Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Security Council meeting on “Peace and security in Africa: the centrality of preventive diplomacy, conflict prevention and resolution”, in New York today:
Thank you for this opportunity to brief the Council on the United Nations’ work on preventive diplomacy, conflict prevention and resolution in Africa.
All our work on conflict prevention and resolution relies on partnerships with Member States, regional and subregional organizations, regional economic communities and others. The African Union is our key strategic partner across the continent. I welcome the leadership of His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, who is with us today.
We are making progress on conflict prevention, together with our partners, in many parts of Africa. In the Gambia, for example, joint action by the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the United Nations and neighbouring countries prevented a political crisis from spiralling and supported a peaceful and democratic transition two years ago. In Madagascar, we worked with the African Union, the European Union, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the International Organization of la Francophonie to facilitate dialogue which contributed to the peaceful presidential election last year. Our good-offices efforts, together with those of the African Union, the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries, ECOWAS and the European Union, have been instrumental in addressing political tensions in Guinea-Bissau.
I urge all parties to work for a peaceful, transparent, free and fair election next month. In Cameroon, my Special Representative for Central Africa is working with the authorities and with national and regional stakeholders to support efforts to address the root causes of the crisis in the North-West and South-West regions through an inclusive dialogue. The recent agreement in Sudan, brokered by the African Union and Ethiopia, is an opportunity for the international community to support peace at a delicate time in a country that has seen terrible conflict and suffering. And my Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel conducted joint efforts with ECOWAS and the African Union to support peaceful and inclusive election processes in Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal.
Terrorism is a growing threat across Africa, with serious implications for peace and security everywhere. In the Sahel, terrorist groups regularly attack local and international security forces — we had another death yesterday — including our Blue Helmets serving with MINUSMA [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali]. The violence is spreading to coastal States along the Gulf of Guinea. In Nigeria, Boko Haram and its splinter factions are terrorizing local communities and attacking security forces, despite the efforts of the Multinational Joint Task Force. We are seeing terrorist networks across Libya and North Africa, stretching through the Sahel to the Lake Chad region, and present in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mozambique. This is a battle we are not winning.
And this is not just a regional issue, but a clear and present danger to global peace and security. I welcome last month’s ECOWAS Summit in Burkina Faso and the renewed commitment by ECOWAS member States to participate both financially and militarily in the fight against terrorism. We must recognize that the impact of the crisis in Libya is growing and spreading throughout the region as weapons and fighters continually move across borders.
As you know, my Special Representative is working with regional, national and international partners to prevent a further escalation of violence and promote a return to the political process. I have also already sent the President of the Security Council a copy of the letter from the President of the African Union Commission presenting the proposal from the Peace and Security Council of the African Union to this Council, and I look forward to enhanced cooperation with the African Union on Libya. Peace in Mali is also essential to peace in the Sahel. Despite the terrible attacks in the Mopti region last week, I hope plans for an inclusive political dialogue — for which the terms of reference have been approved — will facilitate the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement.
Our peacekeeping mission MINUSMA plays a critical role in supporting implementation of the agreement and requires continued strong support. African military operations, including AMISOM [African Union Mission to Somalia], the G5 Sahel joint force, the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram and others, deserve our support. I welcome your decision to lift geographic restrictions on provisions by MINUSMA to the G5 Sahel joint force, but we have to admit that this alone is not enough.
I urge you again to provide African peace-enforcing and counter-terrorist operations with clear mandates, backed by predictable and sustainable financial support through assessed contributions. Sustainable, inclusive development is an end in itself. It is also the most effective way to address the underlying causes of conflict, extremism and terrorism. Tackling poverty and inequality, strengthening State institutions and civil society, and promoting human rights are essential to preventing conflict and building resilient communities and societies.
These goals are central to both the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063. We are working in full alignment with the African Union through our joint framework on sustainable development, for a peaceful and prosperous Africa, with a strong focus on inclusivity, women’s rights and gender equality. Women’s meaningful participation and leadership will strengthen our responses and are essential to lasting peace.
Addressing the climate crisis is another vital preventive measure. Climate‑related risks, including droughts, floods and changing rainfall patterns, often intersect with political, social and economic factors. We must urgently reduce emissions to prevent catastrophic consequences for sustainable development and security across Africa and step up support for the countries most affected.
Today it is indisputable that climate change has aggravated security challenges, particularly in the Sahel. Nearly half of Africa’s population of 1.3 billion are under the age of 15. Education, training and job opportunities for this generation must be central to any development strategy. As we saw most recently in Sudan, women and young people are key builders of peaceful societies. I urge you to work with them and for them far more effectively.
When prevention fails, the United Nations works with our partners to reduce suffering, resolve conflicts and build sustainable peace. We strongly support the African Union’s “Silence the Guns 2020” initiative as a basis for advancing peace and security and offering a safer and better future. I commend the Security Council for its resolution on this initiative, and for emphasizing the role of young people.
Our enhanced strategic partnership with the African Union on peace and security is based on the Joint Framework Agreement of 2017. It was demonstrated again in February when this Council unanimously adopted resolution 2457 (2019) on steps towards ending conflict in Africa through enhanced international cooperation and partnership.
Our largest peacekeeping missions are on the African continent and more than 80,000 peacekeepers serve there. Africa is now the largest troop-contributing region. We owe these Blue Helmets our strong and united support, through robust funding and strong mandates. I commend this Council’s cooperation with the African Union, including with the African Union’s Peace and Security Council.
Across the continent, the United Nations is working in steadfast and close cooperation with the African Union and African subregional organizations to prevent and resolve conflicts. The Central African Republic is just one example. The United Nations, the African Union and others are cooperating in support of the historic agreement reached in February to end violence against civilians, strengthen the extension of State authority and bring social and economic development to this conflict-ravaged country.
Conflict prevention is difficult to quantify and may not make news. But no news is good news for the people we serve. Prevention brings enormous rewards. Conflict prevention and resolution depend on the engagement of the parties involved. Beyond that, they require a united international position and a commitment to shared goals. This Council’s strong engagement in prevention efforts on the African continent, in collaboration with regional and subregional partners, is needed and appreciated more than ever. Thank you.