Statement by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on the United Nations Special Session on Africa

May 27, 1986

The President today announced the support of the people of the United States for the success of the historic Special Session on Africa which opens today at the United Nations in New York. Secretary of State George Shultz will head the U.S. delegation. A year ago Americans were deeply moved by the famine and human suffering across the continent of Africa. We demonstrated the strength of our free enterprise system in meeting Africa's emergency needs through the great productivity of our farmers. Americans and other donors, in both the public and private sectors, can be proud of our role in saving African lives and inspiring hope for a better future.

It is fitting that Africans and the international community meet now to debate Africa's economic crisis, so that we can avoid future famines. Much has happened since last year. Africans have demonstrated that they can dramatically increase food production, and today large surpluses in coarse grains exist in numerous African countries. Yet hunger persists in areas where economic incentives and marketing networks are weak, where rains were again inadequate, and where civil strife prevails.

Overcoming hunger and poverty in Africa requires addressing the broader issues of economic growth and social justice. Just as Africans can produce food, they have the capacity to establish economic systems which meet the needs of all their people. The twin pillars of political and economic freedoms cannot be separated; together they foster social, economic, and political responsibilities which sustain individual growth and promote national development as well as democracy.

Many African countries have adopted economic policies which emphasize a market orientation and which will release the energies of their indigenous private sectors. These free market policies can promote broad-based, equitable development based on social justice, self-reliance, and the proven skills of the African people. When individuals are encouraged to be creative and productive, they contribute to a strong economic base which constitutes the foundation of economic growth, social justice, political stability, and true independence.

This special session is an historic occasion, when the world has come together to confirm a stronger partnership with Africa, based on shared ideals, a renewed sense of purpose and commitment, and hope for the future. Working as true partners, the African people and the international community, through both its public and private sectors, can lay the basis for a prosperous Africa in which the African people contribute fully to their own as well as their national well-being. It is the prayer of the American people that peace will come with prosperity, so that the great continent of Africa can realize its vast potential.

Note: Larry M. Speakes read the statement to reporters at 9:19 a.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.