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The Bone of Contention

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  • Pages: 2
  • Word count: 493
  • Category: Africa

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Images of Africa have long been of a continent mired in conflict, poverty and squalor. Conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Sudan, or poor governance in countries like Zimbabwe, have dominated reporting of Africa. There’s no denying that there are many issues facing our continent, but this picture is nevertheless reductive; it picks the failings of some corrupt regimes, and civil wars or genocide elsewhere to create a toxic mix which pollutes all countries in Africa. This is like claiming that all Europeans are guilty of “ethnic cleaning” on the evidence of what happened in the former Yugoslavia. Yes, some African countries are failed states, but let us always remember that Africa is 53 countries and most of them are peaceful and agreeable places.

Some fantastic progress has been made across Africa. Last year, the annual Ibrahim Index of African governance produced by my own Mo Ibrahim Foundation showed that governance had improved in two-thirds of African countries. Another core initiative of the Foundation is the Ibrahim Prize for excellence in leadership in Africa. We award over $7m to former executive heads of state or government who have demonstrated their commitment to advancing their countries and improving the quality of life for their citizens, while at the same time avoiding corruption and stepping down when they should. We have now awarded the prize twice, first to Joaquim Chissano, former President of Mozambique, and then to Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana. If we look at these two along with men like Kofi Annan and Nelson Mandela, we can see the calibre of leadership that Africa is capable of producing.


Many MPs are sceptical that great progress will be made at this June’s global summit on sustainable development. Speaking in a House of Commons debate yesterday, Martin Caton, a member of the Environmental Audit Committee, said: “A real danger in the run-up to Rio is that ambitions will be diminished by the global economic crisis, that we will return to the old, sterile, economy versus environment agenda, and that in practice governments will choose to define a green economy as ‘full steam ahead but with a bit of environmental window dressing”. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), to give it its proper name, will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 20-22 June 2012, to mark the 20th anniversary of the landmark 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg. It is envisaged as a Conference at the highest possible level, including heads of state and government or other representatives from every nation on the planet. The expected outcome is “a focused political document” that will plot the path towards a global green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and create the institutional framework for sustainable development.

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