Source: The Inquirer
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has told her colleagues attending the African Union Summit that as they move into the 21st century it is necessary to make those "hard choices" needed to control their destiny and emancipate their people from the "shackles of domination and poverty."

 "It is only when we are willing and ready to galvanize our political will and collective resources around those required choices that our overall desired goal of enhancing cooperation and consolidating unity can be reached,"  she said at the Summit being held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. Giving her response on Sunday to this year's AU Summit Theme:"Towards Greater Unity and Integration Through Shared Values," the Liberian leader pointed out that choices relating to establishing and operationalizing functional institutions with capacities to protect those values that are shared by each and every African man and woman must be made.

She said there have been few critical challenges that continued to retard "our progress along the way as African countries and the continent to move towards our desired goal." But she noted that, 'mustering our collective commitment to demonstrate those well-cherished shared individual values, as well as those values that are rooted within our shared aspirations, presents a major challenge."

President Sirleaf said the development of a normative framework, as they have done, is not the end of the story as they (African leaders) have to now speed up ratification, enhance ownership and then take the necessary actions that would ensure effective implementation of tenets contained in the framework.

"As we deal with these challenges, we must clearly differentiate those values that we share and those that we aspire to achieve,” she said. "No doubt, at the individual level there are concrete, tangible and well-meaning shared values as articulated, "she added. She said these values relate to, 'our societies and are to be governed and be actively involved in our political, economic and social activities. She added, 'they speak to all of us giving respect for the basic rights and freedom of our people, irrespective of gender, location and age, and that such values talk about 'accountability and integrity, participation and the choices before us are clear."

The President said ECOWAS members have made and continue to make valiant efforts to apply these principles in the region, stating that this is not only an approach of choice which  members are pursuing, but obligations which fall within the framework of collective responsibility.

At the continental level, President Sirleaf told her colleagues and guests that mounting the necessary response to collective activities in support of the shared values is a complex undertaking; pointing out that 'domestic institutions; policies and the respective engagements of many countries with external; partners have intensified the complexities.'  She said what is important as this debate continues, is that these values are gaining importance in global assessment of progress, because of the inextricable link between political and economic governance as one must establish and preserve an enabling environment to move forward and forge strong relationships.

Earlier in the day, President Sirleaf and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon participated in the unveiling of the New UN Women LOGO, which will now coordinate all activities of women as it will now serve as the single umbrella on women matters. President Sirleaf said the holding of the unveiling ceremony in Addis Ababa, where all of Africa and the rest of the world are represented, is a mark of the foresight and vision of the Director General of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet. She said, "The new logo is familiar yet different, conveying the message of equality for women worldwide."

“Until now, the entities with mandates and responsibilities for promoting gender equity and empowerment of women such as OSAGI, DAW, UNIFEM and INSTRAW, all have been doing great work to advance the cause of women, but difficult for people in the UN system to be left alone as an outsider to differentiate, " President Sirleaf, a former UN official said.

As someone who has interacted with these entities, she said she welcomed  the unanimous decision by the general assembly as part of the UN reform to place the office
and division, the fund and institute under a single umbrella, the UN Entity for Gender and the Empowerment of women. She then stressed the need for proper funding.

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