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Africa's Common Position to WSSD Adopted by the OAU Council of Ministers: A Decisive Step forward

Nairobi, March 2002: The-75th Regular Session of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Council of Ministers meeting in Addis Ababa from 9-15 March 2002 has endorsed the African Ministerial Statement adopted by the joint meeting of Environment, Economic Development and Planning Ministers on 17-18 October 2001 in Nairobi.

The endorsement is a key step within the political arena, in the region, to pave the way for this Statement to be tabled in Johannesburg and as Contribution of the Africa Region to the Summit.

OAU Ministers also invite Member States to use this Statement at all fora preparatory to the WSSD and urge them to support and actively participate in the upcoming WSSD to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa from 26 August - 9 September 2002.

For Africa, which is said to be the only continent in which poverty is expected to rise during the 21st century, this is a concrete step towards addressing the new challenges confronting the continent. Some of these challenges include poverty eradication, economic growth, social development and environmental protection, as indispensable requirements for sustainable development.

This African Common Position stresses African priorities including the need to address poverty as a critical issue. It emphasises the importance of poverty alleviation to Africa and the larger community of nations because "poverty degrades not only those who suffer it but also those who tolerate it". In fact, experts agree that in no other region has the transition to sustainable development been so difficult since the 1992 UNCED as in Africa.

The Common Position also highlights issues such as the increasingly serious public health crisis in Africa. This may also have serious consequences for development, unsustainable exploitation and degradation of forests, soils, biodiversity, freshwater and other natural resources which undermine the region's economic development prospects and the changes needed in economic policies and practices to ensure that the poor in the developing countries get their share of the wealth required to sustain growth other the long run. In addition, it addresses the need for enhanced North-South resource flows and also the need for an enabling economic environment for sustained economic growth in Africa.

Africa has a vital stake in the success of that Summit as the continent expects it to address the major sustainable development challenges as well as the major challenges for achieving co-operation and integration.

The overall goal of the WSSD is to reinvigorate, at the highest political level, the global commitment to sustainable development and to a North-South partnership at a higher level of international solidarity to accelerated implementation of Agenda 21 and the promotion of sustainable development.

For More information please contact: Angele Luh, Regional Information Officer for Africa, tel: 254 2 624292, fax: 254 623928 e-mail:Angele.Luh@unep.org or Mr. Sekou Toure, Regional Director for Africa, tel: 254 2 624284, fax: 254 2 623928, e-mail: Sekou.Toure@unep.org

UNEP Information Note 2002/5