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Excellencies, distinguished guests,
Let me begin by thanking our guest speakers for their substantial and valuable presentations.
I can assure you that your contributions and our discussions during the last couple of days will play a prominent role when we review our comprehensive Danish Africa Partnership Strategy in the months to come.
Now that we are reaching the end of this conference, I would like to conclude this morning’s presentations by touching on some of the issues highlighted during the conference and mentioning some immediate action that Denmark intends to take to support Africa in its own endeavours.
But first of all I would like to emphasize that when the idea of this conference was conceived last autumn during my visit to Africa - it was first of all on the basis of the encouragement from the positive development that I experienced in Africa. It was clear to me, that good governance and progress have taken hold on the continent. At the same time it was clear that Africa needs assistance in this process to succeed.
As it has been pointed out during today’s discussions we need optimistic language. While not forgetting the huge and real challenges that we face.
Now, my comments will relate mainly to two issues:
|1.||Regional integration and security|
|2||Women’s involvement in reconstruction and development.|
However, before I get to the first of these issues, I would like to make some brief, general remarks related to the fundamental matter of good governance:
The basic rationale behind the Danish partnership with Africa is to combat poverty. We shall continue to do so primarily in the nine so-called programme countries and in Niger and South Africa through long-term strategic partnerships.
Both my visit to Tanzania and Mozambique last autumn and our discussions here in Copenhagen have confirmed my belief that our basic concept of focusing our assistance is the right one. Strong African leadership based on democracy and good governance is essential for success in these partnerships. And, fortunately, it is gaining strength.
When it comes to democracy and good governance, Mozambique and Tanzania are among the more successful African nations. It is therefore no coincidence that these two countries are the prime recipients of Danish development assistance.
Good governance was also a decisive factor when Mali was recently selected as Denmark’s 9th partner country in Africa.
Let me take this opportunity to commend Chairman Konaré for having established such a good track record for Mali in the fields of democracy and governance during his 10-year presidential tenure in Mali. And may I salute Mr. Konaré for continuing to pursue this on a Pan-African scale. Which brings me to my first issue:
“Regional integration and security”
The mission of Mr. Konaré and the African Union is urgent and long called for. Some of the most pressing problems facing Africa occur outside the relatively well functioning African democracies - such as the Danish partnership countries. In failed and fragile states suffering has reached prodigious levels. But as emphasized by Mr. Konaré we should not forget the good news that many African countries are now in a post conflict situation.
More than 100 million people in Africa live in countries that are presently experiencing or have recently emerged from armed conflict. More than 16 million Africans are either refugees or internally displaced.
For those people the term “development” has a very narrow meaning. A mother will worry little about access to primary education for her children, about employment opportunities or credit schemes - if she does not know whether her family will survive yet another night.
The conflicts that produce such catastrophic living conditions must be stopped. For the sake of those directly affected - and for the sake of Africa as a whole.
Meeting Millennium Development goals will remain an impossible task as long as the lives of millions of Africans are affected by instability and conflict. Such conflicts cripple production, cause mass migration, and create the burden of supporting thousands of refugees for neighbouring countries.
Responsibility for ending this suffering should primarily be shouldered by African governments and their people. Which is, of course, why we attach such great importance to the work of the African Union. However, the international community must also play its part. We have a responsibility to support the strong African leadership emerging at regional levels and to help ensure African solutions to African problems.
I foresee a strengthened Danish cooperation with the African Union. A strong support for AU’s efforts to deal with conflicts and reconstruction. And also a strong support for the AU’s important role in meeting other great challenges on the African continent – such as HIV/AIDS, women’s involvement, and the promotion of economic growth.
All these endeavours merit our full support. In addition to the ongoing cooperation under the Danish Africa Programme for Peace, the Danish Government will set aside 65 million DKK to support the general programme of the AU.
When we talk of challenges and conflicts we cannot fail to name one of Africa’s most urgent and complex challenges – that of Darfur. A conflict characterised by unimaginable suffering and a high risk of escalation.
The AU has assumed a strategic role leading the Darfur peace talks in Abuja, as well as in peacekeeping efforts on the ground. And I would like to congratulate you, Mr. Konaré on the recent peace agreement. The AU mission in Darfur, AMIS, is soon to be released by the UN after carrying out a commendable job under very difficult circumstances. I have had very fruitful discussions with Chairman Konaré and with his Commissioner for Peace and Security, Mr. Djinnit, about the challenges ahead.
I am pleased to reiterate to Mr. Konaré and to the UN Deputy Secretary-General Malloch Brown that Denmark will be ready to consider a contribution to an operation in Africa, if requested by the UN. The exact Danish contribution will depend on the results of the dialogue between the AU and the UN - based on the peace agreement. According to the UN declaration the engagement in Darfur should have a strong African involvement and character. Furthermore, following a peace agreement, the Danish Government will earmark 200 million DKK for recovery and reconstruction in Darfur.
Today, most of the peacekeepers in Africa are African. And most of Africa’s violent conflicts are on the road to settlement. But history has shown that there is a very high risk of resurgence of armed struggle - if post conflict reconstruction does not rapidly gain momentum. Which serves to underline the paramount importance of the UN’s newly established Peace Building Commission. The main task is to ensure the successful transition from armed conflict to long-term and stable development. We must all join our efforts to this end.
Denmark has worked closely with Tanzania and other partners to make the Commission a reality. We have already set aside 50 million DKK to support the work of the commission this year and I am pleased to announce today a further Danish contribution of 50 million DKK to the financial mechanism of the Peace Building Commission.
The Commission will predominantly work in Africa. I am convinced that the UN will stress the need for national ownership of any development and reconstruction process, as well as the vital and pivotal role of the AU.
When I stress the need for African ownership of - and responsibility for - the continent’s reconstruction and development I mean all Africans – both men and women. This brings me to my second issue:
“Women’s involvement in reconstruction and development”
Women’s rights. Women’s economic opportunities and women’s participation in all spheres of political life in Africa are issues that urgently need to be addressed. Primarily for the sake of the women themselves - but also because reconstruction and development is much more likely to succeed if women are able to realise their full potential in the fight against poverty, ignorance and disease.
And as pointed out by Prime Minister Diogo – women can and should play a crucial role in post conflict reconstruction focussed on reconciliation and resettlement.
Women play a key role in the economy. During my visit to Tanzania and Mozambique last year, it became very clear to me that the women of Africa possess a tremendous potential for progress and change on the continent. I was deeply impressed by their entrepreneurship and ability to develop business – and to achieve remarkable results despite very limited access to funds.
It is obvious that economic development can be more readily realised if all those who are capable of making their contribution to the economy are free and are able to do so.
Denmark has long been at the forefront of promoting women’s rights and participation. We have decided to redouble our efforts for the obvious reason that without special efforts to promote the rights and status of women and girls, Africa will fail to reach the Millennium Development Goals. I urge African leaders to accept their part of this responsibility.
The discussions we have had during the last couple of days have convinced me that there is a genuine commitment to address women’s marginalisation in Africa. And I can assure you that we fully share this commitment.
So I am delighted to announce today that Denmark has allocated 140 million DKK for new initiatives to promote women’s involvement in Africa’s development. Allow me to conclude by pointing to four initiatives for focused Danish action:
- Firstly: African leadership and ownership are essential to keeping gender equality at the centre of development efforts. We therefore plan to allocate 40 million DKK to support African organisations, think tanks and networks committed to promoting women’s equal rights, equal access to resources and equal access to political influence. Among other things we will build on positive experiences from Mozambique, Tanzania and Benin and promote small credits tailored to the specific needs of women. As I said before African women are characterised by their entrepreneurial spirit and I think increased access to micro-finance is an efficient way of promoting women’s economic empowerment, poverty reduction and economic development.
- Secondly, we will increase our focus on female entrepreneurs. In our new partnership with Mali we will specifically promote women’s opportunities for participating in economic development. This involves facilitating women’s access to vocational training and micro-finance and the development of their own small and medium sized enterprises. To this end we plan to allocate 40 million DKK;
- Thirdly, violence against women is widespread. We plan to allocate 40 million DKK to strengthen our efforts to protect women’s fundamental rights. And to increase our support to the extension of the so-called Thuthuzela Centres. These are centres developed by the Government of South Africa, UNICEF and Denmark that address the needs of victims of violence and sexual abuse by providing medical, psychological and legal assistance. All under one roof. This ensures not only improved assistance to the victims, it also increases the number of offenders brought to justice:
- Finally, we plan to allocate 20 million DKK to support the protection and promotion of women’s rights and involvement in all phases of conflict. For example, by supporting groups of women promoting information and knowledge sharing among women affected by conflict. We are currently doing this in Northern Uganda and the results are already promising. Experience from other conflicts has also taught us that this very basic type of engagement can contribute to a peaceful settlement of conflicts.
At the general level, we will ensure that all new programmes fully comply with our strong commitment to promote women’s participation and gender equality.
Ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion, I would like to reiterate that Denmark remains committed to its partnership with Africa, both financially - by launching new initiatives in Africa amounting to around 100 million USD - including our efforts regarding HIV/AIDS - and by continuing to ensure that Africa stays high on the International Agenda.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I thank you for your attention and look forward to hearing your comments and answering any questions you may have.