Sunday, 22/7/2018 | 1:13 UTC+0
Libyan Newswire
  • China, Arab States drawing up blueprint for Belt and Road Cooperation in New Era

    NNA – The eighth ministerial meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF) will be held in Beijing tomorrow. It will be attended by Kuwait Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, representatives from the other 21 Arab countries, and the Secretary-General of the Arab League, and Chinese President Xi Jinping will address the opening ceremony.

    This meeting will be another important event in China-Arab relations following President Xi’s participation in the sixth CASCF ministerial meeting in 2014 and his visits to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Arab League headquarters in 2016.

    At the meeting, China and Arab states are expected to have in-depth discussions on how to jointly advance the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and strengthen overall cooperation with a view to drawing up a blueprint for China-Arab relations in the new era.

    According to State Councilor and Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China, Wang Yi, China and Arab countries share a long history of exemplary interactions. The past 2,000 years have witnessed uninterrupted exchanges between the Chinese and Arab peoples through land and sea links, which facilitated mutual learning between two great civilisations. Since the mid-20th century, we have supported each other in our respective struggles for national independence and development, writing a new chapter of friendship and cooperation. The inception of the CASCF in 2004 has further upgraded China-Arab relations, by adding a new driver in addition to the bilateral channels, and has thus accelerated the growth of China-Arab cooperation across the board.

    As President Xi aptly puts it, “China and Arab countries, who are natural partners in Belt and Road cooperation, need to follow the Silk Road spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit, and seek greater synergy in our respective pursuits of national renewal. The visionary guidance and commitment coming from our leaders have lent a fresh impetus to relations.”

    The last four years have seen multiple highlights in the fruitful exchanges and cooperation between China and Arab states, with a special focus on Belt and Road cooperation.

    Over the past four years, we have maintained frequent high-level exchanges, including President Xi’s successful visits to the Middle East and the visits to China by the heads of state of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Palestine. Such exchanges have contributed to deepening political trust and kept bilateral ties running at a high level. China has established or upgraded its strategic relations with 11 Arab countries. It has supported Arab countries in exploring their own paths of development, and Palestine in restoring the lawful rights of its people. Arab countries, on their part, have given China valuable support on issues concerning its core and major interests.

    The scope of our results-oriented business cooperation and people-to-people exchanges has kept growing to cover a wide range of areas, including satellite launch and cotton production. The CASCF institution building has made significant progress. The effective operation of over ten mechanisms, including the ministerial meeting, the senior officials’ meeting, the entrepreneurs conference, and the energy cooperation conference, has fuelled our Belt and Road cooperation in various respects.

    Over the past four years, we have worked in concert to cement the “1+2+3” cooperation framework featuring one focus (energy cooperation), two priority areas (infrastructure and trade and investment facilitation), and three high-tech sectors for breakthroughs (nuclear energy, aviation satellite and new energy). Sustained efforts have been made to advance the “four action plans”, namely cooperation in four major fields of promoting stability, identifying new forms of cooperation, conducting production capacity cooperation, and deepening friendship.

    Our pursuit of greater complementarity between development strategies has resulted in new progress in China-Arab cooperation. China has signed Belt and Road cooperation MOUs with nine Arab states and production capacity cooperation agreements with five Arab states. Both the Silk Road Fund and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank have invested in Arab countries. In 2017, China-Arab trade approached $200 billion (Dh734 billion), up by 11.9 per cent year-on-year, and direct Chinese investment in Arab countries reached $1.26 billion, an increase of 9.3 per cent.

    Over the past four years, we have added new dimensions to our cooperation in the traditional areas of energy, infrastructure and trade. The Hassyan clean coal power plant in Dubai, equipped with the world-leading ultra-supercritical technology, and the Attarat power plant in Jordan, a dream come true of oil shale power generation, have taken China-Arab power cooperation to a new level. Several large infrastructure projects are well underway, including Phase II of the Khalifa Port in the UAE and the train project in the 10th of Ramadan City of Egypt. They are expected to make the development of Arab countries better connected. Moreover, the cluster effect of the China-Egypt Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone is being felt. Our cooperation has continued to upgrade and deepen through innovation. We have inaugurated a Technology Transfer Centre, and held a successful Beidou Cooperation Forum. China has helped Algeria put its first communications satellite into orbit, setting an example for such cooperation between China and Arab states. The China-Arab States Research Centre on Reform and Development and the China-Arab States Forum on Reform and Development, two platforms for experience sharing in governance, reform and development, have been warmly received by Arab countries.

    Over the past four years, we have added more substances to our mutually beneficial cooperation in home-grown development, social progress and personnel exchanges, delivering tangible benefits to our peoples. China has drawn up plans to provide assistance to Palestine and humanitarian assistance to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Libya and Yemen, as was announced by President Xi. It has trained over 6,000 people of different professions for Arab countries.

    While encouraging competitive production capacity to go global, China has helped Arab countries build up capacity for home-grown development in light of their need for economic diversification in the Middle East. In this process, China has paid special attention to helping Arab countries improve their people’s lives, which is essential for the local economy. For instance, a Chinese enterprise opened China’s first overseas fibreglass production base in the Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone, creating over 2,000 local jobs and making Egypt the largest fibreglass producer in Africa and third largest producer in the world.

    Arab countries, for their part, have facilitated visits of Chinese nationals to the region. Today, nine Arab countries give visa-free or visa-upon-landing treatment to Chinese nationals, and 150 passenger flights and 45 cargo flights are run between China and Arab countries every week. As a result, the number of Chinese tourist arrivals in the region is soaring year by year. In the opposite direction, Arabian specialities of premium quality, including long-staple cotton from Egypt, olive oil from Tunisia, chocolate from Lebanon and dates from the Gulf Arab countries, have entered Chinese households with the help of e-commerce platforms.

    The world today is at a critical juncture of major development, transformation and adjustment. China is making big strides in its new journey toward the two centenary goals and showing a stronger commitment to deepening reform on all fronts and opening wider to the world. Likewise, Arab countries have unveiled major initiatives of future-oriented reforms for national rejuvenation. Our development visions are getting more aligned and more complementary, placing China-Arab relations at a new starting point. Under the changing circumstances, we need to work together for a new type of international relations, for a community with a shared future for mankind, and for a peaceful external environment and an equitable world order conducive our national rejuvenation.

    At the forthcoming eighth ministerial meeting, China and Arab countries will follow the guidance of our leaders, explore ways to advance future-oriented cooperation centred around the BRI, and further upgrade China-Arab relations.

    China and Arab countries will become partners in promoting peace and stability. We need to strengthen coordination, continue to support each other on issues of major interests and core concerns, and safeguard the common interests of developing countries. We should promote political settlement of hotspot issues and uphold common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security as we strive to restore peace and tranquillity to the Middle East at an early date and do our share in bringing about a world of prosperity and stability.
    China and Arab countries will become partners in pursuing reform, development and shared prosperity. We need to support each other in exploring development paths tailored to national conditions. We can achieve common progress and development by tapping into complementarity of our respective strengths and needs, by seeking synergy of our development strategies at a faster pace, and by increasing experience sharing on governance. In our pursuit of development, we must stay committed to a people-centred approach and deliver more benefits to our peoples.

    China and Arab countries will become partners in conducting practical cooperation for win-win outcomes. We need to follow the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, as we broaden cooperation in infrastructure, aviation satellite and energy and carry out key projects such as ports and industrial parks. China looks forward to signing with more Arab countries the MOU on Belt and Road cooperation to take our practical cooperation to a higher level. China and Arab countries will become partners in championing cultural exchanges and mutual learning. We will encourage more people-to-people exchanges and deepen cooperation in science, education, culture, health and information. By building more bridges for interactions, we will enhance mutual understanding and friendship between our peoples and contribute to the progress of human civilisation.

    A new blueprint brings new hope. A new beginning heralds new achievements. I am convinced that the giant ship of China-Arab friendship and cooperation will ride the wave toward a bright future.

    =================

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  • Nuclear Energy Could Hold Key to Sustainable Development Gains, Delegates Tell General Assembly, as it Considers international Atomic Energy Agency Report

    Nuclear energy could help countries to achieve sustainable development, Member States said today, with many also expressing concern about recent nuclear testing activities by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as the General Assembly took up the latest report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

    Adopting the resolution “Report of the International Atomic Energy Agency” (document A/72/L.6) — transmitted in a note by the Secretary‑General (document A/72/221) and introduced by the representative of Indonesia — the 193‑member Assembly took note of several resolutions recently approved by the Vienna‑based IAEA.  Those texts were aimed at strengthening international cooperation in areas including nuclear science, technology and nuclear, radiation, transport and waste safety.

    The Assembly also took note of several IAEA resolutions on the application of nuclear safeguards in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Middle East, while reaffirming its strong support for the Agency’s activities.  In addition, it welcomed a resolution on the approval of the appointment of Yukiya Amano as Director General of the Agency from 1 December 2017 to 30 November 2021.

    Many delegates, including those from India and the Russian Federation, commended IAEA for assisting developing countries in related development programmes.  China’s representative said that with the recent adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, nuclear energy would play an increasingly important role in the generation of energy around the world.

    Echoing that view, Ecuador’s delegate said nuclear energy — properly used and with the necessary security measures — could be a way to increase great progress and well‑being for the benefit of humanity.  For its part, Ecuador had enjoyed invaluable IAEA support and critical supplies and equipment following the 2016 earthquake.

    Briefing the Assembly, Mr. Amano said that transferring peaceful nuclear technology to developing countries was the Agency’s core business and one of the most important aspects of its work.  “The Agency now helps countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in energy, food and agriculture, industry, water management and health,” he said.

    Meanwhile, IAEA was also committed to other efforts, he said, including verifying and monitoring implementation by Iran of its nuclear‑related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  “Iran is now subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime,” he said, noting Iran’s compliance with all related measures.  The Agency’s inspectors had expanded access to sites and now had more information about Iran’s nuclear programme, which was smaller than when the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action had been launched in 2015.

    On the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s recent activities, he said nuclear tests in September were “extremely regrettable” and called on the country to comply fully with its obligations under all relevant resolutions of the Security Council and the Agency.  While IAEA inspectors had been required to leave the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 2009, the Agency continued to monitor the country’s nuclear programme through satellite imagery and open source information.  It was also working to maintain its readiness to return when political developments made it possible.

    In the ensuing discussion, several delegates echoed Mr. Amano’s concerns, with the representative of the Republic of Korea strongly condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s “reckless” nuclear tests.  Far from revealing any signs that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was abandoning nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, the Agency’s report had indicated troubling activities at several sites.  “We call on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing programmes,” he said.  Until the Agency could resume monitoring and verification there, the Republic of Korea would work with partners in maintaining vigilance and coordinating a constructive response by the international community.

    Similarly, Japan’s representative said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programmes constituted an unprecedented, grave and imminent threat to international security.  The international community must never succumb to a nuclear threat by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea nor accept it as a nuclear‑armed State.

    The representative Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the Agency’s report was a “seriously distorted picture of the reality”.  The nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula was the product of the United States’ hostile policy and nuclear threat against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

    “If the IAEA truly wishes peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, it should take issue with the United States first,” he said.  Despite serious concerns of the international community, the United States continued to stage its aggressive joint military exercises with the aim of conducting a pre‑emptive nuclear attack against his country.  Pyongyang had opted to possess nuclear weapons to safeguard its sovereignty and would not put them on the negotiating table unless the United States’ nuclear threat against his country was eradicated.

    Delegates, including the representative of Brazil, also highlighted the benefits of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme.  Australia’s representative said it was “the best option”.

    Iran’s delegate said his country’s compliance with all obligations had been confirmed in numerous IAEA reports.  “Thus, any claim that Iran is not complying with its Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action commitments lacks relevance and credibility,” he stressed.  As a valid international instrument, the Plan of Action “neither can be renegotiated nor unilaterally annulled”.  Iran would remain fully committed to the Plan of Action “inasmuch as all other Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action participants also fully and timely fulfil their related commitments”.

    The representative of the European Union said the Agency had verified eight times that Iran was implementing all its commitments under that agreement.  The European Union and the wider international community had clearly indicated that the deal would remain in place, he said, calling on all parties to implement all its elements.

    Before adjourning the meeting, the Assembly postponed the appointment of members of the Committee on Conferences, which had been originally scheduled for Friday, 17 November, to a later date to be announced.

    Also speaking today were the representatives of Indonesia, Monaco, Belarus, Jamaica, Libya, Malaysia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Syria, Ukraine, Cuba, Algeria, Iraq, El Salvador, Paraguay, Argentina, Bangladesh, South Africa and the Philippines.

    The representatives of Lithuania, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Belarus, Republic of Korea and Japan spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

    The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 13 November, to take up sport for development and peace and other matters.

    Briefing by International Atomic Energy Agency Head

    YUKIYA AMANO, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that transferring peaceful nuclear technology to developing countries was the Agency’s core business and one of the most important aspects of its work.  The Agency’s technical cooperation programme, which was central to delivery of its “Atoms for Peace and Development” mandate, had improved the health and prosperity of millions of people and delivered huge benefits to entire communities.  “The Agency now helps countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in energy, food and agriculture, industry, water management and health,” he said.

    The modernization of IAEA nuclear applications laboratories near Vienna continued to produce excellent results, he noted, emphasizing that those eight laboratories provided assistance to more than 150 countries in areas such as food and agriculture and health.  The new Inspect Pest Control Laboratory aimed to help countries to use nuclear techniques to better control pests such as mosquitoes and fruit flies.  Turning to the kind of energy used worldwide, he said that by 2050, if climate change goals set under the Paris Agreement were to be met, approximately 80 per cent of electricity would need to be low-carbon.  Increased use of nuclear power, as well as renewables, would help countries to achieve their climate change goals.  On nuclear verification, he said that the number of States with Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements in force stood at 182 and encouraged all countries to implement the Additional Protocol.

    IAEA continued to verify and monitor implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, he said, noting that Iran was complying.  “Iran is now subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime,” he added.  The Agency’s inspectors had expanded access to sites, and now had more information about Iran’s nuclear programme, which was smaller than it was before the action plan was established in 2015.  The Agency continued to verify the non-diversion of nuclear materials declared by Iran under its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements.  Evaluations regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran continued.

    Expressing serious concern about the nuclear programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said that the country’s nuclear tests in September, its sixth and largest to date, were “extremely regrettable”.  “I call upon Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to comply fully with its obligations under all relevant resolutions of the Security Council and the Agency,” he stressed. While IAEA inspectors were required to leave the country in 2009, the Agency continued to monitor the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear programme through satellite imagery and open-source information.  It was also working to maintain its readiness to return when political development made it possible.

    Underscoring the importance of safety and security in the use of nuclear technology, he said lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi accident in 2011 had now been incorporated into all IAEA nuclear safety requirements.  Safety must always come first and the safety culture must continue to be strengthened, he underscored, noting that the Agency’s Board of Governors adopted the Nuclear Security Plan 2018-2012 by consensus in September.  IAEA continued to expand its assistance to enable countries to minimize the risk of nuclear and other radioactive material being used in a malicious way.

    Sound management of limited resources was essential if the Agency was to meet the growing needs of Member States, he noted, emphasizing the importance of striking a balance between real needs and the reality that Member States faced financial constraints.  He also emphasized the need to take the issue of gender parity at the Agency very seriously.  “We have significantly increased the proportion of women in the Professional and higher categories,” he added, noting that it now stood at 29 per cent.  “But we can and must do better.”

    Introduction of Draft Resolution

    INA H. KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), introducing the draft resolution titled, “Report of the International Atomic Energy Agency” (document A/72/L.6), said the Agency continued to play a vital role in fostering international cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and technology as well as nuclear safety and security.  Noting that it also provided technical assistance and necessary support to Member States in their pursuits in those areas, she urged the Agency’s Secretariat to pursue its work programme in a balanced manner to meet the needs of States and ensure that the benefits of nuclear science and technology for socioeconomic development were spread effectively.

    Noting that 13 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals related directly to IAEA areas of competence — including those concerning food, fuel, agriculture, nuclear technology, power generation and health — she went on to underline the Agency’s critical role in nuclear safety and security.  However, the responsibility for nuclear security within a State “rests entirely with that State”, and nuclear security should not be a condition or a prerequisite for technical cooperation projects.  The draft resolution before the Assembly today had been approved by consensus following consultations held in both Vienna and New York.  As in previous years, it took note of the resolutions and decisions adopted by the Agency’s General Conference.  It also appealed to Member States to continue their support for the Agency’s activities.

    Statements

    GUILLAUME DABOUIS, European Union, reiterated the bloc’s support for the full, complete and effective implementation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime as well as the essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament.  Also expressing support for the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems in the Middle East, he underlined the Security Council’s primary responsibility in cases of non-compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the “Iran Nuclear Deal” and endorsed by the Council in its resolution 2231 (2015), represented a key and functioning pillar of the international non-proliferation architecture that was even more important in the context of current acute nuclear threats.  The Agency had verified eight times that Iran was implementing all its nuclear-related commitments under that agreement, he said, stressing that the European Union and the wider international community had clearly indicated that the deal would remain in place and calling on all parties to implement all its elements.

    Strongly condemning the latest nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, along with all its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile activities, he urged that country to reverse course, immediately cease those actions and abandon its nuclear weapons programmes in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.  Underlining IAEA’s critical role in verifying Pyongyang’s nuclear programme, he also urged the Syrian regime to cooperate with the Agency promptly and transparently to resolve all outstanding issues.  Calling for the universalization of Comprehensive Safeguard Agreements together with their Additional Protocols, he said nuclear safety remained a key priority for the European Union.  Through the framework of its strategy against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the bloc was activity supporting relevant Security Council resolutions and other agreements including the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.  Voicing support for IAEA’s central role in the global nuclear security framework, he called on the Agency’s Member States to ensure reliable and sustainable resources for it work in preventing nuclear terrorism and the misuse of nuclear and radioactive material.

    ISABELLE F. PICCO (Monaco) commended the Agency for its contributions in helping countries implement the Sustainable Development Goals.  On the environment, she said that IAEA evaluations could help prevent land degradation and help restore soil.  Noting myriad programmes Monaco had implemented in collaborating with the Agency, she emphasized one focusing on the training of 400 scientists and another that helped improve food security by detecting and combating animal disease.  She further commended the Agency’s work in increasing access to clean, reliable and affordable energy.  Scientific research with the support of the Agency could lead to policies that combat climate change, she added.  Acidification of the oceans was another area where IAEA and Monaco had deployed joint efforts.  Moreover, the Agency’s environment laboratories in partnership with Monaco had continued to focus efforts on addressing ocean acidification.

    TATYANA FEDOROVICH (Belarus) said that the Agency had managed to achieve substantial progress in facilitating the safe use of nuclear technology, welcoming its efforts to continue to focus on developing that sector in a safe and secure manner.  “Belarus has also opted for nuclear energy,” she said, expressing support for the Agency’s work in nuclear security “from planning to decommissioning”.  She recalled that Belarus had suffered greatly from the Chernobyl disaster and would continue to work with IAEA in all relevant areas to improve safety and security standards.  She emphasized the Agency’s role in helping States to achieve sustainable development particularly in the areas of energy, medicine and agriculture.  With the Agency’s help, Belarus had been able to increase the effectiveness of nuclear training and make significant progress in medicine.

    DIEDRE MILLS (Jamaica), stressing the importance of the Agency’s work, said her country had benefitted from a range of technical and other assistance that had been instrumental in several key priority areas like education, health and research, including the programme of action for cancer therapy.  The Agency’s work in promoting peaceful uses of nuclear technology and applying a safeguards regime for verification, safety and security remained critical.  She encouraged States to accede to legally binding international conventions and commit to working towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons.  The adoption in July 2017 of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was a significant milestone achievement towards de-legitimizing nuclear weapons.

    ELMAHDI S. ELMAJERBI (Libya), voicing support for IAEA work in pursuing global nuclear disarmament as well as nuclear safety, recalled that his country had voluntarily given up its nuclear weapons programme in 2002 and acceded to the Agency’s safeguards.  Voicing concern about the continued use or threat of use of such weapons by some States — which continued to maintain or even update their nuclear stockpiles — he said the Agency’s role should not be limited to reviewing the peaceful uses of nuclear energy but should also help to verify the reduction and ultimate destruction of the nuclear arsenals of nuclear weapons States.  Indeed, the equitable application of the Non-Proliferation Treaty would mean total nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and a fair distribution of the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.  Strengthening the Agency’s safeguards regime should never adversely affect the technical cooperation and assistance provided to States, he stressed, voicing concern over the policy pursued by some States to impose restrictions on technology transfer and assistance to others, which constituted a violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Among other things, he also expressed support for Security Council resolutions calling for the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, which was still challenged by Israel’s refusal to adhere to the Non-Proliferation Treaty or to subject its nuclear facilities to the Agency’s inspections.

    DELFINA JANE DRIS (Malaysia) said that collaboration between her country and the Agency had been fruitful in several areas related to nuclear security and that her Government appreciated the Agency’s support in strengthening national detection capabilities in combating nuclear terrorism as demonstrated at the 2017 Southeast Asian Games held in Kuala Lumpur.  Malaysia enjoyed on-going cooperation with the Agency in radiation protection and safety, research reactor safety, radiological emergency response, environmental monitoring and radioactive waste management.  The Peaceful Uses Initiative was a very important vehicle to support the Agency’s activities related to the peaceful applications of science and technology, she said, adding that research and development played a critical role in realizing the long-term goals of nuclear science and technology for the collective benefit of Member States and the Agency.

    GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran) underscored the importance of the inalienable right of any State to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.  That included the inherent right of each State to participate in the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials, and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  He emphasized that the primary responsibility of the Agency was to assist Member States in researching and practically applying nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.  Iran stressed the need for IAEA to meet the expectations of developing countries.  As the authority responsible for the verification of the fulfilment of nuclear safeguards, the Agency must carry out its functions in full conformity with relevant legally-binding instruments, taking into account the concerns and interests of Member States.

    Iran remained determined to exercise its inalienable right to develop, research, produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, he stressed.  Iran’s compliance with all obligations under its Safeguards Agreement had been confirmed in numerous IAEA reports.  “Thus, any claim that Iran is not complying with its Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action commitments lacks relevance and credibility,” he stressed.  As a valid international instrument, the Plan of Action “neither can be renegotiated nor unilaterally annulled”.  Likewise, any unilateral claim to extend the duration of Iran’s voluntary confidence-building measures ran counter to the Plan and more importantly, was in clear contradiction with the inalienable rights of States under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  “Iran had been and will remain fully committed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action inasmuch as all other Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action participants also fully and timely fulfil their related commitments,” he said.

    HAHN CHOONGHEE (Republic of Korea) noted that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on 3 September had conducted its sixth nuclear test on the heels of two nuclear tests in 2016 and several ballistic missile launches, including two with intercontinental range, in clear violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.  His Government strongly condemned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s “reckless and irresponsible nuclear test”.  Far from revealing any signs that it was abandoning nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, the IAEA Director General’s report indicated troubling nuclear activities at the Yongbyon site and Pyongsan Mine and Concentration Plant.  “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s continuous negative response to the international community’s diplomatic efforts underlines the need to reiterate a strong and unified message that the path to peace, stability and prosperity hinges on its willingness to engage in meaningful dialogue and honour its denuclearization commitments,” he said.  It was essential that all Member States made clear to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that it would face serious consequences unless it faithfully implemented all relevant Security Council resolutions.

    “We call on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing programmes in a complete, verifiable and irrelevant manner, and to refrain from any further provocative and destabilizing acts,” he said.  The Republic of Korea appreciated recent efforts of IAEA to enhance its readiness to verify that country’s nuclear programme.  Until the Agency was able to resume monitoring and verification there, the Republic of Korea would work with partners in maintaining vigilance and coordinating a constructive response by the international community with a view to a peaceful resolution.  Noting that the Republic of Korea contributed to the IAEA Technical Cooperation Fund, he stressed the need for sufficient funding in order to maximize the contribution of the Agency’s technical cooperation programmes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

    GOH YAN KIM (Singapore), reaffirming full support for the IAEA Director General’s work, noted that his country joined the Agency 50 years ago shortly after gaining independence and had developed a strong partnership with it.  The country was now paying back the assistance from which it had benefitted in such areas as public health and radiation protection by providing technical assistance to fellow developing countries and serving on the Board of Governors, he said, describing other formal arrangements with the Agency and Singapore’s support to ASEAN regional initiatives.  Supporting IAEA’s central role in ensuring a strong and sustainable global nuclear safety and security framework, he welcomed the outcome of the International Conference on Nuclear Security and the most recent review meeting on the Convention of Nuclear Safety.  Affirming that cyberattacks on nuclear installations presented real risks, he supported the Agency’s work in developing guidelines and training programmes for cyber resiliency.  He looked forward to his country’s further strong relationship with IAEA in the years to come.

    SANDEEP KUMAR BAYYAPU (India) said nuclear power was an important energy source to meet increased demand and address volatile fuel prices and climate change concerns.  He took note of the Agency’s efforts on the role of nuclear power in meeting the “climate-energy challenge” and mitigating against greenhouse gas emissions.  Moreover, his delegation attached great importance to the Agency’s work in different fields of nuclear science.  In that connection, the Agency’s achievement in food and agriculture, human health, water resources management and the protection of the environment were helpful in meeting the needs of developing countries.  He went on to welcome the role of the Agency in nuclear security and encouraged all Member States that had not yet done so to ratify the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

    WU HAITAO (China) voiced support for IAEA and the effective fulfilment of its mandates, including by strengthening nuclear safety and security and working towards global nuclear non-proliferation.  With the recent adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change, nuclear energy would play an increasingly important role in the generation of energy around the world.  However, the risks posed by nuclear proliferation remained severe, and nuclear security threats were increasing.  In that context, he said the Agency should focus on several critical areas, including enhancing the universality and fairness of its safeguard system based on the principles of impartiality, fairness and in consultation with Member States; establishing a weapons of mass destruction-free zone in the Middle East; promoting technical support and assistance to developing countries in support of their peaceful uses of nuclear energy; strengthening nuclear safety and security; following and assessing the handling of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station incident; and addressing regional hotspot issues.  Expressing support for the Agency’s work with regards to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, he said it should also play its due role in monitoring the nuclear activities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

    SAOD RASHID AL MAZROUI (United Arab Emirates), spotlighting his country’s close work with IAEA in the area of nuclear safety and its compliance with the standards of nuclear safety and non-proliferation, also commended the Agency for its work in transferring technology and knowledge to support Member States’ development needs.  Those programmes helped contributed to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, promoted cooperation through the exchange of best practices and strategic partnerships and provided valuable support in the development of infrastructure and human resources for a safe and successful nuclear programme.

    NIKOLAY LOZINSKIY (Russian Federation) said that IAEA must increase efforts to develop nuclear energy around the world while also improving and strengthening the global non-proliferation regime.  Underscoring the importance of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, he said the Agency was monitoring all aspects of that agreement’s implementation.  The Director General had earlier that morning mentioned that Iran was implementing all its nuclear commitments.  He welcomed the improvement of control mechanisms, including the adoption of Additional Protocols on safeguards, which must always remain objective and depoliticized.  The Russian Federation was active in IAEA, he said, noting that it was making financial contributions in myriad sectors and working to facilitate the development of nuclear energy in developing countries.  In the Russian Federation, an international uranium enrichment centre was open to all countries wishing to develop nuclear energy in a safe and secure manner.  He added that it was unacceptable to bring the non-proliferation agenda into issues of physical nuclear security.  The Russian Federation had signed relevant documents, he continued, encouraging States that had not yet done so to accede to relevant international instruments.

    ALEX GIACOMELLI DA SILVA (Brazil) commended the impartial and objective manner in which the Agency had been carrying out its verification duties in Iran in accordance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  He also recognized the Agency’s efforts in promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, a role for which it was uniquely positioned.  He expressed appreciation for the effective cooperation between the Agency and the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials, a unique and constructive partnership between multilateral and bilateral verification bodies.  Given its technical capabilities, impartiality and professionalism, he stressed that the Agency could play an important role in nuclear disarmament verification.  As such, he regretted the IAEA Director General’s decision not to send a representative to the negotiating conference of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

    FERNANDO LUQUE MÁRQUEZ (Ecuador) said that nuclear energy — properly used and with the necessary security measures — could be a way to increase great progress and well‑being for the benefit of humanity.  IAEA had provided Ecuador with invaluable support as well as critical supplies and equipment following the country’s 2016 earthquake.  At the regional level, he noted Ecuador’s participation in dozens of relevant projects.  For its part, Ecuador has recently signed a national programme framework on technology and technical cooperation, outlining the country’s needs and priorities.  Seriously concerned about the recent testing of nuclear weapons, he expressed support for the three pillars of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty without discrimination or double standards.  Most States had reiterated their deep concern about the humanitarian consequences of any nuclear accident or intentional detonation.  “Any use of nuclear weapons would be a crime against humanity,” he underscored, noting that the Non‑Proliferation Treaty had established the legal basis to eliminate such weapons.  He also commended the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as a clear example of what could happen through diplomacy and dialogue.

    BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said that, once again, the world faced a dangerous difficult situation emanating from the threats posed by Israel’s nuclear arsenal.  Meanwhile, other nuclear weapons States were also increasing their threats.  Emphasizing that global nuclear non-proliferation was a key priority for Syria, he recalled that it had acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty early on, long before many of the European Union States that now claimed to be on the vanguard of the global non-proliferation regime.  Many of those nations, along with Turkey, kept nuclear weapons on their territories in violation of the Treaty.  Syria, meanwhile, had long had IAEA safeguard agreements in place.  As a non-permanent member of the Security Council, Syria had also drafted a resolution mandating the establishment of a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, but that text was never taken up as the United States had threatened to veto it.  Such actions revealed the lies behind the claims of Western countries, he said, adding that they had for decades provided Israel with the materials needed to develop nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

    For its part, he said, Israel had spared no effort to attempt to divert attention from its nuclear arsenal.  Recalling Israel’s attack on the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor in 2007, he said Israel continued to refuse to allow IAEA inspectors to visit its nuclear facilities.  Such actions damaged the credibility of the global non-proliferation regime, undermining peace in the region, he stressed, pointing out that IAEA had been aware of those events but failed to cover them in its report.  Quoting from a memoire titled “The Age of Deception” — written by former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei — he said the book demonstrated Western countries’ “nuclear hypocrisy” and raised questions about the information the Agency had received from them.  Among other things, it discussed the United States dossier on Iraq’s nuclear programme, which had served as a false pretext for the former’s 2003 invasion of the latter.  In addition, a book recently published by the Stockholm Institute contained an entire chapter on Israel’s nuclear forces, while no such chapter existed on Syria’s nuclear programme.  In light of such sources, he called on IAEA to immediately address Israel’s nuclear weapons programme.

    KORO BESSHO (Japan), recalling that his country had contributed more than $28 million to the Agency’s Peaceful Uses Initiative, pledged to seek ways to further utilize national relevant expertise.  Japan’s efforts included working to enhance nuclear safety, drawing on lessons learned from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station incident and reforming its regulatory structures.  Turning to concerns about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s recent activities, he said its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programme constituted an unprecedented, grave and imminent threat to international security and the global non‑proliferation regime, and operated in flagrant violation of Security Council resolutions and other multilateral commitments.  “The international community should never succumb to a nuclear threat of North Korea and accept a nuclear‑armed North Korea,” he said, voicing support for IAEA efforts to resume inspections in that country.  The international community must also remain united in its full implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions in order to maximize pressure on Pyongyang.

    VOLODYMYR LESCHENKO (Ukraine), associating himself with the European Union, said the 2016 annual report provided a comprehensive and well‑balanced analysis of major achievements of the Agency’s work and its main priorities in promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  Drawing attention to the legal framework for IAEA safeguards agreement application in Ukraine, including in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, he said it was based on the comprehensive safeguards agreement and additional protocol, which was in compliance with relevant Assembly resolutions.  The 2016 annual report reaffirmed the vital role the Agency played in meeting today’s challenges.

    ILEIDIS VALIENTE DÍAZ (Cuba), commending the work of IAEA, stressed the need to use nuclear energy to improve living conditions, promote sustainable development and protect the environment.  IAEA had an important role to play in achieving sustainable development and in implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change.  Technical cooperation remained particularly essential for Cuba, she added, recognizing the importance of applying nuclear technology in human health, food security and agriculture, and the environment.  She reaffirmed Cuba’s commitment to ensuring that all countries could use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.  She also emphasized the importance of nuclear physical security, adding that the establishment of relevant measures to strengthen and secure their safety was the responsibility of each State.  She also welcomed the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as a clear example that dialogue was the best way to solve international disputes.

    JA SONG NAM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said the report of the Agency presented a “seriously distorted picture of the reality” regarding the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.  The nuclear issue was the product of the United States hostile policy and nuclear threat toward the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Had it not been for the hostile policy enforced by the United States for more than 70 years against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea since the first day of that country’s founding in 1948, the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula would not exist.  For the Korean people who had experienced war imposed on them by the United States, “the powerful war deterrence for national defence was an inevitable strategic option” and would never be bartered for anything.

    He recalled that IAEA, at the instigation of the United States, had brought up suspicions regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s peaceful nuclear facilities in the 1990s.  That had compelled Pyongyang to leave the Agency and withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  “If the IAEA truly wishes peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, it should take issue with the United States first, which is the nuclear war criminal and ringleader of the nuclear threat,” he said.  The Korean Peninsula was now on the brink of nuclear war because of the hostile policies of the United States.  Despite serious concerns of the international community, the United States continued to stage its aggressive joint military exercises with the aim of conducting a pre-emptive nuclear attack against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  He said his country had opted to possess nuclear weapons to safeguard its sovereignty and it would not put them or the ballistic missiles on the negotiating table unless the United States’ nuclear threat against his country was eradicated first.

    MOHAMMED BESSEDIK (Algeria), underscoring the importance of the IAEA Technical Cooperation Programme and welcoming its convening of a meeting in Vienna in 2017, expressed hope that meeting would be organized again at the ministerial level.  Noting that Algeria regularly contributed to the Agency’s regular budget, he called for the allocation of sufficient and predictable resources to the Agency’s efforts to support countries in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.  Algeria was integrating and using nuclear techniques in the field of health, especially to combat cancer, and with the help of IAEA it had improved its training facilities and the maintenance of its nuclear equipment.  Voicing support for bolstered cooperation among African States in the areas of nuclear technology and training, he said nuclear safety and security were of paramount importance and underlined IAEA’s critical role in assisting States to develop national frameworks in those areas.  Nevertheless, issues of security and safety must not be used as a condition to restrict the provision of technical cooperation or assistance to States.  Calling for universalization of international instruments on nuclear safety, he expressed support for the establishment of nuclear-weapons-free-zones around the world, and voiced concern over continued impediments to the creation of such a zone in the Middle East.  States had been calling for such a zone since 1995, but no progress had been made, he said.

    MOHAMMED SAHIB MEJID MARZOOQ (Iraq) said his country had recently undertaken many positive steps in the field of nuclear energy despite its many challenges in combating Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) forces.  Among other things, it was currently developing the institutions necessary to safeguard sites previously under the control of terrorist groups, some of which still contained radioactive waste.  Iraq had also ratified the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.  Underlining the importance of the Agency’s work in providing assistance to developing countries in the field of nuclear technology, and of establishing the Middle East as a zone free of nuclear weapons, he recalled that the United Nations had a “cardinal role” to play in that regard.  The dismantling of Israel’s nuclear arsenal and its accession to the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapons State were critical, he stressed, adding that the pursuit of peaceful nuclear programmes by all countries was an inalienable right and remained crucial for the pursuit of sustainable development.  Those rights must therefore not be impeded by the imposition of conditions by other States.

    HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador) said that today’s draft resolution and the report of IAEA reaffirmed the Agency’s indispensable role.  He called on Member States to continue to support the Agency and welcome decisions adopted at its annual sessions.  Nuclear energy must be used for peaceful purposes.  In that context, it was crucial to avoid the proliferation of nuclear weapons and focus nuclear energy efforts towards sustainably developing agriculture, health, and other essential sectors.  He urged Member States to pool their efforts with IAEA to use nuclear energy to improve the quality of health, ensure food security and reduce and prevent climate change.  Commending IAEA for helping El Salvador strengthen several national sectors, he noted that his country had recently established a national framework plan to align the Agency’s work with its national priorities.

    ENRIQUE JOSÉ MARÍA CARRILLO GÓMEZ (Paraguay) said the development of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy must be conducted in a transparent manner with IAEA supervision, and called on States to comply with international best practices.  Paraguay’s National Commission for Atomic Energy was researching approaches to peacefully using nuclear energy to help to improve the lives of its citizens.  Reiterating concerns over efforts by some States to improve nuclear weapons and develop new ones, he fully rejected the testing of such weapons.  Highlighting the importance of technical assistance and cooperation provided by the Agency to developing countries, he thanked IAEA for helping to improve nuclear medicine in Paraguay.

    GABRIELA MARTINIC (Argentina), describing her country’s decades‑old nuclear sector that had been backed up by a consistent State policy and international safeguards, said that while IAEA safeguards were essential, they must not impede States from obtaining nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.  The Quadripartite Safeguards Agreement between Argentina, Brazil, the Brazilian‑Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials and IAEA had, since 1991, guided the application of nuclear safeguards and had helped to consolidate the Latin American and Caribbean region as a zone free of such arms.  With regard to physical nuclear security architecture, she welcomed the Agency’s 2016 International Conference on Nuclear Security and upcoming conference on physical nuclear installations and materials.  The Agency must continue to act as a main coordinator for global efforts to help to consolidate efforts involving safety, security and counter‑terrorism strategies.  States should also work to harmonize both binding and non‑binding measures, she said, adding that Argentina had become the first country to commit to designing, locating and building all its new nuclear plants in line with article 1 of the Convention on Nuclear Safety.

    FAIYAZ MURSHID KAZI (Bangladesh) expressed full confidence in the Agency’s guiding role in coordinating international efforts to strengthen global nuclear security.  Noting that security considerations must not hamper the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, he said the Agency’s work maintained and improved emergency preparedness and response mechanisms worldwide.  Welcoming IAEA activities to improve nuclear infrastructure development, he underscored the importance of building regulatory and management functions to improve the safety of such projects.  Nuclear energy was safe, environmentally friendly and an economical source of electricity, he said.  IAEA was his country’s main partner for the promotion of safe and secure applications of nuclear science and technology for peaceful purposes, he said, adding that Bangladesh was actively engaging with the Agency’s technical cooperation programme and regional cooperation agreements.

    MARTIN ERIC SIPHO NGUNDZE (South Africa) said IAEA had a pivotal role to play in global efforts to promote international peace, security and development.  The Agency’s nuclear applications in areas like agriculture, food security, human health, water resource management, nuclear technology and animal health had contributed to socioeconomic progress in developing countries, assisting them in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  South Africa had immensely benefitted from the Agency’s scientific and technological support, especially in strengthening the clinical management of oncological, neurological and cardiovascular diseases.  He also underscored the central role IAEA played in implementing its safeguards verification system, which was essential in verifying nuclear energy programmes.

    DARREN HANSEN (Australia), commending IAEA for its efforts to champion gender equality, provided a snapshot of his country’s efforts.  Australia had ratified the new Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development and Training in Nuclear Science and Technology for the Asia and Pacific Region, constructed a molybdenum processing plant that would help to secure the global supply of life‑saving nuclear medicine, and had planned an integrated regulatory review service mission for 2018.  Australia would also continue to assist States to enhance nuclear security.  Regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Australia would not accept illegal development and testing of nuclear weapons, he said, urging the international community to fully implement related Security Council resolutions.  In addition, he expressed support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which remained the “best available option” to address Iran’s nuclear programme.

    ARIEL R. PEÑARANDA (Philippines), recalling that IAEA was the sole United Nations body promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, commended the Agency’s Atoms for Peace and Development initiative.  The Philippines strongly supported the Agency’s efforts related to gender equality and balanced geographic representations at all levels, and encouraged it to maintain the balance between the promotional and non‑promotional aspects of its work.  The relevance of IAEA had become all the more pronounced given the increased importance of dealing with nuclear non‑proliferation and disarmament issues from a technical and scientific perspective.

    Action

    The Assembly then adopted draft resolution A/72/L.6 without a vote.

    Right of Reply

    The representative of Lithuania, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said each country had the right to develop nuclear power as long as all international safety regulations were met.  Newcomer countries must be especially diligent in that regard, she said, warning that manipulative, declarative and selective approaches still existed.  Expressing concern about the new nuclear power plant in Ostrovets, Belarus, near the Lithuanian border, she said the facility was being created without regulation, transparency or consultation with neighbouring countries, and IAEA specialized missions could bring important benefits if they were involved in all stages of such projects.

    The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected reckless statements that had been made by the delegations of the European Union, Australia, Japan, Republic of Korea and the Philippines as part of a politicized plot aimed at defaming his country.  Parties on the Korean Peninsula had agreed to an armistice and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had long urged the United States to sign a peace agreement to no avail.  “The nuclear weapons in [the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] are a war deterrent,” he said, noting that they had contributed to maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula following more than half a century of nuclear blackmail and hostile policies by the United States.  Noting that the United States armed forces remained stationed on the Korean Peninsula while the head of its regime travelled across Asia making reckless, hostile, warlike remarks, he said if that country truly wished to fulfil its responsibilities, it should dismantle its command in the Republic of Korea and fully withdraw its troops.  He reminded Japan’s delegate that Japan had been the victim of the only nuclear attack in human history and that it should address the threats posed by the United States — the world’s largest nuclear war criminal.  In addition, he emphasized that his country’s proper name was “the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” and not “North Korea”, as Japan’s representative had mistakenly stated.  To the delegate of the Republic of Korea, he said that country was a colony of the United States.  Emphasizing that such a country could never be considered a sovereign State, he called on Seoul to abandon its reliance on foreign Powers.

    The representative of the Russian Federation regretted ongoing speculation regarding infrastructure in Crimea and reiterated that his country’s position on the matter was well known.

    The representative of Belarus said nuclear safety was a priority and her country was cooperating with relevant international mechanisms.  IAEA had assessed its energy infrastructure and concluded that Belarus was committed to the highest possible level of nuclear security.  Claims alleging poor security measures were politically motivated and unjustified, she added, expressing interest in fostering cooperation with all interested parties, including Lithuania.

    The representative of the Republic of Korea, deeply regretting to note the “groundless statements” of his counterpart from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said her country would take all measures to protect its people.  Distorting facts would not change the nature of Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

    The representative of Japan said the missile development programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was in clear violation of Security Council resolutions.  Pyongyang must refrain from provocations and comply with relevant resolutions.

    The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said Japan was unqualified to discuss issues of nuclear concern, and Tokyo had yet to apologize and provide compensation for its past war crimes.  Japan had forced 200,000 Korean women and girls into sex slavery and committed genocide against the Korean people, with over 1 million killed.  He urged the Republic of Korea to learn from history, adding that nuclear deterrence was guaranteeing the prosperity of the Korean people.

    The representative of Japan said mentioning history was inappropriate at a meeting focused on issues related to the Agency.  Japan had always upheld the principles of the United Nations Charter and championed freedom, democracy and the rule of law.  He again urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to comply with relevant Council resolutions.

    The representative of the Republic of Korea said Seoul remained open to talks with Pyongyang and stressed it was the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that refused to engage in dialogue.  She urged Pyongyang to do so with a view to promoting the prosperity of all Koreans.

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  • Amid Instability, Security Challenges, New Partnership for Africa’s Development Critical to Continent’s Socioeconomic Advancement, General Assembly Told

    Speakers Welcome Free Trade Area, Other Steps towards Regional Integration

    The New Partnership for Africa’s Development — now fully embedded in the development paradigms of both the United Nations and the African Union — remained the “rallying point” in Africa’s pursuit of growth, the General Assembly heard today, as delegates drew attention to security concerns and other obstacles still facing the continent.

    Speakers stressed that the partnership, known as NEPAD, was particularly critical in the areas of social and economic development, with several welcoming the recent facilitation of a Tripartite Free Trade Area agreement aimed at harmonizing three sub‑regional blocs which previously had their own rules and models for trade.  Meanwhile, others cited serious challenges facing Africa’s security and stability — ranging from human and drug trafficking to terrorism and the illicit flow of resources away from the continent — and urged development partners to redouble their support for national and regional efforts to combat them.

    Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of NEPAD, speaking on behalf of the African Union, expressed concern that Africa’s inequality gap continued to widen, with negative repercussions for political stability, business, growth and social cohesion.  Demographics ‑ especially youth and youth unemployment ‑ was a critical part of the continent’s development, he said, noting that with a median age of 20, Africa must break the generation‑to‑generation poverty cycle that continued to trap many of its people.  Indeed, some 440 million people on the continent would be entering the labour market by 2030, meaning that Africa must rapidly expand its efforts in job creation, entrepreneurship development and skills training.  NEPAD was engaged in several such initiatives, he said, also describing its work in areas such as infrastructure, Internet connectivity and intra‑continental trade.

    Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, was among the many voices this morning hailing recent accomplishments in the global integration and regional streamlining of African trade.  “The Continental Free Trade Area is no longer a distant dream,” he said, adding that it could very soon become a practical reality.  While major hurdles remained across the continent, NEPAD was a strong sign of regional leadership in development, with the African Union, regional economic communities and sub‑regional organizations acting as engine rooms of progress.  In an increasingly globalized world, no country or region could move forward alone, and efforts in Africa must be supported by a revitalized partnership for development.

    Rwanda’s representative, recalling that the Addis Ababa Action Agenda had established a strong foundation for the implementation of both the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, cited notable socio‑economic progress made across Africa since the latter’s adoption in 2015.  Meanwhile, the recent Kigali Amendment to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change had reinforced those agendas by setting environmental targets and timeframes.  Agriculture was an important path for Africa’s sustainable development, she said, noting that an impactful transformation in that area would require strong coordination between partners in country‑led processes.  Among other critical challenges were those related to peace and security, which necessitated stronger efforts in conflict prevention and responses to early warning signs of conflict.

    Egypt’s representative, also drawing attention to the peace and security nexus, highlighted Africa’s leadership on those issues and the importance of maintaining its ownership over the development process.  “There can be no lasting security without inclusive development,” he said, while “peace, security and the rule of law underpinned by credible systems of democratic governance are prerequisites and indispensable factors and drivers of development.”  African countries had taken numerous steps to address security challenges, including establishing the “Group of 5” Sahel force ‑ consisting of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — as well deploying a Multinational Joint Task Force to end the Boko Haram insurgency and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

    Libya’s representative, also echoing concerns over security and stability, agreed that Africa would be unable to move forward in its development without addressing those crucial issues.  Many countries on the continent, including Libya, regrettably continued to suffer from deteriorating security situations.  Calling on Member States to urgently support African countries affected by conflict or emerging from it, he said his country suffered especially from instability resulting from transnational migrant flows, trafficking and other cross‑border issues.  “This is not a national or regional problem,” and therefore the responsibility must not fall on transit countries alone, he stressed, noting that origin and destination countries must also work to address the phenomenon’s root causes.

    Sudan’s delegate, voicing regret that conflicts and other security issues had adversely affected the prosperity of Africa’s people, said climate change and its impacts on food security were another source of grave concern.  African countries and the international community must work together to avoid the destructive impacts of that phenomenon.  Echoing support for the continued integration of the 2030 Agenda into the continent’s development plans, he said regional organizations such as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) had an important role to play in that regard.  Additionally, he called for a redoubling of efforts to establish a comprehensive, strategic partnership to fight terrorism and ensure political stability in Africa.

    Delegates from Asia, Europe and other regions also expressed their support for NEPAD and reiterated their commitment to back development efforts on the African continent.  India’s representative, for one, spotlighted trade and diaspora links with Africa ‑ as well as a shared colonial past — and noted that the Africa‑India cooperative relationship included efforts to build capacity, mobilize financial support and share technical expertise.  Indeed, trade between his country and Africa had doubled in the last five years, making India the continent’s fourth‑largest trading partner.

    Before the Assembly for that discussion was a report of the Secretary‑General titled, “New Partnership for Africa’s Development: fifteenth consolidated progress report on implementation and international support” (document A/72/223), which outlined progress made in implementing NEPAD, spotlighted national and regional efforts to mainstream the 2030 Agenda and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, listed recent accomplishments under the partnership and recommended more measures aimed at providing African countries with financing, trade, capacity development and technology transfer.

    Also before the Assembly was a report of the Secretary‑General titled, “Causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa” (document A/72/269), covering the period from July 2016 to June 2017, which highlighted major developments related to peace and security and their links with sustainable development in Africa.

    Also speaking were the representatives of Austria (on behalf of the Group of Friends of Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development), Brunei Darussalam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Kuwait, Thailand, Israel, the Russian Federation, Morocco, Indonesia, Mozambique, Turkey, Myanmar, Algeria, Ethiopia and the United Republic of Tanzania.

    The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 26 October, to take up the report of the International Court of Justice.

    Opening Remarks

    MIROSLAV LAJČÁK (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, said that since its adoption, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) had led to transformative change and big strides in the integration of African trade.  The recent finalization of the Tripartite Free Trade Area agreement was an important step that would harmonize three sub‑regional blocs which previously had their own rules and models for trade.  “The Continental Free Trade Area is no longer a distant dream,” he said, adding: “It could very soon be a reality”.  Nevertheless, major hurdles remained and faster progress was required, not only in agriculture and trade, but also in a wide range of key areas, including infrastructure, industry, economic diversification and poverty eradication.

    NEPAD, together with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Agenda 2063, should be harmonized and integrated, particularly regarding reporting, follow‑up and review, he said.  No development in Africa could take hold unless it was led from within.  The adoption of NEPAD was a strong sign of regional leadership in development, which was then reaffirmed through the African Union’s adoption of Agenda 2063.  The role of the African Union, regional economic communities and sub‑regional organizations had been indispensable and had acted as the engine rooms of progress in sustainable development, as well as in building African capacities in peace and security.  There had also been many exciting developments at the national level, as well as on‑going efforts to integrate the goals and targets of international and regional frameworks into national development plans.

    In an increasingly globalized world, no country or region could move forward alone, he stressed.  Efforts in Africa must be supported by a revitalized partnership for development, and in that context, there needed to be closer partnerships between Africa and its development partners, including United Nations bodies and Member States.  Official development assistance (ODA) and other commitments were crucial to enhance finance, technology transfer and market access, while there must be investment incentives at the national, regional and international levels.  “Development in Africa can never be seen as a standalone activity,” he stressed, highlighting that the trade agreement would be hindered without efforts to address the root causes of conflict.  “Foreign direct investment is not on the mind of someone who is running from a shower of bullets,” he said.

    PHILIPP CHARWATH (Austria), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development, said the role of industrialization as a catalyst for sustainable development had been well established and was reflected in the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  Welcoming efforts by the NEPAD Planning and Coordination Agency, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research of South Africa and other partners to develop a roadmap for Africa to achieve short‑, medium‑ and long‑term industrialization, as well as efforts by the “Group of 20” (G‑20) nations to support such initiatives through investment promotion and capacity‑building, he said the United Nations should also play its role in assisting countries.

    The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), in particular, had a leading role to play in close cooperation with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Development Bank and the United Nations Office for Africa, he said.  Among other things, UNIDO assisted developing countries in designing and implementing industrial policies and enhancing local productive capacities and entrepreneurship, and its technical assistance contributed to job creation, advancing economic competitiveness and enabling market access, while also advancing the diffusion of environmentally sound technologies and production practices.

    IHAB MOUSTAFA AWAD MOUSTAFA (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the peace and development nexus was particularly evident in the two reports of the Secretary‑General.  “As the world is pursuing the new milestone in the global partnership for development […] it is imperative to continue to place Africa at the centre of United Nations efforts to eradicate poverty,” he said, as well as to address the impacts of climate change and ensure inclusive economic growth and sustainable development.  Eradicating poverty remained the greatest development challenge for African countries, where half the world’s poor people lived.  Expressing concern over the fact that ‑ two years into the 2030 Agenda’s implementation ‑ global hunger was again on the rise and affected some 815 million people, he said efforts should focus on the necessary means of implementation, including financial resources, technology transfer and capacity‑building.  “The scale must be ambitious enough to meet the aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals,” he stressed, adding that developed countries should fulfil their commitments as laid out in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, including those related to ODA.

    While international support was important, he continued, African ownership of the development process was critical and “is not just a mere concept”.  African countries had taken the primary responsibility for their own development, and their experience with the Millennium Development Goals had shown that significant advances had been made with African nations leading the way.  Nevertheless, systemic issues had affected the continent’s rates of economic growth and international support was not sufficient to bring about a significant reduction in unemployment and poverty levels, nor in advancing other goals.  The challenges facing Africa today traversed peace, security and development, he stressed, noting that “there can be no lasting security without inclusive development” and “peace, security and the rule of law underpinned by credible systems of democratic governance are prerequisites and indispensable factors and drivers of development”.  African countries had taken numerous steps to address peace and security challenges at national and regional levels, including establishing the “Group of 5” Sahel force, consisting of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, the Multinational Joint Task Force and the deployment of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).  Partners must enhance their support for such peace and security activities, as no country or region could resolve those challenges alone.

    DATO ABDUL GHAFAR ISMAIL (Brunei Darussalam), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said it was encouraging to see many African countries intensify their efforts and seize opportunities to accelerate progress towards durable peace, security and development.  Reaffirming its solidarity with Africa, ASEAN supported NEPAD’s implementation, which would provide a strong foundation for Agenda 2063.  ASEAN was exploring ways to promote synergies and complementarities between its ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the 2030 Agenda, he said, adding that there was ample scope for greater collaboration between the two regions on mutual concerns and sustainable development.

    Noting that ASEAN and African countries had an enduring friendship dating back to the 1955 Asian‑African Conference in Bandung, he said ASEAN and its member States stood ready to exchange ideas and share experiences in such areas as agriculture, education, information and communications technologies and innovation, trade and infrastructure development.  Emphasizing that a supportive international environment was vital for Africa’s development, he said development partners, international financial institutions, regional and sub‑regional organizations and the international community, especially the United Nations, must redouble efforts to ensure sustainable peace and development on the continent.

    SURYANARAYAN SRINIVAS PRASAD (India) said that Agenda 2063 was mutually reinforcing with the 2030 Agenda and embraced the core priorities of NEPAD.  International cooperation remained a key element in Africa’s quest to achieve peace and prosperity.  Africa had made rapid strides in recent years — poverty rates had fallen, infrastructure connectivity had improved and economies were more diversified, while banking, telecommunications and retail had expanded, life expectancies had increased, school enrolment had grown and more women were being elected to political office.  Africa’s demographic dividend could be reaped by providing the youth with greater opportunities for education and employment.  Trade and diaspora links as well as a shared colonial past had framed India’s relationship with Africa.  The core strength of the Africa‑India cooperative relationship included efforts aimed at capacity‑building, the mobilization of financial support and the sharing of technical expertise.  He noted that Africa‑India trade had doubled in the last five years, making India the fourth‑largest trading partner for Africa.  Further, he highlighted that the African Development Bank had held its annual board meeting in India.

    Mr. ALMUNAYER (Kuwait) expressed hope that the long‑term development visions of the 2030 Agenda and the 2063 Agendas would be implemented to bring prosperity to Africa.  The harmony and inter‑dependence of the two development plans provided a common path to reach Africa’s aims.  Insufficient financial support, the spread of weapons and transnational crime, and the trafficking of resources were all impediments to development in Africa and undermined progress aimed at achieving development goals.  The recommendations in the Secretary‑General’s report, including those on good governance, the rule of law, the protection of the rights of women, the promotion of peacebuilding efforts and the pursuit of an Africa free of conflict, must be implemented.  He went on to point out that the Kuwait Development Fund had loaned some $20 billion thus far to 106 countries around the world; and that African countries had received 18 per cent of that funding.

    VALENTINE RUGWABIZA (Rwanda), noting that the Addis Agenda had established a strong foundation to support the implementation of both the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063, said the recent Kigali Amendment to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change reinforced those agendas by setting environmental targets and timeframes.  Throughout the continent, notable socio‑economic progress had been made since 2015, including through the African Union’s recent finalization of the Tripartite Free Trade Area agreement.  Agriculture was an important path for Africa’s sustainable development, she said, noting that an impactful transformation in that area would require strong coordination between partners in country‑led processes.  The continent still faced challenges, and development could not be sustained amidst conflict.  She therefore underscored the nexus between security and development, as well as the importance of conflict prevention and response to early warning signals with rapid interventions to protect civilians.  The Joint United Nations‑African Union Framework for Enhancing Partnership on Peace and Security was an important blueprint for boosting coordination between those two organizations, she said.

    OMAR A. A. ANNAKOU (Libya), associating himself with the African Group, said Agenda 2063 was a human‑centred plan for achieving Africa’s sustainable development.  Its goals, as well as those of the 2030 Agenda, must be translated into regional and national policies, while taking into account national priorities and local and cultural specificities.  Despite strong efforts and some progress, Africa was still facing many challenges in implementing the 2030 Agenda, including poverty, violence, conflicts, climate change, capital outflows, migration and more.  The continent also suffered from high unemployment, low education levels and a lack of basic services.  Donor countries must honour their commitments to the continent and support its countries in strengthening economic stability and attracting investment, he said, adding that “this will lead to true human resource development in Africa.”

    Calling for efforts to ensure Africa’s youth were educated and empowered, he went on to say that, many African countries, including Libya, regrettably continued to suffer from deteriorating security situations.  Development was impossible without security and vice versa, he stressed, calling on Member States to urgently support African countries affected by conflict or emerging from it.  “The African continent cannot move forward with development without enjoying peace, security and stability,” he said, noting that Libya suffered in particular from instability resulting from transnational migrant flows, trafficking and other cross‑border issues.  “This is not a national or regional problem,” and therefore the responsibility must not fall on transit countries alone.  Origin and destination countries must also work to address the phenomenon’s root causes.  Member States must not serve as havens for the trillions of dollars of illicit financial flows that continued to “haemorrhage” from Africa, he added, warning that corruption would continue until such havens were eradicated.

    VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand), associating himself with ASEAN and the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted the similarities between Asia and Africa’s development challenges.  Having become a donor country, Thailand was committed to extending its regular support and assistance to Africa through various forms of cooperation, including scholarships, training and local‑to‑local knowledge transfers.  Through the Thailand‑Africa Partnership for Sustainable Development, it sought to share with its African friends the late King Bhumibol’s homegrown approach to sustainable development.  It was also sharing its health‑care experience and know‑how, particularly in areas related to epidemics and rural healthcare management.

    NOA FURMAN (Israel) said that the relationship between Israel and Africa had never been stronger.  African nations faced many of the same challenge as Israel and both sought to use human capital to create sustainable solutions.  Through its Agency for International Development Cooperation, Israel worked with African partner countries, United Nations agencies, civil society and the private sector to further education and training.  In December 2016, Israel hosted a three‑day ministerial conference with African agriculture ministers, followed by a training session on applied research for agriculture experts.  Knowledge gained from those seminars would be useful in making progress on the African Union’s vision of providing support for 25 million farming households employing climate‑smart agriculture practices by 2025.  She went on to note the non‑governmental organization “Innovation Africa” that was working to bring Israeli solar energy and water technologies to remote African villages.

    SERGEY B. KONONUCHENKO (Russian Federation) said that despite continued weak economic growth and crisis situations on the continent, African countries were demonstrating resolute commitment to achieving the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063.  It was concerning that the Secretary‑General’s report noted a 3 per cent decrease in foreign direct investment to the continent in 2016.  African countries must have support in achieving the 2030 Agenda, without which there was a real threat that the progress achieved in recent years would stall.  The Russian Federation continuously provided support to Africa through inter‑governmental initiatives, and had forgiven more than 20 billion in African debt, while also using innovative mechanisms to ease African debt burden.  Further, his Government had carried out projects to ensure food security and improve industrial and transport infrastructure through international programmes and other specialized United Nations bodies.  He went on to underscore that his Government was one of the first to react and respond to the Ebola outbreak.  The future of Africa was dependent on the development of the production and trade potential of the continent, he said, adding that his delegation welcomed the establishment of the Technology Bank for Least Development Countries.

    OMAR HILALE (Morocco), stressing that only African action based on regional integration would help the continent overcome challenges to sustainable development, said those actions included the financing of the NEPAD programme.  Indeed, the funding capacity of many African countries remained limited and resource challenges were compounded by difficult access to international markets and decreasing development assistance.  Calling for enhanced partnerships to overcome those issues, he said promoting investment, bolstering technology transfer, improving market access and providing debt relief, among other actions, were critical.  Strengthening the private sector was also crucial to boosting income and job opportunities.  Another important issue was agricultural adaptation, which was critical to ensuring Africa’s food security, and was closely related to the implementation of the Paris Agreement.  Recalling that, in a meeting on the margins of the twenty‑second Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Marrakesh, African Heads of State and Government had committed to supporting such adaptation, he said those efforts would focus in particular on combating desertification and improving the resilience of farmers.  The promotion of South‑South cooperation would also be essential, he said, outlining a major “upswing” in Morocco’s own cooperation with countries across the African continent.

    INA HAGNININGTYAS KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), associating herself with ASEAN, said the impacts of the global financial crisis still cast a shadow over many countries, with the pace of recovery uneven around the world.  While 2.6 per cent growth in Africa was expected this year, more rapid growth was needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  There must be enhanced international cooperation to mobilize development financing for Africa, as well as initiatives to generate inclusive and sustained growth.  Collaboration between the United Nations and Africa vis‑à‑vis sustainable development must also be enhanced.  Noting that Indonesia had always been a true partner for African countries, she said it would host the Indonesia‑Africa Forum in 2018 to explore economic opportunities, strengthen technical cooperation and enhance the existing partnership between both sides.

    ANTÓNIO GUMENDE (Mozambique), associating himself with the African Group, said that while the modest increase in ODA to Africa ‑ from $54.3 billion in 2014 to $56.6 billion in 2015 — was encouraging, the continued decline in foreign direct investment was of concern, considering its important role in infrastructure development.  Agriculture continued to be a source of survival in Africa, particularly in rural areas where the majority of Africans lived.  In that context, the need to modernize agriculture would be crucial to efforts to eradicate poverty.  His country remained committed to encouraging the participation of all stakeholders in recognition of the essential role of community empowerment in improving the welfare of the most vulnerable, as well as in the protection of the environment.  Agriculture development, food security and nutrition goals demanded investment capacity to create national resilience as well as holistic multisector coordination.  Providing quality health care was another important undertaking in Mozambique, including child immunizations and treatment for HIV/AIDS and malaria.

    FERIDUN H. SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey) said his country’s Africa Partnership Policy fully embraced the principle of “African solutions to African issues”.  Those countries and Governments had the best knowledge to address their own challenges, he said, outlining Turkey’s support in such areas as infrastructure development, humanitarian assistance and the maintenance of security and stability.  Since 2005, Turkey had multiplied its ODA to sub‑Saharan Africa by more than 100 times, and it was engaged in several projects relating to macroeconomic management, health, urbanization, agriculture and education.  It also collaborated with small‑ and medium‑sized enterprises to carry out sustainable development projects related to industrialization and job creation, and organized training programmes around the continent and in Turkey.

    HAU DO SUAN (Myanmar) associating himself with ASEAN, called NEPAD a collective vision and strategic framework for African countries.  His Government was encouraged by the impressive progress of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa, which targeted 16 cross‑border projects.  Asia and Africa were continents of opportunities and challenges, he underscored.  Given the similarity of the two continent’s development paths, Myanmar recognized the tremendous potential for future collaboration in many areas through South‑South cooperation and the New Asian‑African Strategic Partnership.  Myanmar was a leading country when it came to building friendship and solidarity among Asian and African countries, and in that regard, Myanmar would continue to stand firmly in support of NEPAD’s objectives of political stability, economic growth and sustainable development.

    SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria), associating himself with the African Group, said the international community should support Africa in creating sustainable growth based on domestic production, effective tax collection and strengthened capacity‑building.  The continent also required improved market access, particularly among developed countries, he said, calling on those nations to show more openness in supporting Africa’s development efforts and its inclusion in the international system.  Economic stabilization measures, as proposed by some voices in rich countries, might impede Africa’s contribution to the world economy.  He said progress in combating poverty in Africa was hampered by several factors, including a multitude of crises, the effects of natural disasters, climate change and volatile commodity prices.  However, the continent’s resilience could and must be strengthened, he said, calling on Africa’s partners to support Agenda 2063 and continental programmes embedded in NEPAD.  He went on to outline initiatives including the Trans‑Sahara Highway project and the installation of 4,500 kilometres of terrestrial optic fibre, both linking Algeria and Nigeria.

    MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) said that since 2000, Africa had registered encouraging economic growth which had reduced poverty, but the continent still faced multiple challenges.  African leaders had therefore endorsed the Agenda 2063 in order to build an integrated, prosperous and peaceful continent.  The Agenda 2063 was African‑led and African‑owned and was fully aligned with the objectives of the 2030 Agenda.  In realizing the Agenda 2063 vision, special attention must be given to silencing the guns.  Development was the prerequisite for ensuring sustainable peace and security.  It was important to enhance financial, technological and capacity‑building support to the 2030 and 2063 Agendas in a more coordinated and enhanced manner and cooperation and coordination between the United Nations and the African Union should be further coordinated, he said.

    MODEST MERO (United Republic of Tanzania) associated himself with the African Group and said that African countries were determined to eradicate poverty and guarantee prosperity for their peoples.  Africans had always addressed challenges through a common purpose and solidarity.  He stressed the importance of implementing the 2030 Agenda, Agenda 2063 and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.  African countries intended to support the Secretary‑General’s reform agenda and to address peace and security challenges through regional initiatives and partnerships with the international community.  Addressing infrastructure development on the continent, investment in industrialization and value addition would be essential for putting the continent on the right track.

    HAMID MOHAMED ELNOUR AHMED (Sudan), associating himself with the African Group, said that Africa’s contributions to human civilization had been proven, yet the continent had been left behind when it came to recent industrialization and development.  Unfortunately, the continent had grown into a region of conflicts, which had resulted in great destruction and adversely affected the prosperity of the African people.  Climate change and its impacts on food security were of grave concern for the African people and in that regard, the international community must work together to avoid the destructive impacts of that phenomenon.  The 2030 Agenda was a roadmap for development in Africa, and in that context, regional organizations including the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) had an important role to play in reaching those development objectives.  He went on to call for a redoubling of efforts to establish a comprehensive, strategic partnership to fight terrorism and ensure political stability in Africa.

    IBRAHIM ASSANE MAYAKI, Chief Executive Officer of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development Agency, speaking on behalf of the African Union, said NEPAD was embedded in the latter’s Agenda 2063 and served as the “rallying point” in Africa’s pursuit of transformation and growth.  NEPAD was especially critical in areas related to social and economic empowerment, he stressed, noting that his Agency was set to become the African Union’s development agency in the context of its recent reform efforts.  Key to Africa’s sustainable development was the issue of demographics, especially youth and youth unemployment.  Indeed, it was not enough to expand gross domestic product (GDP) levels if such progress was not accompanied by growth and transformative changes in jobs, economic opportunities, access to education and other human development strides.  With a median age of 20, Africa must break the generation‑to‑generation poverty cycle that continued to trap many of its people.  In that vein, he recalled that the African Union had dedicated 2017 to making progress on the issue of youth unemployment, and noted that some 440 million people on the continent would enter the labour market by 2030.

    Outlining the NEPAD Agency’s initiatives in such areas as employment creation and entrepreneurship development, he said Africa needed to rapidly expand its capacity to offer skills and vocational training to its young people and women.  The expansion of African trade — including intra‑continental trade — was equally critical, he said, spotlighting the need to accelerate progress on the policy front.  Changes were necessary in such areas as customs procedures, visa restrictions and bringing to full ratification the use of the single African Passport, as well as enhancing the form, quality and diversity of transboundary goods and services.  Describing other initiatives aimed at improving Africa’s railways and expanding its Internet connectivity, he said the issue of wealth distribution was also a critical one.  The continent’s inequality gap continued to widen, which was bad for political stability, business, growth and social cohesion.  In that regard, the NEPAD Agency was discussing transformative action within a clear medium‑ to long‑term plan, while also working with African Union member States and other actors to foster a better domestic understanding of inequality.

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