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Speeches, 2/5/2010

Speech by Minister Väyrynen at the Executive Council of the African Union

Dr. Paavo Väyrynen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, Finland
Executive Council of the African Union
Addis Ababa, 28 January 2010

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Your Excellencies, President of the African Union Executive Council, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Ministers and Members of the Commission,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the President of the African Union Executive Council for having invited me to speak in this Council meeting. It is a great honor for me to address this distinguished audience.

I am very impressed by the achievements of both the African Union and the sub-regional African organizations in promoting integration on this continent. The African Union has established itself, in a short period of time as a strong continent-wide actor. This has also clearly strengthened the voice, role and influence of Africa in international fora.

This meeting takes place at an exceptional time. Positive development results that we have seen in many parts of the world over the past years are in danger due to the global economic crisis. At the same time we are struggling with two other burning global problems, namely the food and the climate crises. At a time like this, the importance of a strong development policy is greater than ever.

Development policy is an integral part of Finland’s foreign and security policy. With emphasis on issues relating to climate and environment, Finland strives to contribute to the global efforts of eradicating poverty through economically, socially and ecologically sustainable development. Despite the economic crisis, Finland has been able to defend its own ODA-budget and will achieve 0,55 % GNI share in 2010 exceeding the EU target for us. Unlike many other industrialized countries, Finland has been able to maintain the level of the development aid resources and even increase them.

The African countries have traditionally been and continue to be the most important partners of Finland’s development policy. More than half of our present appropriations for development cooperation, and at least half of the increases in our Official Development Assistance (ODA), are being directed to Africa. To enhance our support to the continent and to sustain its positive development trend, we published last year a new Development policy Framework Program for Africa. The program creates a strategic frame for strengthening partnership between Finland and African countries through development policy measures. It sets out guidelines for our growing support for Africa’s own development efforts and steers Finland’s participation in dialogue taking place in international fora. We are firmly convinced of mutual accountability: when you demonstrate strong ownership to development, we are committed to support this process.

While respecting the national development priorities of our partner countries, we aim to target our support to areas where we can bring added value to global development efforts. Finland has internationally competitive knowhow in various fields, including sustainable forest management, agriculture and rural development, renewable energies, clean technologies and the information society. Along with these sectors, the framework program focuses on the prevention and management of crises and support to peace processes. The role of the private sector and trade as engines of economic and social development receive increasing emphasis.

The aim of the framework programme is also to complement and bring added value to the activities carried out within the EU-Africa Partnership. Closer partnership reinforces Africa’s equal participation in international interaction and global development.

In order to be effective in our joint development efforts, in order to reach fast and lasting results, we have to build on the principles of sustainable development, both ecologically, economically and socially.

The foundation for sustainable development was laid down in the Rio UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992 and reconfirmed at the UN Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002. Since then the world leaders have committed themselves to the principles of sustainable development on several occasions.

Economic growth, which is based on a thriving private sector, domestic and foreign investments and trade, is the main contributor to poverty reduction. Focusing on Africa, there is great potential to boost economic development through regional trade and investments - another example showing the importance of regional integration.

Environmental sustainability, especially the challenges related to climate change, requires urgent joint action on the national, regional and global level. The recent Copenhagen Accord stresses enhanced support for both climate change mitigation and adaptation in African countries.

The Copenhagen Summit can, however, only be seen as a beginning. We all have to associate ourselves to the Copenhagen Accord during January 2010. But we must be ready to go further in order to achieve a more ambitious and binding agreement in Mexico in November 2010.

Social sustainability, including good governance, human rights, democracy and rule of law, is an essential and fundamental pre-requisite for sustainable development. Efforts to reduce poverty can bring fast and lasting results only when our development policies are based also on the social dimension of sustainable development.

In order to be effective in our joint development efforts we have to improve coordination between all the donors and partners. An important step was taken when the EU and US agreed in their November summit to strengthen their cooperation in promoting sustainable development. These two actors provide up to 80 % of all ODA and 85% of all humanitarian assistance in the world. This Transatlantic partnership was initiated by Finland a year ago. This cooperation is going to benefit Africa more than any other part of the developing world.

We have to continue on this path and enhance cooperation and coordination between all actors in development policy. In our opinion, we must strive for greater convergence in the development policies of all the donors and the partners.

On one hand the traditional, Northern donors, should do more in infrastructure, productive sectors and private sector development. On the other hand, new emerging donors in the South-South cooperation could and should be more active in primary education, health and other social sectors where they have, based on their own recent history, invaluable experience and expertise. The Southern donors should also follow the example of the Northern donors by providing more grant aid and by giving the least developed countries a full quota and tariff free access to their growing domestic markets.

And, whatever the division of labour among donors will be, we all should follow the principles of broad-based sustainable development, which we have committed ourselves to in several summit meetings.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It might be astonishing to you, but my own country, Finland, has many similarities with the African countries. As the northernmost member of the EU we have harsh natural conditions. In the beginning of our independence nine decades ago we had a bitter civil war, but we were able to heel our wounds and reconcile our differences and successfully defend ourselves against a Soviet military offence 70 years ago in the so called Winter War. We suffered a lot in the Second World War and after the war we were still a developing country. From these circumstances, by following the principles of sustainable development already long before the term was invented, we have been able to develop into one of the leading well-fare societies. This should serve as an encouraging example for many African countries.

On the basis of our own experience we have taken the initiative to launch a sustainable development partnership with the African Union (see the annex). The main elements of this partnership will include strengthening the development of the information and knowledge society in the AU member states and supporting the peace-building efforts of the AU. One concrete step has already been taken as Finland is in the process of setting up the Dar-es-Salaam Institute for Sustainable Development in cooperation with Tanzania. It is going to concentrate on Tanzania and the Eastern African region, but it can also serve as a bridge between the AU and Finland.

Promoting peace and stability in the framework of overall sustainable development is one key objective of Finland when we are seeking a seat in the United Nations Security Council for the term 2013-2014.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Finally, I would like to turn to the theme of the African Union Summit, “Information and Communications Technologies in Africa: Challenges and Prospects for Development”. It is important to highlight a holistic view on knowledge-based society, on how to use information technology for promoting sustainable development. African countries will gain high rewards from new information technologies in terms of more competitive economies. Technology applied should be appropriate and affordable. One of the biggest challenges for any country is to create an appropriate regulatory environment that is conducive for development of a knowledge-based economy.

I am confident that the AU ministerial decisions will contribute towards the creation of an enabling environment for ICT development in Africa. That will foster further domestic and foreign direct investments in the ICT sector, and thereby in the economy overall. Finland is willing to co-operate with the African Union, the African sub-regional organizations and individual African countries in enhancing knowledge-based societies. That will forge links between Africa, Europe and Finland, and indeed, between all nations.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The international community must honor its commitments to work together with Africa. I am also convinced that Africa will not only remain committed but will do more for sustainable development, which is based on all its three pillars. In this way, I am sure that "Africa will shine thousands fires" as your distinguished Chairperson M. Jean Ping envisions in the title of his recent remarkable book. Peace and prosperity in Africa are our common goal.

I thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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Updated 2/5/2010

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