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Ethiopia's Meles Zenawi: an extraordinary legacy on environment and development
By Nicholas Stern
It is one year since the death of Meles Zenawi, one of the world's and Africa's most remarkable leaders.
Meles Zenawi left college at the age of 19 in 1975 to fight against the Derg; after 16 years that brutal military regime was overcome and he led Ethiopia, first as President, then as Prime Minister, for two decades.
In that time primary school enrolment went from one-third for girls and 50 percent for boys to 100 percent. Under-five mortality fell by 60 percent, compared to sub-Saharan Africa's 40 percent.
His ideas on environment and development are still embedded in Ethiopia's plans for the future
If Ethiopia's growth of GDP had been at the same rate as for sub-Saharan Africa (which was itself accelerating at that time), Ethiopian incomes would have been one-third lower than now. These are remarkable development achievements.
He was also an outstanding figure for Africa as a whole. He led for the African Union on many issues and his analytical force, wisdom and intelligence were greatly valued in the councils of the world, at the UN, G20, G7/8 and elsewhere.
Meles was also a tough man, in a tough place, ready to take difficult decisions.
Neighbouring countries were unstable and difficult. His own country is extraordinarily varied in its cultures, languages and religions, and in its environment and development.
Ethiopia, for all its progress, remained poor and vulnerable to the vagaries of weather and climate. In this difficult regional, developmental and political environment, he saw democracy as "work in progress" and it is clear that there was a long way to go.
At the same time, we should recognise how far it had come relative to a brutal military regime, preceded by an incompetent imperial administration.
On climate and environment and their relationship with development, he was visionary, determined and practical.
It was Meles who, in the run up to the Copenhagen UNFCCC conference of December 2009, insisted on and obtained the promise of $100 billion per annum from developed to developing countries.
He saw the deep inequities in the facts that the rich countries had become rich on high-carbon growth and the poor countries were hit earliest and hardest on climate change.
Yet at the same time, he argued (in Africa Day at the Durban UNFCCC conference in December 2011) that "it is not justice to foul the planet because others have fouled it in the past".
He saw, as with so many other things, that Africa and the developing countries should take their future development, and their environment, in their own hands.
He proposed Ethiopia's Climate-Resilient Green Economic Strategy (CRGE): he had a vision of Ethiopia being both a middle-income country and carbon-neutral by the second half of the next decade, and had concrete plans for getting there.
He saw how to contain Ethiopia's double-digit growth rate and de-carbonise at the same time. He saw how degraded land could be restored to great productivity and how forests could be preserved and enhanced by the work of, and in the interests of, local communities.
His ideas on environment and development are still embedded in Ethiopia's plans for the future.
Across Ethiopia people in the weredas and kebeles are expressing these ideas through the planting of trees and gardens.
His legacy on how to combine poverty reduction on all its dimensions with environmental and climate responsibility carries lessons for us all.
Personally I had the privilege of working with him for more than a decade, as Chief Economist of the World Bank: writing the report of the Commission for Africa, of which he was a key driving force; working together in the run-up to Copenhagen 2009 and at the conference; on the UN Secretary-General's Group on Climate Financing in 2010; and, more recently, on ideas for a BRICS-led infrastructure development bank.
He was an outstandingly gifted, intelligent and committed man; that very rare person, a great mind and a great leader.
He was extraordinary and is irreplaceable. But what can and should, and I believe will, continue is his remarkable and practical vision of how to combine development on the one hand and environment and climate responsibility on the other.
Indeed, he saw so clearly that if we fail on one, we fail on the other, and far from being competitive, they support each other.
His lessons and legacy on environment and development provide fundamental guidance for Ethiopia, Africa and the world.
To Mr. stern, your infatuation with the late midget dictator is written all over the article.
If you had really missed him, why don’t you dig his graveyard and take his skeleton to your house & worship it for ever!!!
What a great tribute! Thank you Mr Nicholas stern.
The great legacy of our brilliant visionary leader PM Meles Zenawi lives on!
Let us name his name our biggest hydroelectric dam under construction.
surely, he was an Ethiopian hero.
just like old Ethiopian kings.
A man his army touch Mogadishu. plus builder of homeland.
God bless his soul.
Meles was a visionary intelligent leader Africa has never known. Those who don’t believe that should travel to Ethiopia and see the difference with the time of Mengistu. awko yetegna bikesekisut aysemam those who are blind to see all these achievements are nothing but political whores. History shall judge Him as the greatest leader Ethiopia had ever seen.
Thanks God he is gone. Meles the TPLF felon, delusional, worst evil and wired up by ignorant communist ideology left us with miserable and disastrous humans right, developments, economic and land ownership policy.
He left a mountain high of lies after lies. Very poor in economy and governance.
TPLF bandit only knows how to steal, destroy a well built, protected and harmonious country.
The only good thing is that he is dead and his TPLF gangs are weak and in disarray now wrangling over money and EFFORT.
Amen to that!!!
Thank you, Mr. Stern
It seems you transcribed it form Ethiopian television; Meles’s group propaganda machine through which He is still ‘ruling’ Ethiopia from his tomb.
Yes, he’s irreplaceable. What he did for his country and Africa is remarkable. Most of us just do talk the talk for our country but do not walk the walk.
The only thing Meles Zenawi has left behind is division, ethnic tension, corruption, nepotism/cronyism, favoritism, looting and that he was above the law, only he himself was the supreme law of the land who can make and break laws. What “law” am I talkin about? There’s no law to speak of - the man run the country for the last 20 years by decree. Let me cite a good example of the fact that Meles Zenawi was in to the habit of sticking his nose in the judiciary. When Siye Abraha was released on bail by By judge Birtukan Mideksa, Meles unleashed his horsemen to put Siye back in the slammer. This is what I remember of Meles Zenawi. You don’t wanna cross him but if you do, he can send you to “Alamata” to your demise. (Artist Eyasu Berhe) does that ring a bell? There is a reason for his untimely departure and please guys, spare us from this crap. We have gotten over with this nightmare and stop rewinding this atrocious man in our memory.
Your article doesnt ve a sense. 2-3 line. Insult. Weather. You insult meles or praise him. Doesnt make difference. Meles was a man who as young person choose to face death than chasing comfort. He was a man tasted with fire. And he died for his cause. The most important thing is live and die for your cause. I dont support eveything meles stand for. But i admire his principle, and strength. Meles achieved in death than alive. Other leader would look at envy. So weather you call him midgit. Or anything. Shows how your mind is empty. Full of emptiness that shows you cant even write one argument aganist.
How an ugly mentality and trash humanity !??
Look at you with corrupt morality, spitting hate
- infected and sickening words. You shamlwss and self-centered complete ignoranr, if your eyes and stinking brain were not blinded by blind hate and complete ignorance, you definitely woud have some courage to witness what is being witnesed, not just by the morally and ethically beautiful Ethiopian but literally by the whole world. Shame on you and the likes.
he is a great leader not gest for Ethiopia to the horn of Africa. that was a great tribute good job
This is the exact character, vision and intelligence of the man. You cannot kill someone’s vision and intelligence. His ideas will hold for many centuries and he will shine forever for thinking good for humanity.Only those who are unreasonably hateful do not see his brilliance and good will for man- kind.
May God rest him in peace.
His idea will hold so long as Ethiopia remains an ethnic based country and democracy never takes root. THAT IS THE ONLY WAY HE WILL HAVE LEGACY.
Otherwise he will be a the very bottom in the annals of the history of the great country of ETHIOPIA where he belongs.
Let us not also forget he was a collaborator with sworn enemies of Ethiopia, EPLF and Issais. And it is he who split Ethiopia and introduced ethic federalism.
HE IS A FAILURE OF MEGA PROPORTIONS WITH INFERIORITY COMPLEX THAT DROVE HIS AGENDA AND VERY EXISTENCE.
PM Meles was very extraordinarily intelligent person. He was a brave man who started to build Res Dam defeating Egypt threat, building thousands health center across the country, thousand primary schools all over Ethiopia, thousand miles of new road e.x.t—— . I just like to say to these people who do not honor him “you eyes and brains are covered with ethnic hate. You do not like him just because he does not belong to your ethnic group. However, his unick personal capability has already written in history book. The whole world will remember him for many centuries to come. May God bless his soul and my beloved country Ethiopia
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