Africa Union, United Nations Seek Ways To Improve Humanitarian Response

By Novell Zwange – The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr. Jean Ping, has today met with the new Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ms. Valerie Amos, in New York on the margins of the General Assembly. This was their first bilateral meeting since Ms. Amos assumed her new role as USG for Humanitarian Affairs.

Dr. Ping and Ms. Amos discussed opportunities to strengthen collaboration between the African Union and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, particularly in light of the recent signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the two Organizations on 25 August 2010. One of the critical areas for collaboration discussed was the need to work more effectively together to improve preparedness and response to humanitarian crises in Africa.

“One of the UN’s most important contributions to Africa currently is in the area of humanitarian affairs,” said Chairperson Ping. He also expressed his deep interest in strengthening partnerships with the UN in this area.

Ms. Amos welcomed the offer to build this partnership and emphasized the importance of “creating a positive environment for the impartial delivery of assistance in complex situations.” She also conveyed her interest in working with African Union Member States to reinforce their capacity to manage their response to humanitarian crises in the future.

This partnership comes at a time when Africa has made steady progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), according to a report launched last week by the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

This year’s annual report, Assessing Progress in Africa Toward the Millennium Development Goals, shows that these advances went along with bold and innovative policies.

The MDGs are eight internationally-agreed targets which aim to reduce poverty, hunger, maternal and child deaths, disease, inadequate shelter, gender inequality and environmental degradation by 2015.

Africa has made tremendous strides in achieving some of the universal goals, but a number of challenges persist as vulnerability to external factors continues to threaten the continent’s ability to make progress towards the MDGs.