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Posted on on October 16th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (


African leaders gathered in a United Nations-backed meeting today urged the international community to support a fund intended to help poor countries adapt to the consequences of climate change and mitigate its effects of their economies and the environment.

“Finances are critical,” Abdoulie Janneh, UN Under Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), told UN Radio at the end of the five-day Seventh African Development Forum in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

“We must mobilize our own resources to really again underpin the importance we attach to climate change. But this is the challenge that was imposed on Africa.

“We are not contributing much to this phenomenon of climate change and therefore what we are saying is that those countries that have created this should really come up with the resources necessary,” Mr. Janneh said.

The theme of the Forum was “acting on climate change for sustainable development in Africa,” and was jointly convened by the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank and ECA.

At the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, last December, developed nations pledged $30 billion of fast-track funding for developing countries through 2012 and committed to raise $100 billion annually by 2020.

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The African Union (AU) today launched the African Women’s Decade, with a top United Nations official calling on the continent’s leaders to seize the opportunity to eliminate a raft of ills, from exclusion from land tenure, credit and inheritance to violence and genital mutilation.

“Empowering women is a moral imperative, a question of fundamental rights,” Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro told an AU forum in Nairobi, Kenya, in a keynote address. “It is also sound policy. This is our chance to put principle into practice… Investing in women and girls is one of the greatest investments we can make.

“Gender equality and women’s empowerment are not add-ons – they are integral to development. Furthermore, they will have a multiplier effect on sustainable growth, and provide resilience to future challenges. Let us therefore work to empower Africa’s women and girls.”

She recited a litany of discrimination faced by women, especially those in rural areas. They do most of the agricultural work, yet endure the worst working conditions, with low pay and little or no social protection. They produce most of the food, yet are often excluded from land tenure, credit and business services. They are the primary users and custodians of local natural resources, but seldom have a voice on the bodies that decide how these resources are managed.

“They are the care-givers and managers of households, but rarely share these responsibilities equally with men or have a say in major household decisions,” Ms. Migiro declared. “We need to right these wrongs. We must ensure that rural women can access the legal, financial and technological tools they need to progress from subsistence agriculture to productive agriculture.”

She called for better income-generating opportunities and education for women, noting that women make up over two thirds of the 800 million adults in Africa who cannot read and write.

“This is denying women the chance to work, to prosper, to assert their rights and take their place as equal participants in society,” she said. “It also denies their countries an invaluable asset.”

More than half of Africans infected of HIV/AIDS are women, up to three-quarters of those aged 15 to 24. “The statistics tell a shocking story,” she added. “Young women are powerless in negotiating safer sex. Let us empower them. Healthy women and girls means healthy societies, healthy nations.”

Turning to violence against women, she called it “a topic that pains me – that should pain us all… It is endemic in our societies. We must unite to end it. It comes in many forms: domestic violence; the abuse of vulnerable young girls; genital cutting; rape. Such crimes can never be rationalized as culture or tradition. Wherever they occur they should be condemned. They should be prosecuted. And most of all, they should be prevented.”

African leaders must take their commitments seriously, Ms. Migiro underlined.

“We need national and local action to make women’s rights a reality, to end discriminatory traditional practices, and to end impunity for gender-based violence,” she said. “Let us accept in our minds, and in our laws, that women are rightful and equal partners – to be protected, to be respected, and to be heard.”

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon touched down in Morocco today, where he will address an international policy conference on the theme of global governance.

In his speech to the gathering organized by the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) tomorrow, Mr. Ban is expected to spotlight the need for enhanced ways of working together as global interdependence deepens.

He will identify three main challenges for global governance: ensuring that the global economy works for all people; combating climate change; and addressing new challenges, such as migration and organized crime.

The three-day gathering in Marrakech will draw some 140 representatives from governments, the private sector, academia and the media.

While in the country, the Secretary-General will meet with Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and the UN Country Team in the capital, Rabat.

From Morocco, he will travel to Strasbourg, France, to address the Council of Europe and meet with European officials.

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Said Djinnit, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for West Africa, visited Niger today as part of a joint mission with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to underline the support of the international community for the country’s transition to constitutional order.

A coup took place in the impoverished Sahelian nation in mid-February when renegade soldiers stormed the presidential palace and deposed Mamadou Tandja, who had been accused by opposition figures and others of anti-democratic practices.

Niger’s head of State, General Salou Djibo, reassured the ECOWAS-UN delegation today that recent developments in the country will not affect the transition or respect of the agreed timeline.

The electoral timetable provides for polls to be held between 31 October and 6 April 2011, beginning with a referendum on the new constitution and culminating with the election of a new president who will be inaugurated on 11 April. Members of the transitional government and the military and security forces will be ineligible to stand.

Last month, Mr. Djibo called on the UN and other international organizations to observe the upcoming elections, stressing the transitional Government’s determination to “guarantee free, fair, transparent and credible elections.”

Addressing the annual high-level General Assembly debate, he noted that “the commitments that we made the day after the events of 18 February 2010, are at an advanced stage of fulfilment and will be held within the agreed timetable, with your support.”

Mr. Djinnit and the joint delegation later travelled to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, where they will meet with President Blaise Compaoré, the ECOWAS mediator for Guinea, to discuss the situation in the country ahead of the second round of the presidential election, set to be held on 24 October.

Yesterday, Mr. Ban spoke with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in his role as head of ECOWAS, which has been assisting the process to ensure that the much-delayed run-off is held as scheduled in Guinea.

The Secretary-General voiced hope that in the remaining days, any outstanding issues would be resolved, according to his spokesman.

He thanked Mr. Jonathan for his direct engagement together with Mr. Compaoré of Burkina Faso to ensure that the poll is held in a peaceful climate.

Guinea’s independent electoral authority earlier cited technical difficulties when it postponed the second round between Cellou Dalein Diallo and Alpha Condé, the two candidates with the highest number of votes in the first round in June.

Mr. Djinnit has warned that further delays could seriously undermine the transition process in Guinea. At least one person died earlier this month following clashes in the capital, Conakry, related to the election tensions, and Guinea has been plagued by misrule, dictatorships and coups since it gained independence in 1958.

The election is the final stage of the interim Government’s efforts to set up a democracy after the forces of Captain Moussa Dadis Camara – who seized power in a coup in 2008 after the death of long-time president Lansana Conté – shot, raped and attacked hundreds of civilian demonstrators attending a rally in Conakry in September 2009, killing at least 150.

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