‘53 Countries, One Union’ Conference in Bologna

‘53 Countries, One Union’ Conference in Bologna

Thursday, 27 May, 2010

A high level conference on Africa entitled ‘53 Countries, One Union’ under the patronage of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, African Union and European Commission took place in Bologna, Italy on 21 May.

53 Countries, One Union

European Development commissioner Andris Piebalgs, Romano Prodi, chairman of the Foundation for World Wide Cooperation and UN deputy secretary general Asha Rose Migiro were among the attendees in Bologna.

“Political and economic integration is the right answer to achieve peace and security, to fight poverty and to develop societies and economies,” said Commissioner Piebalgs. “What has been true for Europe is also true for Africa. It is my deepest belief that, by joining forces, Europe and Africa can make the UN MDG review summit a success.

“As we are moving to the third Africa-EU Summit at the end of the year, we can take note of the progress we have made and of the challenges which still lie ahead of us. Our focus should be on action: translating the commitments we made into concrete results and unlock the potential of our strategic partnership.” 

The president of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, also urged Europe to invest in Africa.

The emphasis on action was reflected in the organisation of the conference, which was divided into three sessions concluding with a round table. Session one focused on the key role education plays in creating a political environment for stability, security and peace, while session two focused on economic community building for markets and trade. The third and final session focused on infrastructure and investment in energy, transportation and communication.

The role of the African Union

Romano Prodi, chairman and founder of the Bologna-based Foundation for World Wide Cooperation and named in 2008 by the UN as head of a joint AU-UN panel aimed at enhancing peacekeeping operations in Africa, said in the run-up to the conference that Africa can move ahead towards further peace, development and prosperity only by overcoming the present political and economic fragmentation. In particular, he highlighted the potential of the African Union (AU) as a powerful agent for change.

“Most developed countries have a great responsibility for the current situation, having always dealt with African states on strictly bilateral basis with no attention for any continental approach,” he said. “In this respect the effort of the UN to create a strategic partnership with the African Union is a great step forward and deserves to be continued and reinforced in the future. In this framework, this Conference will address the strong need for continental integration in Africa as a prerequisite for political, social and economic development.”

Mr Prodi said that in order to promote the move from a bilateral to a truly multilateral approach to major African problems, the conference would discuss potential common policies of the European Union, the United States and China. “At the same time we want to hear the perspectives of the African Union and of the leaders of African countries,” he added. “Our final objective is the proposal of a ‘Road Map towards further Peace and Development in Africa’, with follow up conferences in Washington in 2011 and Addis Ababa in 2012.”

Mr Piebalgs also paid tribute to the African Union, remarking that it has been “instrumental in overcoming the cliché of Africa’s dependency on foreign aid, and establishing Africa as an indispensable interlocutor on matters such as peace and security, amongst others.”

UN Millennium Development Goals Summit

As mentioned by Commissioner Piebalgs, the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) summit will take place in New York in September 2010. The EU is looking to achieve some of these goals through more efficient development funding mechanisms, such as a financial transaction tax. The European Council is expected to agree on a united European position ahead of the UN MDG meeting shortly.

The EU’s position will likely build on the Africa – EU Partnership on the Millennium Development Goals, which serve as a unique forum for dialogue, co-operation and joint action. The ultimate goal of this partnership is the achievement of the MDGs in all African countries. It is evident that many countries in the continent face challenges in meeting MDG targets by 2015. To this end, the European Commission recently adopted an ambitious action plan for EU action to speed up progress towards these MDGs.