will con­cen­trate on four or five rel­e­vant is­sues that will be con­sid­ered by the UN in the next two years, be­gin­ning Septem­ber 2014. This year’s re­port will con­cen­trate on ac­cel­er­at­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the MDGs, cli­mate change, good gover­nance, as well as agri­cul­ture and food se­cu­rity. Which means you are track­ing com­mit­ments and their im­pact on the ground in Africa.

Ab­so­lutely, and propos­ing al­ter­na­tives that could be taken.

When you say “com­mit­ments,” what do you re­ally mean?

Th­ese are com­mit­ments on aid, trade, FDI [for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment], the move­ment of labour between coun­tries, hu­man rights, good gover­nance, com­bat­ing cor­rup­tion, etc.

Is there a way to en­sure that th­ese com­mit­ments are fol­lowed through?

No. But our work on the mon­i­tor­ing mech­a­nism is done in con­sul­ta­tion with the AU and African coun­tries on one hand, and with donors and devel­op­ment part­ners on the other. We also work with the OECD [Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Economic Co-op­er­a­tion and Devel­op­ment] coun­tries, the World Bank and other in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions.

Some OECD coun­tries are go­ing through tough economic times. How do you get th­ese coun­tries to in­crease or im­ple­ment their com­mit­ments?

Our task is not to have them in­crease their com­mit­ments; our task is to track the im­ple­men­ta­tion of what has al­ready been agreed to by mem­ber states.

Your re­port will en­cour­age im­ple­men­ta­tion of com­mit­ments?

We are fol­low­ing a non­con­fronta­tional ap­proach. Our task is not to name and shame, that is, to sin­gle out coun­tries that are im­ple­ment­ing com­mit­ments and those that are not. We will give the analy­ses with­out get­ting into the polemics of who

I trust that when African gov­ern­ments make com­mit­ments, they mean good for their peo­ple and that they will im­ple­ment those com­mit­ments.

did what, who did not and why. So how does your re­port as­sist in having th­ese coun­tries ful­fill their com­mit­ments?

It will pro­vide an hon­est as­sess­ment of ev­ery­body, in­clud­ing African coun­tries, in a way they will find them­selves morally obliged to im­ple­ment or con­sider the re­port’s rec­om­men­da­tions. By speak­ing out on cli­mate change, on the com­mit­ments that have been made in Copen­hagen, in Mex­ico, by point­ing out the per­cent­age of the promised funds Africa re­ceives and the lev­els of im­ple­men­ta­tion by African coun­tries, we will be able to pro­vide the full pic­ture to pol­icy mak­ers.

So this is fully an ad­vo­cacy task?

We are here to ad­vo­cate for Africa. Aren’t we? Why am I here, the only spe­cial ad­viser for a spe­cific re­gion! We are con­sult­ing with ev­ery­body as we draw up our re­port, par­tic­u­larly ex­perts in those four or five ar­eas we are re­port­ing on.

You will be deal­ing with African gov­ern­ments and non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions?

Yes, it’s part of the deal. NGOs are al­lowed to par­tic­i­pate as equal part­ners.

How would you re­spond to those who say that fo­cus­ing on com­mit­ments, in­clud­ing aid, re­in­forces the no­tion that Africa is de­pen­dent on for­eign as­sis­tance?

No. Africa is search­ing for equal part­ners, not part­ners com­ing to ex­ploit Africa. That’s why I like very much the re­view of part­ner­ships that was or­dered by Chair­per­son Nkosazana DlaminiZuma of the African Union Com­mis­sion. Let’s have a re­view of our part­ner­ships with In­dia, with China, with the US, with the EU, with the Arab League. Let’s see what’s in it for us and what’s in it for them.

What is your idea of suc­cess with this mon­i­tor­ing mech­a­nism?

My idea of suc­cess is con­vinc­ing mem­ber states to take ad­di­tional mea­sures to en­sure they im­ple­ment their com­mit­ments or bridge the gaps that we will iden­tify in our re­ports.

Africa Sec­tion / Bo Li

Maged Ab­de­laziz, UN Sec­re­tary- Gen­eral’s Spe­cial Ad­viser on Africa.

World Bank/Arne Hoel

A ship loads goods at an African port.

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