"Sustainable development: a catalyst for peace and security"
The topic that I have been asked to address today is pertinent not only for African countries but also other countries in the developing and developed regions.
It is relevant to ask whether sustainable development can be achieved in an environment where conflict and insecurity is prevalent. There is no doubt that peace and security are pre-requisites for successful long-term development. But, without development, it is also difficult, if not impossible, to imagine how long-term peace and security can be attained.
I do not want to engage here in a debate of which comes first or which serves as a catalyst: peace and security, or sustainable development. However, it is worth noting that from recent experiences, countries that have already gone though internal conflict tend to show a higher risk of conflict renewal. For instance, it has been found that the risk for post-conflict countries to revert to war within five years of peace is 39% compared with a 14% risk that conflict might break out in a peaceful low-income country. Violent conflict exacerbates the very conditions that gave rise to it in the first place, creating a classic ´conflict trap´ from which escape is extraordinarily difficult.
However, the general trend over the past 20 years has been a reduction in the number of conflicts. Globally, the number of civil wars, inter-state wars and secessionist movements have declined by more than 40% (civil wars down 80%), despite media attention given to several ongoing and new conflicts. In addition to geo-political changes, this trend may also highlight the impact on peace and security of increasingly globalised economic ties between countries, increases in humanitarian and development assistance, and, perhaps most importantly, increases in economic growth.
In UNCTAD, we believe that the only way to sustainable peace and security is through sustainable development. Only by reducing extreme poverty, improving access to food, water, health care, schools, income-generating employment and by adopting inclusive development strategies can long-term peace and security be achieved. Even though debatable, poverty is continuously cited as one of the principal factors responsible for political and social instability in many parts of Africa. As you know, in 2000 the United Nations Millennium Declaration committed countries - rich and poor - to doing all they can to eradicate poverty, promote human dignity and equality and achieve peace, democracy and environmental sustainability. Ten years later, and despite six years of unprecedented economic growth (between 2002 and 2008), poverty is on the rise again, particularly in Africa. According to the African Union, the global economic crisis pushed 27 million more people into extreme poverty in Africa, putting the continent in a "precarious situation". With population growth, agricultural farm sizes in many African countries are declining and increasingly farms are now located on marginal land. Mass poverty and declining investment also means that many cannot afford the means for sustainable intensification of agricultural production. Consequently, more and more people are seeking work outside agriculture and the rate of urbanization is accelerating.
As we have shown in our recent reports, many countries in Africa, where the bulk of the LDCs are found, have not been able to generate sufficient productive non-farm jobs to absorb the growing labour force - mainly young people - seeking work outside agriculture. Last year alone, unemployment in Africa increased by more than 10% and the number of the working poor and vulnerable workers is expected to reach unprecedented levels this year. According to the ILO, for example, the number of African working poor could rise by 35 million people and vulnerable employment (that is, workers without formal arrangement) by 31 million between 2007 and 2010. For many years, UNCTAD has also warned that lack of investment in productive capacities and the slow growth in non-farm jobs could be a source of social conflict and political instability in Africa. This situation is likely to get worse unless urgent attention is given to investment in productive sectors and jobs are created in sufficient numbers. Let me share with you two examples from Africa that help illustrate the magnitude of this problem. Our research have shown that, in Mali, for example, the average number of new entrants to the labour force in mid-1990s was about 170,000 per annum and it is estimated that this number will a increase to a peak of 447,800 per annum in 2045 (in 30 years time). In Madagascar, there were 286,000 new entrants to the labour force in the mid-1990s per annum, and this number will increase to 473,400 per annum by 2035. The question is, could these countries continue to generate the number of jobs needed to keep the new entrants into the labour market meaningfully employed and earning decent income to improve their livelihood?
To attain sustained development, African countries need to link agriculture to other economic sectors, including through increased agricultural productivity, rural industrialization and the expansion of agricultural markets. A further challenge for the future is the "greening" of economic growth. Africa can become a true world leader in building a clean production system and developing its own environmental services industry. It is clear that Africa, first and foremost, needs access to energy for economic development. It is also evident that the climate change agenda must be reconciled with the development agenda so as to be credible and realistic. As shown in UNCTAD´s Trade and Development Report 2009, there is no doubt that opportunities are abound for developing countries to fulfill their potential in using wind-, solar-, bio-, and small hydro-energy. African countries must use these alternative sources of energy to promote economic growth and generate employment and encourage the development of new skills and green-culture. No doubt, going down these paths will also act as catalysts in the adoption of new and improved technologies and helps to drive innovation.
As African countries emerge from the current crisis, targeted and globally coordinated policy interventions will be needed to reinvigorate the continent´s growth, boost income and employment and avert another debt or development crisis. But, ultimately, only concerted efforts by African countries themselves can bring them back on a high and sustainable growth path, which would lead to lasting improvements in living standards and the peace and security associated with it. However, international organizations, such as UNCTAD, can also play a key role in providing support to governments in many areas that contribute towards inclusive and sustainable economic development, and increased State capacity.
UNCTAD, for example, assists African governments in the drafting of policies and legislations in diverse areas such as E-commerce, ICTs strategies and competition policies and laws, such as our recently launched competition program for African countries - AFRICOMP. We also provide capacity building for negotiations in trade, customs facilitation, investment policy and law, to name but a few. Furthermore, our ASYCUDA program on customs automation and modernization has been effective in facilitating transport logistics and trade through a simplification of procedures and a reduction in waiting times. It has proven to be valuable in reducing corruption and increasing transparency and revenue generation.
Mobilizing domestic resources as well as attracting and retaining foreign investment are also key to establishing sustainable development and stability. In both these areas, UNCTAD has been active in assisting African countries to build their development finance base. We have recently completed a major study on domestic resource mobilization in Africa and we are now at the stage of disseminating the findings and recommendations through a series of regional training workshops. African countries have also been the main beneficiaries of our Investment Policy Reviews, which are designed to help governments develop an integrated and transparent national investment frameworks to encourage domestic investment and attract foreign direct investment.
Finally, in UNCTAD, we believe that African policymakers should consider regional integration not only for its broader strategic development package but also as a means of advancing peace and security in the region. Integrating Africa´s fragmented markets can help attract the required investments, both from Africa and from the rest of the world, to build competitive and more diversified economies. Seen from this perspective, regional integration is expected to offer more economic opportunities in terms of investment, production and trade. This, in turn, should strengthen African countries´ integration into the global economy. It is assumed, moreover, that countries that trade together are less likely to participate in conflict with each other due to the opportunity costs of conflict. This was one of the rationales behind the European integration project, which could offer a model for other countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
In conclusion, although no one would doubt that the existence of peace and security is beneficial for faster, more inclusive and sustainable development, it is also equally valid to assume that without sustainable economic growth and development, it will become increasingly harder to maintain peace and security. Ultimately, therefore, it is through the establishment of virtuous cycles of inclusive sustainable development that one can make the probability of conflict and insecurity less likely. Taking the long-term perspective, African countries must seriously assess the lessons from the current crisis with a view to turning the crisis into an opportunity to restore their economic potentials and bring their economies on high growth paths. In this context, post-crisis policies should focus on key structural reforms, including the development of pro-growth macroeconomic policies; strengthened domestic resource mobilization; strategic investment in infrastructure and skills generation; integrated approach to food security; and greater commitment to regional integration. These reforms need to be accompanied by measures to redress income inequality and establish social safety nets for the most vulnerable segments of the population. Human misery is often the major cause of insecurity and violent conflict. It is only when countries address this fundamental problem and move on to sustainable development paths that they will be in a position to achieve peace and security.