United Nations System-Wide Special Initiative on Africa

Introductory note

1. On 15 March 1996, the Secretary-General with the executive heads of all the agencies and organiza-tions of the United Nations system represented in the United Nations Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) and the current Chairman and the Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) formally launched the United Nations System-wide Special Initiative on Africa.

2. The Special Initiative is the United Nations system's most significant mobilization of support for African development and its largest coordinated action. It aims to give practical expression to the policy commitments made in the past, such as the United Nations New Agenda for the Development of Africa in the 1990s (UN-NADAF) and the United Nations System-wide Plan of Action for African Recovery and Development. As such, the Special Initiative must be seen as reinforcing and not duplicating these efforts.

3. The economic, human development and environmental challenges facing Africa continue to be of unparalleled severity, in spite of the sustained efforts of African Governments and civil society, and the assistance of the international donor community. At the same time, prospects for Africa's development are, in many ways, better now than they have been for many years. To realize these prospects will require renewed determination, within Africa as well as by the international community, to meet priority development needs. It will require innovation, renewed dedication, strong solidarity, and urgent and concerted action.

4. This Special Initiative aims to contribute to this effort through a number of concrete actions in four thematic areas of fundamental importance to Africa's future. It is an expression of renewed strong commitment by the organizations and agencies of the United Nations system to Africa's development.

5. As the United Nations most significant mobilization of international support for development in one world region, the Special Initiative contains practical actions, springing from the development priorities identified by the African countries themselves, such as embodied in the Cairo Agenda for Action, which should make a major difference to the continent's future. The Initiative also aims to help rationalize development assistance to Africa and maximize its impact. Indeed, an effective partnership with donor countries and institutions is criti-cal to the success of the Special Initiative. To this end, the United Nations system will mount a one-year campaign to secure the level of political mobilization required both within Africa and in the international com-munity to surmount the obstacles to the continent's development.

6. The Special Initiative's 14 components are grouped in four themes: Give Development a Chance; New Hope for the Upcoming Generation; Strengthening the Capacity for Governance; and Urgency on Survival Issues. Each component has its own framework for implementation and a relevant lead United Nations agency or agencies which will be held accountable for progress in achieving the Initiative's goals. National governments will have responsibility for implementation on the ground.

7. Up to $US 25 billion will be required to finance the Special Initiative over a 10-year period. Financing will come mainly from a redirection of existing resources at national and international levels, as well as from new resources. The exact mix will be determined through a series of consultations at the regional and national levels.

8. The Initiative proposes three mechanisms for resource mobilization. First, multilateral and bilateral donors are to create goal-oriented regional forums to raise resources for key sectors. Second, African Govern-ments are to prepare goal-oriented country investment programmes to maximize the impact of internal and external resource mobilization. Third, participation in consultative group and round-table meetings is to be broadened to encourage involvement and participation of non-traditional partners, such as leaders of business and civil society. The Initiative recommends other ways of releasing funds for development, including deeper debt relief, an expansion of Africa's trade opportunities and enhance South-South cooperation.

9. Consultations have taken place with African leaders during the formulation of this Special Initiative. These will continue both at the national and regional levels as the Special Initiative moves to the stage of active implementation to ensure that ownership of the Special Initiative is firmly within African countries in partnership with the international community.

10. The Conference of Ministers is invited to discuss and support this important initiative.