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Africa Reconstruction and Development


We applaud international efforts to develop a more just international economic order in which the limited resources of the earth will be used to the maximum benefit of all nations and peoples. We urge Christians in every society to encourage the governments under which they live and the economic entities within their societies to aid and work for the development of more just economic orders. (Social Principles, ¶ 165B)

The continent of Africa is in crisis. A century of colonial rule, preceded by two centuries of a vicious slave trade and followed by a generation of neocolonialism, has left much of Africa's social, political, and economic life in a shambles. The scale of poverty and suffering is daunting. More than 300 million people survive on under $1 per day. Life expectancy remains lower than 60 in 41 of the 53 countries. Africa is now the epicenter of the greatest catastrophe in recorded human history-the HIV/AIDS pandemic-with women making up 58 percent of those infected and more than 11 million children orphaned since the pandemic started. Corruption and bribery in many African countries places unbearable burdens on the most vulnerable people and blocks progress towards poverty reduction. More than one-third of all children are malnourished, and more than 40 percent have no access to education and are far more likely to die before the age of five than children in any other region. Famine and starvation continue to devastate women, children and men. In December 2002, the United Nation's World Food Programme issued an "African Hunger Alert" appealing for emergency assistance to care for 38 million Africans threatened by famine. Almost half the continent does not have access to safe water.

Conflicts affect one in five people living in Africa. There are more than 3 million refugees throughout the continent. Arms merchants, worldwide, find ready markets for weapons and their components among African governments and the combatant movements that oppose them. Massive numbers of ruinous land mines and explosive traps are installed by both offenders and defenders but, even after the combatants have moved on, the potential for dismemberment and death remains. Demobilized child soldiers have represented a particular challenge to communities. Young people who have proven their murderous effectiveness must be nurtured into positive social productivity.

In 1995, at the United Nations World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen, Denmark, Africa was singled out as a region requiring special attention by the international community to address the urgent need to develop the economic, social, and human resources of the continent. In the 2000 review of the implementation of the goals set by the Summit the following observations were reported:

"African countries have made real efforts to implement the commitments made at Copenhagen, but internal and external constraints continue to make progress extremely difficult. The mobilization of resources at the national and international levels to accelerate the economic and social development of Africa&ellipsis;through a holistic approach is needed for the full implementation of the commitments. Equitable access to education and health services, income earning opportunities, land, credit, infrastructure and technology, as well as official development assistance and debt reduction are vital to social development in Africa. . . .

"In a rapidly globalizing economic world, Africa continues to be marginalized. A persistent decline in the international terms of trade for commodities exported from African countries has reduced real national income and savings for finance investment. The external debt burden has drastically reduced resources available for social development. Furthermore, promises made to provide official development assistance to developing countries in general and the least developed countries in particular have not been fulfilled. More concerted efforts and an internationally enabling environment are necessary to integrate Africa as well as the least developed countries into the world economy." (World Summit for Social Development and Beyond: Achieving Social Development for all in a Globalizing World-24th Special Session of the UN General Assembly)

Africa is blessed with people of remarkable energy, spirit, and ingenuity. The continent is rich in natural resources needed by the entire world. The spread of democracy and the growing strength of African civil society offer a real chance to tackle the root causes of poverty and conflict. Social movements and organizations throughout the continent have developed to hold governments accountable and to build societies where public institutions and policies will guarantee cultural, economic, political, and social rights of all citizens. There is a call for alternative development programs based on the fundamental principles of democracy, human rights, gender equality and social justice. African leaders have developed their own initiative for establishing new relationships between Africa and the world-New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) focuses on the eradication of poverty and support for sustainable development. Key priorities of NEPAD are to attract investment in energy, agriculture, communications and human resources as well as to request increased aid and debt relief to build the infrastructure to attract investment. The African Union (replacing the Organization of African Unity) was established in 2002 and endorsed NEPAD at its first meeting in July 2002. The United Nations General Assembly officially endorsed NEPAD in November 2002. African civil society (including the faith communities), which has not been consulted on NEPAD, is organizing to study and offer their suggestions to the initiative. The debate has been heated across the continent.

The United Methodist Church in Africa is continuing to grow rapidly and is a transforming presence in many countries, influential beyond its numbers, engaging in a holistic Wesleyan ministry of outreach, evangelism, and humanitarian service. The church in Africa is part of civil society and has a strong witness to make in participating in the eradication of poverty; in promoting reconciliation, conflict resolution and justice ministries; in humanitarian assistance and refugee resettlement programs; and in pastoral training in HIV/AIDS. The church in the United States and in Europe has a strong role to play in advocating respect for the rights of African governments and peoples to define their economic policies and priorities and for continuing to support-among other things-debt cancellation, increased humanitarian and development aid, removal of trade barriers which discourage African exports, funding to overcome HIV/AIDS, ratification of the Treaty to Ban Landmines, as well as discouraging the militarization of the continent.

As Christians, our faith is in the God of Jesus Christ, who stands with the most vulnerable and oppressed people in our societies. Their well-being must serve as a guidepost for justice. God, sovereign over all nations, has made of one blood all the peoples of the earth. United Methodists, therefore, remain ever-vigilant, listening more attentively than ever to churches and movements around the world, as they struggle for social, political, economic, and spiritual development.

Therefore, we call upon the United Methodist people, local churches, and agencies to:

1. encourage United Methodist churches to increase their participation in programs of missionary support, pastors' salary supplementation, emergency relief, aid to refugees, reconstruction, and development through the appropriate units of the General Board of Global Ministries, regional councils of churches and the World Council of Churches;

2. encourage United Methodists to participate in Volunteers in Mission programs and other volunteer-based projects; and educate themselves (through orientation, cultural sensitivity, and contingency planning) for working alongside African brothers and sisters to, for example, reconstruct schools, clinics and churches. There is a need to emphasize the importance of preparation for the cross-cultural experience by volunteers and receiving partners. Orientation and training for both are available through the Jurisdictional VIM Coordinators and the Mission Volunteers Program of the General Board of Global Ministries. In addition, the United Methodist Seminar Program on National and International Affairs in Washington, DC, and New York City provides educational opportunities for United Methodists to learn about significant issues affecting Africa;

3. urge United Methodist churches in Africa to advocate with government leaders in every country as to the need for people and justice to be at the center of any concerted national and international efforts toward the eradication of poverty, sustainable and equitable development, and reconstruction on the continent of Africa. Urge United Methodist churches to become knowledgeable about the Copenhagen Commitments, the continuing United Nations plans of action and commitments to Africa and other bilateral and multilateral initiatives-including the Special Program of Assistance to Africa (SPA) and the UN System-Wide Initiative on Africa; Urge the United Methodist Office for the United Nations in New York to be ready with resources regarding the United Nations and Africa;

4. urge United Methodists to persuade their governments to ratify the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification;

5. be supportive of civil society in Africa as it seeks to continually review, assess and offer constructive suggestions to government leaders implementing the objectives of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). Urge the General Board of Global Ministries and the General Board of Church and Society to stay abreast of the issues involved, be ready to offer resources and opportunities for United Methodist churches and the ecumenical movement in Africa to gather, study and debate the concerns;

6. urge the General Board of Church and Society to develop a grassroots public policy action network to:

a. address peacemaking concerns including the end of arms sales and landmines sales to government and nongovernment combatants;

b. urge the reduction of foreign assistance to countries that rely on African arms sales for their own hard currency;

c. support efforts to end the international trade in stolen diamonds and other minerals to fund chronic African wars. Support the General Board of Global Ministries' efforts to remove landmines safely and in sufficient numbers to return land to productive agriculture

7. continue and further develop the General Board of Global Ministries' commitment to health care in Africa through comprehensive, community-based primary health care, recognizing the role that poverty and poor sanitation play in the spread of communicable diseases across the continent; the collapse of the health-care systems in many countries; and the ineffectiveness of total reliance on institutional medical models. Support the revitalization of mission hospitals as critical adjuncts to community-based care. Support AIDS prevention training through the African Churches, AIDS orphan trusts, prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV and equipped and informed home care for terminally ill family members;

8. monitor all programs of relief and development, with special attention to these criteria:

a. give priority to women and children, who suffer the most during times of social unrest and war;

b. involve full consultation with African United Methodists relying upon their experience, wisdom, and resourcefulness;

c. design programs to alleviate the root causes of poverty, oppression, and social unrest;

d. seek resources for program support from beyond the church to augment the church's contribution to African social development;

e. implement methods to demonstrate financial transparency and accountability in all development programs and projects; and

f. program for sustainability, both in terms of ecological integrity and appropriate technologies that do not require continuing input of resources from other countries, capacity building for local hand-off of sustainable size and scale of projects.

God bless Africa
Guard her children
Guide her leaders
And give her peace

Adopted 2004
readopted 2008
Resolution #303, 2004 Book of Resolutions
Resolution #283, 2000 Book of Resolutions

See Social Principles, ¶ 165A.

From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church - 2008. Copyright © 2008 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.