Thank you for giving me the floor and allowing the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to address this item. As we see on the television screens every day, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has never been out of Africa: and the reasons are clear. But on the theme today: Partnerships for development and for social and economic progress in Africa are very high priority for us and it is our wish to intensify our co-operative work with the United Nations family in the period ahead.
We also wish to intensify our co-operation with NEPAD and its processes, with the African Union, and with other regional organisations. We believe the work done in Africa in recent years, especially through the growth of NEPAD and the creation of the African Union, demonstrates an African vitality, which the whole international community should welcome and support.
We say this because working throughout Africa with our network of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies provides both knowledge and talent to support what governments are doing. Our National Societies brought their programming and priorities to the attention of the United Nations General Assembly in 2000 after their 5th Pan African Conference in Ouagadougou. My purpose today is to inform governments, international organisations and the entire international community with a sincere interest in Africa of the work done to consolidate those priorities at the 6th Pan African Conference, held in September this year in Algiers.
It is our hope that sincere interest, and willingness to go forward as evidenced by the Secretary-General's report A/59/206, will be matched by a readiness to work with African communities and civil society leadership in the design and implementation of programmes, which meet real African priorities. This will, we believe, significantly improve the prospects for Africa to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
The African National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, meeting in Ouagadougou (A/55/480) in 2000, committed to four basic objectives. In brief, these were:
1) Making a major difference to the health of vulnerable people by adopting the health initiative known as ARCHI 2010.
2) Massively scaling up their response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
3) Making food security a strategic priority for the decade.
4) Enhancing the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies' capacity to function as the auxiliaries to their governments in the humanitarian field.
At their meeting in Algiers in September 2004 our African National Societies members adopted a plan of action to take the Ouagadougou commitments onwards, and to build effective partnerships with other national and international actors.
The Algiers Plan of Action brings together the Ouagadougou commitments with the objectives set through the United Nations Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals.
The Plan itself containing the Algiers outcomes will soon be circulated to all Member States and organisations concerned, and introduced to the UN system. We are also planning a special briefing session with all African Permanent Missions and others interested to ensure that they are aware of the assets, which the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement brings to this important set of strategic tasks. In the meantime, I shall elaborate those points most relevant to the United Nations, for the benefit of this debate.
During the conference in Algiers, the African National Societies:
- Expressed their great concern at the increase of natural disasters and conflicts in their continent and the huge crisis faced because of food insecurity, HIV/AIDS and other growing health threats.
- Reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening their capacities and in particular their volunteer base, recognising that well-functioning National Societies are an important precondition to improving the lives of the most vulnerable.
- Appreciated the partnerships available with governments, the African Union, UN agencies, civil society and corporate partners.
They also expressed their concern for the people affected by the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, and their solidarity with and respect for the efforts of the Sudanese Red Crescent Society.
Partnership opportunities, and shared objectives framed by the conjunction of the Millennium Development Goals with our own Strategy 2010, Africa's ARCHI 2010, and the Ouagadougou Declaration, were a major topic at the Algiers Conference.
We were very pleased with the energy and dedication provided by the representatives of the UN system, specialised agencies and the African Union at this Conference. We saw, for example, that the World Food Programme is keen to support Africa on the commitments given to the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement as a whole when Mr. James Morris addressed the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in December 2003.
We are now engaged in a detailed discussion with the WFP about the nature of formal arrangements we might valuably make to improve the links between our National Societies and the WFP.
Similar discussions are under way with UNHCR and starting with WHO. The IFRC intends to pursue vigorously partnership opportunities, which link governments, agencies and others devoted to progress in this region, to the African National Societies and their community outreach structures. Results are already obvious: our network has now vaccinated more than 140 million children in 29 countries against measles, and WHO reports show that the incidence of measles in Africa has dropped by 47% since the start of our vaccination initiative four years ago.
We intend to build these opportunities for results in the closest of co-operation with regional and sub-regional organisations. Our partners see how our unique status as an international organisation, combined with the auxiliary status of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, builds a framework for progress, which has real prospects of success, and benefit for the most vulnerable.
This is, we believe, vital for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. But achievement will depend on the degree to which communities and the vulnerable people themselves are brought into the design of programmes and then take them to implementation. This is essential, as is recognised by the Secretary-General himself.
It is particularly opportune that we are bringing the outcomes of the Pan-African Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference to the attention of the General Assembly now. The documents to be disbursed in the near future, illustrate the strength, which the IFRC and its National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have obtained within the United Nations and its Specialised Agencies system.
It is a strength, which has been significantly facilitated by the decision of the UN General Assembly, exactly ten years ago, to grant Observer status to the IFRC. That decision, adopted at the 38th plenary meeting on 19 October 1994 and contained in Resolution number A/RES/49/2, has created opportunities for partnerships which have made a real difference to the lives of vulnerable people, and it is in that spirit that we are speaking here today.
Permit me, Mr. President, on this tenth anniversary, to thank the General Assembly again for its decision, and to express the hope that the next ten years will mark even better and more fruitful co-operation.
We stand ready to play our part, both globally and locally. We will continue to develop the African priorities identified in Ouagadougou and taken forward in Algiers. We look forward to further development of the themes in this debate, and trust that our Algiers Plan of Action will be seen as a valuable addition to that work and an essential tool for all those who sincerely wish to see Africa rise above poverty and despair and build prosperity amidst real human dignity.
In conclusion, I would like to go back a week ago, when the Nobel Committee decided to award a brave Kenyan environmentalist with this year's Nobel Peace Prize. She is planting trees. If we all, Mr. President, follow this example and through our partnerships plant a tree, build a school, save a life, or help a child in Africa, then our discussion today would have some meaning.