New York, 28 July 2016
I thank Japan for the organization of this Open Debate which is extremely pertinent and timely.
A great number of African countries continue to struggle with cycles of poverty and refugee issues, as a result of conflicts, that undermine socio-economic development efforts and afflict millions of men, women and children.
The international community must take a stand and face this challenge. The continuous effort to implement sustainable peace in Africa has to be a common endeavor.
The peacebuilding (PB) concept, introduced in the UN in 1992, still remains to be fully developed.
The recent review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture was a crucial progress. By extending the scope of peacebuilding to encompass every stage all along the arc from conflict prevention to post-conflict reconstruction, it has shown that peace can be better preserved if it is understood as an integrated and systemic concept, beyond the mere cessation of hostilities. In fact, only by jointly engaging the UN three pillars and avoiding silos can the peacebuilding approach succeed.
Africa has been at the heart of the UN peacebuilding system since its inception. African countries are currently the sole focus of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) agenda and therefore the main beneficiaries of the Peacebuilding Fund. They are also the prime recipients of UN peacekeeping missions.
At the same time, and this is seldom underlined, Africa has risen to be a central actor in terms of peace and stability, both inside its borders and at a global level. Africa is the contributor of about half of the total peacekeepers deployed worldwide. Africa has developed the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), a unified structure at the continental scale endowed with peace consolidation instruments. Africa has a number of regional institutions that go beyond economic integration to also focus on peace and security; and Africa has proven to be a preeminent security provider, developing a number of important peacekeeping operations, increasingly through partnerships between the African Union and other international stakeholders, including the European Union.
In this regard, the African continent and the European Union have set up a Strategic Partnership, enshrined in the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, adopted in Lisbon in 2007. This partnership of equals is unique among its kind, both by its dimension and strategic scope as by its ambitious goals. This partnership has already produced tangible outcomes, that are visible in terms of conflict prevention and resolution, but also in the bridging between post-conflict reconstruction and incentives to deal with the underlying causes of strife, particularly in the field of good governance, accountability and sustainable development.
If we take stock of the evolution of Africa in the last years, in what concerns peace, security and economic development, we have to conclude that the progress is quite remarkable. Interstate warfare has declined, economic prospects have steadily increased, despite sluggish world growth and commodity prices volatility.
Nevertheless, it is also true that the continent still faces major and unresolved challenges. Devastating conflicts endure. The incidence of relapses into conflict remains worryingly high.
One of the main principles that should underpin our common endeavor is that sustaining peace and preventing the recurrence of conflicts should not be seen as requiring exogenous solutions to African problems, but as a joint effort between African countries and the international community, essential for the full ownership and effective sustainability of the solutions to be found.
As an active member of the Guinea-Bissau Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, Portugal knows well the important role the UN peacebuilding architecture plays in supporting peace and stability in African countries and in keeping them on the international agenda. The distinguished minister of Senegal, this morning, referred to the crucial role of ECOMIB is playing in Guinea-Bissau and the importance of the EU support in this regard. This is a good example of what we can do jointly. But the Guinea-Bissau experience also tells us that the responsibility of African States to provide peacebuilding efforts in their own jurisdictions can and should not be diluted.
The UN should increasingly engage with relevant African regional and sub-regional organizations, in a spirit of partnership and complementarity of efforts and resources. We should not only take profit from the existing structures implemented by the APSA, but also strive to enhance the capabilities of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and other relevant Regional Mechanisms (RMs), many of which have developed security and early warning instruments. In this respect, initiatives such as the Joint UN-AU Framework for an Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security, or the recent and inaugural direct funding provided by the PBC to the AU Commission to support Human Rights observation in Burundi, may well be the way forward.
The principle of African ownership should also direct our attention to the importance of the local and community level in the PB efforts. Academic studies and political practice coincide in identifying the root of lasting peace and social stability in the political foundations and public culture of a society. If local communities and civil society are not centrally engaged in a PB intervention, it will surely face the risk of bearing the taint of political illegitimacy.
Any strategy to address the drivers of violent conflict cannot be disconnected from the general frame of sustainable development. It needs, therefore, to be framed by the UN Sustainable Development Agenda and Goals in articulation with African blueprints connecting peace, security and development, such as African Union’s Agenda 2063. It also means that great attention should be paid to the processes of transitional justice in the aftermath of clashes with a strong ethnic or communitarian component. The promotion of healing and reconciliation is key to minimize the risks of conflict relapse.
I thank you.