8633rd Security Council Meeting: Peace and Security in Africa

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07-Oct-2019 03:09:59
Women-led, locally owned peace processes key to preventing conflict across Africa, speakers tell Security Council, stressing important role of regional partners at 8633rd meeting.

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Support from the United Nations and its regional partners in Africa is crucial to addressing the root causes of conflict and galvanizing locally-owned, women-led peace efforts, the Security Council heard today during a far-reaching debate on the role of preventive diplomacy across the continent.

Civil society leaders, United Nations officials and delegates from regional organizations joined the 15-member Council in underlining the complexity of Africa’s current challenges. Citing rapid global changes and evolving threats — especially those posed by climate change and terrorist networks — many speakers advocated for a more proactive approach by the Council. Others emphasized that, for any such efforts to be sustainable, they must be driven by affected communities themselves.

“The fact that the Council is debating the primacy of preventive diplomacy is a stark reminder that we have not lived up to the raison d’être of the United Nations,” said Liberata Mulamula, Associate Director of the Institute for African Studies at George Washington University. Recounting her experience as the first Executive Secretary of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, she said the complexity of many of Africa’s conflicts necessitates a strong regional approach as well as the active participation of women. “It is high time to see women not as victims but as agents of preventive diplomacy and as catalytic to peacebuilding,” she stressed.

Linda Vilakazi, of the group African Women in Dialogue, echoed some of those points and noted that despite an impressive increase in the number of leadership positions held by African women, no mechanism yet exists to help them leverage their expertise for the benefit of all. Acknowledging that there will be pushback from some against a strengthened pursuit of peace on the continent, she nevertheless appealed to Council members to help strengthen dialogue at all levels. “The objective is to let communities own and drive their peace process,” she said.

Naledi Maite, of South African Women in Dialogue, said the organization — founded during the Inter-Congolese Peace Dialogue — has used dialogue to successfully overcome divisions while enabling women to work together towards peace and stability. Outlining the group’s work across southern Africa, she emphasized that rebuilding societal links, acknowledging the pain and trauma of citizens and investing in healing are all crucial components of peacebuilding. However, she stressed that dialogue must be consistent, sustainable and well-resourced.

Secretary-General António Guterres, providing an intergovernmental perspective, spotlighted a range of successful initiatives led by African regional leaders and supported by the United Nations. Those included a political dialogue and elections in Madagascar, a democratic transition in the Gambia and a recent agreement in Sudan. Noting that Boko Haram and other groups continue to terrorize communities in Nigeria and across the Sahel, he warned that terrorism continues to spread despite the efforts of the “Group of Five for the Sahel” (G5 Sahel) Multinational Joint Task Force. “This is a battle we are not winning,” he emphasized.

As Council members and other speakers took the floor, many welcomed the progressively deepening alliance between the United Nations and the African Union, sparked by a 2017 Joint Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security. Several hailed the latter’s expanding peacebuilding efforts — including its support for the Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation, known as FemWise-Africa — while emphasizing that lasting peace and stability in Africa will benefit the world at large.

Namibia’s representative, underscoring that the nature of conflicts has changed since the Security Council’s inception, stressed that the organ must adapt. “The Council can no longer be simply reactive,” he emphasized, calling on it to play a stronger role in preventing wars and conflict. To that end, external factors such as climate change and food insecurity must be identified and addressed, with strong cooperation among the regional and subregional organizations most familiar with those situations, he said.

Equatorial Guinea’s representative underlined the important role of United Nations good offices in mediation and other conflict prevention, noting that an extensive toolkit is already in place for that purpose. As peace in Africa is critical for peace and security around the world, African-Union-led peace operations should receive adequate support, including predictable funding, he said.

The representative of Ethiopia, also citing insufficient progress in negotiating sustainable and predictable funding for such operations, pointed to the use of United Nations assessed contributions as a possible option. Among other things, he said, it is particularly important to increase the inclusion of young people to prevent their recruitment by terrorist groups.

The Permanent Observer of the African Union noted that the African Union-United Nations Joint Framework is based on the recognition that a stronger partnership between the two organizations is critical for the early, coherent and decisive management of conflicts in Africa. Describing their annual consultative meetings and other joint activities, she declared: “Only by pooling our collective expertise and resources together […] can our two organizations realistically expect to have a positive impact.”

China’s delegate, advocating for enhanced dialogue and the inclusion of women and youth, underscored the importance of African solutions to African problems. Calling for more international support for development, he highlighted his country’s Belt and Road initiative and its impact on Africa’s growing connectivity and infrastructure.

The representative of the United States stressed that “peace cannot be imposed from abroad” and emphasized that African actors must themselves drive conflict resolution forward. While the Council meets nearly every week to address conflicts after they break out, it should instead target the root causes of conflict. Council members should also continue to support efforts to empower and engage women, whose participation in peace processes will translate to more sustainable results, she said.

Also speaking were representatives of Kuwait, Côte d’Ivoire, Russian Federation, Belgium, Peru, United Kingdom, Dominican Republic, Germany, France, Poland, Indonesia and South Africa. A representative of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) also participated.

The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 1:12 p.m.

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