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COMESA nations get shot in the arm

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 13 – As the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) draws nearer, COMESA countries have received a shot in the arm following the signing of an agreement to enable them accelerate progress to achieve the objectives.

COMESA and The MDG Centre, East and Southern Africa on Wednesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding aimed at offering these regional governments the policy, technical and scientific support to attain the MDGs, with a special focus on food security, climate change and business development.

“Our collaboration with The MDG Centre represents a unique opportunity to demonstrate that strategic partnerships can make a change in the lives of the marginalised people and contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals,” said COMESA Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya during the signing of the pact with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon’s Special Advisor Professor Jeffrey Sachs.

The ceremony took place during a one-day consultative forum on a new sustainable dry-lands initiative which was also attended by ministers, lawmakers and experts from Africa and the international community. One area of focus of the partnership will be the initiative for sustainable drylands, aiming to involve various strategic collaborators in the region.

“The new initiative addresses one of the most important and crisis-ridden parts of the world.  All through the dry lands of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, there is an urgent need to scale up the investment in sustainable development,” Mr Sachs, who is also the Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University said.

Several COMESA member States, including Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Sudan, have significant dryland areas which are also faced by challenges such as climate change, land degradation, as well as inadequate health, education and social services. These areas have largely been neglected in many countries in Africa and are therefore under-developed with inadequate levels of infrastructure and high levels of poverty.

Other problems afflicting these areas such as water strain, animal diseases, extreme poverty, and lack of infrastructure were also highlighted which deprive vast populations of basic needs and spur massive humanitarian and security crises.

“These are solvable problems, but they require a massive scaling up of science-based action at the regional, trans-national scale,” added Mr Sachs. 

The Drylands Initiative will create a new, bold and practical partnership of governments, regional and international organisations, scientists, business, and civil society, to bring new hope, cutting-edge technology, and best practices to sustainable development in the drylands,” he emphasised.

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“Collaborative effort is today imperative especially that most governments have been reluctant to invest in dry-lands, considering them as having limited potential for economic growth,” Mr Sachs said.

The two organisations aim to have a joint action plan for developing an integrated roadmap for dry-lands over the coming five to10 years. They will also develop technical goals to be tackled collaboratively by stakeholders as well as achieve policy harmonisation in sustainable management of dryland and pastoral areas.

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