WASHINGTON – Africa's situation has improved,but the continent's need for development leaves no room for complacency,United Nations Secretary-General Koffi Annan said Monday.
Although Africa has made advances during the last decade,the need for more security,the demand for better development and the respect for human rights and the rule of law remain as the continent's biggest challenges,he said.
After a ceremony at Georgetown University that honored Annan with a honorary doctorate in humane letters,the U.N. leader delivered the 4th Annual Oliver Tambo lecture. It is named after the African leader who fought against segregation and strove for equity in South African.
Annan,who is from Ghana,has been the U.N.'s leader since 1997. He will step down Dec. 31 after two terms.
Annan said development,both as an end in itself and as a way toward security,is the biggest need for the African continent.
He emphasized Africa's slow movement toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals,an agreement among the members of the U.N. to address eight worldwide social issues by 2015.
Some of the goals include eradicating poverty,reducing child mortality and global partnerships for development.
“Ours is the only continent that cannot feed itself today,” Annan said,referring to the increase of poverty in sub-Saharan African countries,which is a barrier to development.
“The truth is that,for Africa,the global partnership for development remains more a phrase than a fact. About 50 percent of all Africans have never made or received a phone call. A minuscule proportion have ever logged on to the Internet.” Annan said.
The African leader also recognized other countries for helping to combat AIDS and underscored the importance of the relationship between developed countries and the United Nations.
Annan answered questions from the audience of more than 700 people,who asked him about conflicts during his U.N. administration such as the Iraq invasion.
“I don't expect everyone to accept everything I say” Annan said.
The U.S.-U.N. relation was also part of the dialogue,and Annan said that both need each other. He also pointed out that the U.S. Congress includes friends and some who are not so friendly.
Annan said security stands out as the second challenge for Africa. Although in recent years,the internal conflicts of some African countries have decreased and civil wars have ended,half of the world's conflicts are still concentrated there.
Annan pointed out ongoing situations in Darfur,Somalia,Uganda and Ethiopia and Eritrea.
But continental peace,Annan said,will be sustainable only if it is accompanied by good governance.
Although Annan said the magnitude of the continent's needs leaves little room for complacency,he recognized the “democratic renaissance” that Africa has experienced in recent years.
He underscored advances that countries such as Madagascar,Burundi,the Republic of the Congo and Liberia have achieved by electing their governments democratically.
For Paul Friday,a worker for the U.S. Census bureau,being at the ceremony was an honor. He attended with his stepson,a recent Georgetown graduate.
“I didn't think I'd have the nerve to do it,” Friday said after shaking hands with Annan as he left the ceremony. “His handshake was really strong.”