UNDP-AUC-RECS Consultations On Strengthening the Linkage Between National, Regional and Continental Efforts in Conflict Prevention and Mediation
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting me here to address this distinguished High-Level Panel on “Enhancing Capacities for Conflict Prevention and Mediation of the Africa Union and the Regional Economic Communities”.
The Preamble of the African Union’s Protocol Establishing the Peace and Security Council states that the one internal issue more responsible than any other for socioeconomic decline in Africa and for perpetuating suffering of civilians in our continent is the scourge of conflicts within and between our states.
That Protocol was adopted by the African Union more than a decade ago. Much has changed since then.
African countries averaged impressive growth of more than 5 per cent annually since 2004, a trend which looks set to continue.
The region has witnessed an increase in the number of peaceful elections, there have been important strides in promoting good governance, and we see an increasing rate of women participating in politics and public positions.
Still, serious development challenges persist. Food insecurity. Poverty. Unemployment. Inequality. Vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change.
We also see the persistence of lasting and violent conflicts which have claimed millions of lives and affected millions more, tearing families apart, uprooting communities, and destroying vital infrastructure. Conflict has a profound psycho-social impact too as it rips societies apart.
Where violence and conflict rage, development cannot flourish. We need peace and stability if we are also to promote development.
This is why this meeting’s exploration of the linkage between national, regional and continental efforts in conflict prevention and mediation is so important.
To support the the peaceful resolution of conflict and tensions within societies, countries require institutions, capacities, and processes - formal and informal, modern and traditional, judicial and restorative - through which emerging tensions and ongoing conflicts are mediated, adjudicated, and reconciled.
Developing these types of capacities for peace also requires the promotion of accountable and transparent governments which are inclusive and responsive to the needs of their citizens.
When people feel excluded, marginalized and denied meaningful participation in the political, economic and social life of their countries, when there are human rights abuses and grievances over the unequal distribution of resources, wealth and power, the seeds for unrest can grow.
This is why we need to support Africa in building stronger, more resilient, and more accountable state institutions. We need to help ensure adequate checks and balances are in place; that the rule of law is promoted; and that development gains provide a better tomorrow not for a select few but for the many who lack access to quality and affordable healthcare, education, water and sanitation.
Previous such forums have identified the need for the harmonization of crisis prevention and recovery policies and mechanisms between the AU and the RECs as being essential to ensuring progress on the peace, security, stability, and development agendas – agendas which are all interconnected. The AU and the RECs should be commended for the significant progress they have made in this regard.
Looking ahead, we need also to continue to advocate enhanced mediation efforts to ensure that peace agreements are not just pacts between political elites that address the immediate political problem, but are frameworks to address the underlying causes of conflict and which allow all stakeholders to participate.
Reaching peace agreements may make the headlines, but that is only part of the story. Those agreements must be fully implemented, monitored, and enforced.
This is no easy task and becomes even more challenging when the concerned states are fragile and armed movements operate with impunity across porous borders – often with support from neighbouring states.
Economic despair, arms flows, massive population displacements, proxy conflicts triggered by relationships of mistrust, and regional rivalries can also make matters worse.
So the challenges are large. But this is no time for despair. We have tremendous resources, tools, and knowledge for promoting peace and security.
As Africa looks to capitalize on and deepen its renaissance, we need to energize the ongoing efforts of recent years to shift our focus from reactive intervention to proactive prevention. This paradigm shift will go a long way to strengthen peace, security and stability in Africa.
Within the UN, we are ready and willing to continue our efforts to support the AU, regional and sub-regional bodies to enhance efforts aimed at conflict prevention and mediation.
We are also working to help enhance the conflict prevention, early warning and mediation architecture of the African Union, work which is framed within the 2006 “Declaration on Enhancing UN-AU Cooperation: Framework for the Ten-Year Capacity-Building Programme for the African Union”.
By mutual consent, the initial focus of the Programme has been on the maintenance of international peace and security.
The UN’s cooperation with the AU in the pursuit of peace, security, and stability is ongoing at various levels. For example, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations has supported the establishment of the African peace and security architecture. The Department of Political Affairs is active on mediation-related issues, and the UN Peace-building Commission supports the development of strategic frameworks for peace-building in Africa.
These engagements present a testimony to the evolving partnership between the AU and the UN.
At UNDP, we continue to strengthen our partnership with the AU in the area of conflict prevention and peace building, which started in the late 1990s. We have built on this collaboration and the recent findings of the 2010 African Union’s Peace and Security Department report to improve our targeted support for conflict prevention and recovery with a special focus on early warning; mediation; post conflict reconstruction and development; mainstreaming gender; and capacity building of RECs.
At the African Union high level retreat of special envoys, mediators, and key stakeholders held in 2012, the Chairperson of the AU Commission stressed that: “Together we must answer the question whether our efforts contribute towards speedy and lasting solutions, and help to address the underlying causes of conflicts.” The current consultation is part of our efforts to respond to this question.
Over the next two days, participants have an excellent opportunity to look at how to strengthen the collaboration between UNDP, the AU Commission and the RECs, so that together we can indeed better tackle the underlying causes of conflict.
Moreover, participants have an opportunity to plan how better to integrate national conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms and capacities with the sub-regional and regional efforts.
I encourage you to use this opportunity wisely, knowing that what we can do together can make a difference in the lives of countless people across Africa.
Before I end my remarks, allow me to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the AU Commission, which, through its Peace and Security Department, has partnered with UNDP to support the organisation of today’s meeting.
I would like also to thank our partners, ACCORD, the Action Support Centre, and all of you gathered here for taking time off from your busy schedules to attend and enrich this gathering’s discussions with your valuable contributions.
I wish you all a fruitful meeting and look forward to sharing your conclusions with UNDP Administrator Helen Clark so that she can ensure UN engagement on this issue at the highest level.