A. Makarenko. The problems of Africa
A. M. Makarenko, Director, Department for Africa, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Despite the huge changes that have taken place in Africa in the past decades, it remains perhaps the most problematic region of the world. Multiple armed conflicts continue to flare up on the continent, and have caused millions of deaths in the most recent period alone. The socioeconomic situation is highly complex and at times chronically unstable in many African states. The real scourge of the region is poverty – a significant part of Africa's population is literally living at the very limit of human survival. Current patterns of economic growth do not (with occasional exceptions) allow us to count on swift closure of the gap in development levels between Africa and the rest of the world; the gap is, on the contrary, continuing to widen. All this is compounded by global market conditions that are unfavourable for Africans, the prevalence of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria on the continent, environmental problems, droughts, floods and other natural disasters.
The adverse situation in Africa, which hinders full participation of its countries in world politics and formation of international economic ties, has become a factor threatening not only regional but also global stability. Huge material and human resources are diverted toward peacekeeping operations, humanitarian aid and post-conflict reconstruction in the region. All members of the global community are affected by uncontrolled outward migration from zones of armed conflict in Africa, and the related spread of crime, drug trafficking and infectious diseases. The fact that instability serves as a breeding-ground for international terrorism and other manifestations of extremism should also be taken into account.
In this context it is highly important that what is happening in Africa receive an adequate and more active response from the international community, including the G8 club of the most influential countries.
Africa has already been an issue for the G8 for a rather long time, but the theme of Africa has featured most heavily on its agenda since 2001. In this year, at the summit in Genoa, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) programme, aimed at turning the continent into a zone of peace and stability and putting it on the road to sustainable economic growth and development, was presented by Africans to the G8 leaders. This programme, the first such document to be developed by the Africans themselves, declared that the states of the region are responsible for their own development. At the same time, the necessity of receiving the widest possible assistance from the global community was also emphasised.
The G8 leaders welcomed the NEPAD programme, and agreed to support the efforts of African countries to overcome the serious problems affecting the continent. They resolved to switch to a new form of partnership relations with African countries, based on the principle of mutual responsibility, with the Africans responsible for core economic and democratic reforms, and the G8 members responsible for assisting those states that demonstrate readiness to make these reforms.
In developing this agreement for assistance in realising the NEPAD programme, at the Kananaskis summit in 2002 a long-term G8 Action Plan for Africa was ratified. This plan was intended to serve as an instrument for mobilisation of wide-ranging international efforts to support the steps taken by the continent's countries. The plan was prepared by personal representatives of the G8 leaders for Africa, specially appointed for this task (the institute of personal representatives continues to function to this day, performing its assigned task of monitoring the plan's fulfillment).
The Action Plan established the obligations of the G8 in terms of providing assistance to African countries in resolution of the continent's most critical problems in the fields of ensuring peace and security, improving the activities of state structures, administrative and corporate governance, encouragement of trade, investment, economic growth and sustainable development, debt relief, development of education and use of information and communication technologies, improvement of healthcare and combating HIV/AIDS and other dangerous diseases, raising agricultural productivity, and improvement of use of water resources. The text of this document particularly emphasised that the primary responsibility for realisation of the NEPAD tasks rests with the Africans themselves. It also declares that the G8, for its part, is ready to support their efforts.
In 2003, at the Evian summit, based on examination of the realisation status of the G8 Action Plan for Africa, it was noted that the process of this new type of cooperation with African countries was, overall, developing along an ascending line. An important event was the ratification at Evian of a resolution on transference to collaborative work on Africa in an 'expanded dialogue' format, in accordance with which in 2003 the Africa Partnership Forum (APF) was created. Besides the G8 countries, this new mechanism for agreement on approaches to issues of African assistance also included other donor states, African countries with membership of the NEPAD Executive Committee, key regional multi-state organisations, and leading international finance and economic organisations.
A range of agreements on issues of provision of assistance to African and other developing countries were achieved at the G8's 2004 summit at Sea Island. Specifically, an Action Plan on 'Expanding Global Capability for Peace Support Operations' was approved. The practical goal of this document was preparation by 2010 of a force of up to 75 thousand military personnel, primarily drawn from African countries.
A logical continuation from the range of previous G8 resolutions on African issues was the summary document on Africa adopted at the 2005 Gleneagles summit. It envisaged large-scale additional measures in the field of assistance of Africa, including doubling the volume of development aid by 2010, full write-off of the poorest countries' indebtedness to international finance institutions, and allocation of additional resources for improvement of infrastructure, healthcare and education in African countries.
In accordance with the agreement reached in Gleneagles, some rather serious changes were made to the organisation of the Africa Partnership Forum, and it was given an expanded role in exercising control over realisation of the existing obligations of the global and African communities with regard to ensuring sustainable development in Africa
The G8 members execute the Action Plan for Africa and other G8 resolutions dedicated to partnership with Africa, in accordance with their own national priorities and available opportunities. Russia, for its part, also actively participates in the G8's joint steps to create the required conditions for sustainable African development.
As a proponent of a multifaceted approach to resolution of Africa's most serious problems, our country, in accordance with its status in the UN Security Council, makes a sizeable contribution to peacekeeping on the continent, including to development with the Security Council of strategies for resolution of certain armed conflicts, and definition of the mandates for the relevant peacekeeping operations. Russian military and internal affairs personnel – currently a total of around 140 persons – are involved in all UN operations regarding peacekeeping in Africa – in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Western Sahara, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia and Sudan.
African peacekeepers are trained in Russia. The possibility of expansion of cooperation with African countries in this sphere is being examined. Our country intends, from now on, to do all that is possible to enable greater stability in Africa, and to assist in development of the crisis-reaction capabilities of the African countries themselves. The practical aspects of connecting Russian structures to realisation of the relevant international programmes is being worked through.
Countries in the region are provided with assistance in training their own personnel for performance of humanitarian relief operations. In the period from May 1996 to October 2001, on the basis of the polytechnic centre in Kavumu (Rwanda), established with participation of the Russian Ministry for Emergencies (between 1996-2000, the Russian side provided around USD 1 million for the project), more than 1200 drivers and car mechanics were trained, and the country's first professional search-and-rescue unit was formed.
Easing the debt burden of countries in the region, under the World Bank and IMF's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC), has been an important aspect of Russia's assistance to Africa. To date, Russia has written off or pledged to write off USD 11.3 billion of African countries' debts, including USD 2.2 billion under the HIPC framework. In 2003 and 2004 the Russian side made an additional contribution of USD 10 million to the HIPC Trust Fund. A decision has been made to contribute another USD 15 million to the HIPC Trust Fund in 2005 and 2006, of which USD 10 million has already been provided.
The possibility of total write-off of the poorest countries' debts to Russia is being considered. If this step is implemented, the scale of additional write-off of African countries' debts by our country under the HIPC framework will reach USD 750 million.
Of course, our assistance to Africa is not limited to that. Large-scale trade preferences have been granted to countries in the region. The Russian legislation stipulates that traditional exported goods of the least developed countries, including African countries, are exempt from import customs tariffs. The preferential treatment regime applies to the bulk of African imports into Russia.
Substantial assistance has been provided to the continent in the sphere of personnel training. More than 700 scholarships per year have been provided out of the federal budget to African countries. Since 2004, cooperation in this sphere has widened to include personnel training for subregional organisations, in particular the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
A substantial number of African citizens study in our country on a compensation basis. A new form of cooperation is the creation of joint educational institutions in Africa. Preparations are underway for opening a Russo-Egyptian University in Cairo.
Substantial assistance is provided in the sphere of health. In line with Russia's previous commitments to contribute USD 20 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria between 2002 and 2006, USD 15 million has so far been transferred into the Fund. A decision has been made to contribute an additional USD 20 million between 2005 and 2008. Also, between 2003 and 2005 USD 8 million was been transferred to the Global Poliomyelitis Eradication Initiative.
Joint "field" projects with our G8 partners appear to be a highly promising activity, in particular the plans, which are in line with Russian-US agreements reached at the highest level, to send Russian specialists in lab-based HIV/AIDS diagnosis to Ethiopia and Namibia to train local medical personnel.
The Russian Federation has provided targeted humanitarian aid to African countries for cleanup after natural disasters, and has taken part in financing humanitarian activities supervised by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the UN World Food Programme.
The overall direction of our efforts and the G8's joint activities with Africa will not change in the future, particularly not in 2006, when our country will assume G8 presidency. During Russia's presidency, there are plans to ensure continuity in the G8's Africa-related activities by integrating African problems into the general context of such priorities as energy security, education, and combating infectious diseases, as well as to hold a meeting of the Africa Partnership Forum in Moscow in October of this year. During the APF event in October, there are plans to ratify the first progress report on realisation of the APF Joint Action Plan. It is to be prepared by an APF Secretariat, which is currently being created at OECD headquarters.
We are also ready to consider providing assistance in holding an APF meeting in Africa in April. There are also plans to organise separate events within the APF framework for the personal representatives for Africa of the G8 leaders, as well as to hold two expert meetings in Moscow with regard to peacekeeping on the continent.
Russia intends to continue to energetically promote multifaceted resolution of the problems facing the continent. It is open to constructive interaction for these purposes with its G8 partners, other concerned countries and African states.
Unofficial translation from Russian