- location:Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa
Ellen Breaks New Grounds Of Friendship
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf continues to tell Africa that Liberia is no longer isolated. As a Nobel Peace Laureate and President of Liberia, through visits to her colleagues on the African continent she is breaking new grounds of fraternity, solidarity and peace.
Her latest landmark visit to southern Africa and particularly, by a female African President to Botswana will forever be cherished by all Batswana or Tswana people who saw our illustrious president during her state visit to that country and the gains made.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has called on participants to use the Summit for Sustainability in Africa to promote the sustainable use of natural capital worldwide. To do this requires the change of incentives faced by the people of the African continent, she said, and indicated that there is a need to put value on the contribution biodiversity makes to the global environment.
Delivering the first Plenary Address at the Summit, held in the Botswana capital, Gaborone, the Liberian leader indicated that the first task would be to imagine new approaches and launch a dialogue on how to bring to the fore their thinking on aligning the natural capital of Africa's environment with its policy-making decisions. She emphasized that the Summit must lead to a concerted continental discourse on how to integrate, and account for, every element the countries of Africa have into government policies.
President Sirleaf, who spoke on “The Importance of Natural Capital to Development”, said one of the imperatives of any sustainable development in Africa is to strike the right balance between current needs and the global future. She said that in countries where economies rely heavily on the exportation of minerals and agricultural commodities, such a balance is a top priority.
According to a dispatch from Presidential Press Secretary Jerolinmek Matthew Piah, the President argued that African nations, in general, produce and export commodities around the world; in return, they import much of their modern technology. “In such a situation,” she pointed out, “the question before Africa is: How does Africa ensure that it does not deplete its natural capital to satisfy its daily needs?”
To address the inquiry, President Sirleaf advised that would-be producers of raw materials participate in setting the price system on a global scale. “Such capacity is lacking, even in some of the most developed economies,” she lamented, warning that African leaders must bear in mind that every decision they take has universal implications, citing the example of how a failing banking system in Reykjavik, Iceland, had repercussions across the globe.
She reminded participants that the state of global trade is such that countries which depend solely upon their export of “natural capital” face challenges in trying to set a conservation agenda. She recalled how, in the 1970s, the price of iron ore fell from $600 to less than $100; while at the same time the price of oil went from $15 to $75. “Faced with the realities of the free market system, Liberia had no choice but to dig more iron ore, at the cost of abusing its environment,” she said, adding that this situation left the country with big craters and artificial lakes on the landscape and not much else to show for the millions of tons of ore exported.
President Sirleaf said that, learning from the lessons of the past, she had vowed, upon taking office, not to repeat the mistakes. As a result of such commitment, her government decided to renegotiate every concession agreement in the country for mineral extraction and agri-business. “What we sought to show was that the people, who work the land, have decent living conditions and also send out a message that when there is equity between the people and the government, and between the government and investors, everybody wins,” she indicated.
The President also told participants that the agenda now is to redefine the relationship that exists between Africa, its ecosystem, development imperatives and what it leaves for future generations.
President Sirleaf reminded the participants that there have been many fine commitments to sustainable development over the years: from the African Convention of the Conservation of Natural Resource in 1968, to the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in 2009. She recalled that, at Copenhagen, countries, like Liberia, heard promises made of US$100 billion in funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives. Three years later, Africa is still waiting, she stated. The Liberian leader hoped that the Summit marks the moment when Africa speaks with one voice on how it can manage its natural capital for future generations.
In another development, the Liberian leader held two separate sideline meetings, the first one with the Vice President on the Environment of the World Bank, Rachael Kyte; and the second with Honorable Heikki Holmas, Minister of International Development of Norway.
At her meeting with the World Bank Vice President, they discussed, among topics, assistance and support for the fisheries industry, and integrating the value of natural capital into national accounting. Vice President Kyte promised her institution's continuous engagement and support for Liberia.
The meeting with the Norwegian Minister was aimed at expressing gratitude for Norway's support to Liberia's reconstruction, particularly the energy and power sector and to appeal for its continuous support, particularly towards the reconstruction of the Mount Coffee Hydro. Minister Holmas, for his part, commended President Sirleaf for the current rate of progress in Liberia and accepted the President's request to assist with the reconstruction of the hydro.
Summit Participants Agree 'Gaborone Declaration'
Meanwhile, on Friday, May 25, participants at the Summit agreed that urgent, concerted actions be undertaken to restore and sustain the ability of the earth to support human communities; ensure the long-term integrity of biodiversity and ecosystem services in effective protected area networks; to mitigate environmental risks and scarcities, and thereby contribute to the prosperity of future generations. These actions, the participants decided, must be led by countries as a tenet of their sovereign self-interest and in alliance with the community of nations, respecting common but differentiated responsibilities.
In a Communiqué dubbed “The Gaborone Declaration,” participants recognized that the above-mentioned actions must increase our knowledge, technology, tools, and capacity to value and manage national capital and to sustainably improve our citizens' economic and social well-being, and that the engagement of governments and citizens, along with dedicated support of the private sector and other investors, donors and advisors, is vital to the success of this collective vision. They also noted that this vision must translate into actions that are specific, targeted, and timely.
The participants expressed concern that the historical pattern of natural resources exploration has failed to promote sustained growth, environmental integrity and improved social capital. They noted that economic growth and human well-being in Africa will be threatened if we do not undertake concerted action to halt and reverse the degradation and loss of healthy ecosystems and biodiversity, as well as enhance society's ability to adapt to climate change and environmental risks and scarcities.
They noted that current development decisions are driven by fundamental human needs for food, water, energy, and health security, as well as employment and economic growth, and these needs must be addressed with sufficient concern for each other, for their impact on peoples' quality of life and countries' ecological health and productivity, as well as for the eradication of poverty and inequality.
The participants emphasized that watersheds, forests, fisheries, coral reefs, soil and all natural resources, ecosystems and biodiversity constitute the vital natural capital of any country and are central to long-term human well-being, and therefore must be protected from overuse and degradation and, where necessary, must be restored and enhanced.
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