President starts work as AU chairman

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President Mugabe meets the executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Dr Carlos Lopes in his new AU office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, yesterday. — (Picture by Presidential photographer Joseph Nyadzayo)

From Caesar Zvayi in ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
AFRICAN Union chairman President Mugabe yesterday took his official duties to his new office at the African Union headquarters when he held a closed door meeting with the executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Dr Carlos Lopes, who briefed him about the work of the commission and how it fits into the continent’s 50-year development roadmap, Agenda 2063.

Established by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in 1958 as one of the world body’s five regional commissions, UNECA seeks to promote the economic and social development of its member states, foster intra-regional integration, and promote international cooperation for Africa’s development.

Made up of 54 member States, UNECA has been playing the dual role of a regional arm of the UN and a key component of the African institutional landscape.

Emerging from the hour-long meeting, Dr Lopes, who was accompanied by several UNECA officials said he had come to brief the AU chairman about the work of the commission and its relationship with the AU.

‘‘This is the beginning of President Mugabe’s tenure as the chairman of the African Union, so we were very pleased to brief him on all the various activities we do together with the African Union and in particular the economic and social fields because this is a very important year when there is particular emphasis on development goals and we want to marry these with the African Union,’’ he said.

The AU has declared 2015 as the ‘Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063’.

Agenda 2063 is the AU programme of action to be implemented over the next 50 years in five 10-year plans.

This year; that coincided with President Mugabe’s chairmanship, marks the first year of the First 10-year Plan.

The basic tenet of Agenda 2063 is that Africans must benefit from their diverse natural resources by departing from the current practice of exporting natural resources in their raw form.

Agenda 2063 advocates the beneficiation, and value-addition of all natural resources before export, the development of key infrastructure to promote greater continental integration and industrialisation, among other things.

‘‘With the President we discussed how, during his tenure, he can guide us in terms of implementing some of the recommendations that came from the African consultations,’’ Dr Lopes said.

‘‘Recommendations to make sure that discussions about goals and development goals is not going to be unfavourable to Africa because we believe the previous round sometimes  shortchanged Africa because we never discussed funding, we never discussed means of implementation.

‘‘These discussions did not advance, they are stuck. All the different means that allow you to implement were out of the agenda,’’ he said.

UNECA, Dr Lopes said, did not want this problem to recur with the new Sustainable Development Goals set to succeed the Millennium Development Goals that were adopted at the turn of the millennium and are tenable this year.

The MDGs have been criticised for what they omitted.

Critics argued, for instance, that the goals did not emphasise sustainable development, and were a minimalist interpretation of the millennium declaration, leaving out crucial issues such as peace and security.

To this end, At Rio+20 — the UN Conference on Sustainable Development — countries agreed to establish an intergovernmental process to develop a set of “action-oriented, concise and easy to communicate” sustainable development goals (SDGs) to help drive the post-2015 development agenda.

‘‘We do not want that to happen again, we want goals to be set but we want also means to attain those goals to be discussed, otherwise it is very easy to set goals and nobody knows how they are going to be funded.

‘‘What is the contribution of the external partners? What is the contribution of trade? What is the contribution of other means of implementation such as fiscal policies, how you manage debt, how you manage sovereign loans, and so on.

‘‘All these things are very important and they should be part of the package, otherwise it’s a package where Africans have responsibilities but the other partners do not have responsibilities that have targets. It’s very generic for the others and very specific for Africa,’’ he added.

The AU has since adopted a resolution for alternative sources of funding to enable it to fund 100 percent of its running costs, at least 75 percent of its programme expenses, and at least 25 percent of peacekeeping operations within the next five years, and to cumulatively build on this till it is able to fund its entire budget.

Among the alternative sources of funds proposed by AU finance ministers are levies on air tickets, hotel beds and SMSes.

Turning to how UNECA fits in with Agenda 2063 that seeks to move the AU to financial independence and promote resource nationalism throughout the continent, Dr Lopes said the work of UNECA dovetailed with Agenda 2063.

‘‘Not only are we in sync but we are very much a part of this agenda together with the African Development Bank and NEPAD agency, we are the partners of the African Union in conceptualising and developing the current Agenda 2063 that has been adopted, and we have already published enormous number of research papers and policy recommendations on industrialisation, we are the champions of industrialisation in Africa so we are in absolute perfect sync with this agenda,’’ he added.

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