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CSD-16/17 Themes

Africa is one of the themes of the third implementation cycle of the Commission on Sustainable Development; CSD-17 and CSD-16; which also examines agriculture, rural development, land, drought and desertification. These other themes are of particular relevance to Africa, where most economies continue to heavily rural-based and agriculture-dependent, and where poverty eradication will depend on boosting the productivity of the agricultural and rural economy.

Background Information

Since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio (1992), sustainable development has remained elusive for many African countries. Poverty is still a major challenge, as 41% of the Sub-Sahara African population (or roughly 300 million people) were living on one dollar a day or less in 2004. Most countries on the continent have not managed to reap fully the benefits of globalization. Besides, multiple armed conflicts, insufficient access to education and widespread pandemics, such as HIV and malaria, have undermined Africa's efforts to achieve sustainable development. The region is also challenged by serious environmental threats, including desertification, deforestation and climate change.

The New Partnership for Africa's Development

Over the last years, African countries have been strongly committed to mounting an effective response to these threats and challenges. The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), which was launched by African heads of state in 2001, provides a framework for sustainable development to be shared by all Africa's people. It emphasizes the role of partnerships among African countries themselves and between them and the international community, and proposes a shared and common vision to eradicate poverty through sustained economic growth and sustainable development.

African Governments

African governments have also reinforced the pace of regional integration through the rationalization of existing regional economic communities. They have increased the power of the African Union, especially in the field of security and peace management.

Support by the International Community

These efforts have been supported by the international community, with financial and technical contributions to regional communities and specific initiatives to foster African development. Thus, the Heavily Indebted and Poor Countries (HIPC) program was initiated by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in 1996, providing debt relief and low-interest loans to reduce external debt repayments to sustainable levels. Nominal debt service relief under HIPC to the 29 countries that have reached their decision points has been estimated to amount to about US$62 billion, a significant share of which benefited Sub-Saharan African countries. In 2001, the World Trade Organization member states launched the Development Round of negotiations which, if concluded with decisive measures to liberalize agricultural trade, could provide significant benefits to some African countries. The 2008 Qatar meeting to review progress with the 2002 Monterrey Consensus on Financing for Development will provide an opportunity for the international community to refocus on the financing needs of African countries if they are to make significant progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

Africa: A Priority Area for United Nations’ Activities

Africa is a priority area for United Nations’ activities, as illustrated by the establishment of the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA) by the Secretary-General on 1 May 2003 and the reference to Africa’s sustainable development as a cross-cutting issue in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (see chapter VIII) which emerged from the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002. The special needs of the African continent have been systematically identified there.

The strategic importance of international and regional cooperation has been stressed, especially in integrating markets for goods and services, building cross-border infrastructure, developing new crop varieties and other agricultural technologies for African growing conditions, managing shared water and other natural resources, tackling transboundary pollution, and addressing climate change, including through adaptation.