UNION IN HAVANA, CUBA, 13 – 17th APRIL, 2001

The Chairperson,

Distinguished Parliamentarians.

A lot has happenad since the beginning of the new millennium. The new millennium provides us the opportunity for stock taking. Such stock taking enables us appreciate where we are, understand how we got there, and outline strategies for improvement.

It is not dimicat to understand the roots of our present social, political and economic predicament. It is, in large part, located in the very nature of the international system into which we were drawn. This system, more often than not, has been very unfair to the needs of the developing countries. Skewed as it has been in favour of the industrialized countries, it contains within its basic structures the ingredients of unending inequality. In this system, the strong live as they wish while the weak suffer as they must.

The Chairperson, in Distinguished parliamentarians, in this new millennium, the situation has not changed. It has been the case of the more things change, the more they remain the same.

The signposts are already emerging. The lofty ideals and promises of globalization appear to hold good only for the developed countries, and much less so for the developing ones. Potentially, the gains from globalization may be therefore all nations to pick. But in reality, you can benefit only if you have the capacity to access them. The massive infusion of capital and technology to enable Africa and other developing countries access these gains are no where in the horizon.

I astead, we are being compelled, under – threat of severe sanctions, to commit to debt servicing even the little resources available. For us in Nigeria, this has posed a grave obstacle not only to our domestic agenda for development, but also to our capacity to fully utilize the opportunities provided by globalization.

Perhaps more than ever before, there is the need for the IMF to take on a new image that is people-friendly. This is a compelling need. Our countries have made great strides in recent years, especially on the issues of democracy and human rights. Sustaining this direction requires the delivery of economic benefits.

It is not reasonable in the circumstances for these institutions to oppose expenditure on development programmes. This year, for instance, the IMF objected to plans by our government to spend on capital projects to provide stable electricity, functional and affordable telephones, education, health, and to improve infrastructure like roads.

Certainly, such opposition as this is indefensible in an emerging democracy that requires consolidation. In spite of this and other diffcalies, my country Nigeria continues to shoulder many international responsibilities.

We continue to commit huge resources to the maintenance of peace and security in our sub-region. Even when the international community has shown interest to assist in some of these conflict points, their reaction time has been slow.

Aa i address you today, there is an international refugee crisis at the borders of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. Except some urgent steps are taken, this may well turn out to be the worst humanitarian tragedy ever. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) needs to be further assisted to discharge its responsibilities fully to these retugees.

There is talk of restructuring the United  Nations. We hope such An exercise will make the UN more responsive to the needs of Africa. So far, its steps over the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo are worrisome. Just when there appears to be some willingness towards peace on the part of the parties to the conflict, the UN has decided to scale down the size of its Peace Monitors from about 5,000 to 3,500. This development is unfortunate. The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has the potential, if not well managed, to engulf the entire African continent. In view of this, no amount of UN presence can be perceived as too much. The UN step is ill-advised. 

When it is remembered that in 1994, the Organization withdrew its peace keeping troops from Rwanda only for the massacre of about one million Rwandans barely days later, my concern becomes justifiable Certainly, African lives do matter, and everything must be done to assist the continent emerge from this difficult period.

The affordable cost of drugs for Africa has been mentioned in a previous conference. However, we are worried by the latest obstacle being posed by some big pharmaceutical firms.

These firms have ganged up to stop some African countries that have taken the initiative to import cheaper, more affordable AIDS drugs for their citizens. Some of these firms are reported to have systematically overcharged on their AIDS drugs to Third World Countries. In their callous craze for record profits they are willing to take on any country. 42 of them, at the last count, have actually challenged a certain African country in the courts for daring to think of alternatives to their high cost drugs.

A genuine representatives of the world’s peoples, we must all condemn this attitude on the part of these firms. At the very least, it is morally wrong for mankind to be held captive by the quest for record profits.

Finally the chairperson, distinguished Parliamentarians, let it not appear like I have come here to complain all through. I want to remark on a new development in West Africa since our last Conference. The Economic Community of West African States.