Summit offers a chance for a bold Africa position

The Summit of the Future offers Africa a chance to redefine its development path and speak with a collective voice on the international stage. This was a view expressed in the third dialogue during the Race to 2023 and Beyond panel discussion.


This article is sponsored by UN ECA

Isabelle Durant, Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development, Human Rights Council, highlighted the pressing need for a comprehensive overhaul of the multilateral system. 

“The multilateral system is in a difficult position and we need reconstruction, not just reform,” she stated, noting that there was a growing consensus that the  SDGs adopted in 2015 did not take into account some African voices “which are becoming louder”.

According to her, the forthcoming Summit of the Future is set to redress this imbalance, offering a platform for Africa to redefine its development path and speak with one voice on the international stage. 

She urged African countries to take a common stand in negotiations, even while acknowledging the continent’s diversity and rich cultural heritage. “Even if each country has its own bilateral discussions, we need a united voice for Africa.”

She said the UN has long recognized the link between human rights and development, culminating in the Declaration on the Right to Development in 1986.

If adopted, it would provide a binding framework for the right to development. “However, a text is not sufficient to build a right. You need a law, you need to have concrete and tangible political action.”

Martin Tsounkeu, Co-Chair, Steering Committee, Africa Regional Mechanism for Major Groups and Other Stakeholders, noted that the Summit of the Future has reignited the hope that the African voice will be heard. “We need to stop business as usual, including rethinking our mindsets”. 

Tsounkeu called for African negotiators to take cognizance of their bargaining power to deliver a meaningful pact for Africa. 

“We need to enhance our self-determination. This seems to be lacking when we go to negotiations.”

In his concluding remarks, Guy Ryder, Under-Secretary-General for Policy, noted that Africa should be operating at a high level of ambition.

“The gravity of the challenges that we face, the extent of the changes that many of us believe are required, demand high levels of ambition,” he stated.

He urged the youth to take advantage of the fact that the UN has taken concrete steps to be more inclusive to younger generations. “We have an assistant secretary general specifically for youth for the first time in the history. This is not decorative, but consequential.”