Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for support for the establishment of an inclusive interim government in Tunisia, telling the summit of the African Union that the United Nations is willing to help the North African country hold credible elections.
“We at the United Nations will be pleased to help the people of Tunisia freely choose their leaders through timely and credible elections,” Mr. Ban said in his address to the African Union Summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Civil unrest forced Tunisia's president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, to flee the country earlier this month as people took to the streets in often violent protests reportedly against rising prices of essential commodities, lack of employment opportunities, alleged corruption and limitations on fundamental rights and freedoms.
Mr. Ban once again urged restraint and respect of human rights in Egypt, which has also been hit by political unrest.
“And around the world, the leaders [and ourselves] must listen attentively, more attentively, more sincerely – to the voice of the people, their aspirations, their hopes for a better future,” the Secretary-General added.
He spoke of the “winds of change” blowing throughout Africa, where he said people are becoming empowered through elections and economic transformation.
“The new narrative for Africa is a story of growth. Even the economic and financial crisis has not held you back. Africa is rebounding stronger and faster than anticipated,” Mr. Ban said, noting that six of the world's fastest-growing economies are in sub-Saharan Africa.
He called upon African nations to put special focus on three areas in their development efforts – women, youth, and the private sector.
“Women's empowerment is not just a question of rights or justice. It is an economic and developmental imperative. Countries with greater gender equality grow faster and are more competitive,” said Mr. Ban.
“Domestic violence, rape, the abuse of vulnerable young girls – such crimes can never be rationalized as a matter of culture or tradition anywhere in the world. They should be condemned. They should be prosecuted. Most of all, they should be prevented,” he added.
He called for the nurturing of African youth to accelerate development, stressing the need for education and respect of human rights.
The Secretary-General also called for partnerships with the private sector in Africa. “Businesses throughout Africa and the world are poised to make the most of Africa's barely tapped potential,” he said, noting that the continent is the world's fastest-growing market in communications technology. Africa's abundant natural resources put it in good stead to pioneer a new green economy, he said.
On Sudan, the Secretary-General said the peaceful and credible referendum on the self-determination of Southern Sudan was the result of commitment by all parties – the governments of Sudan and Southern Sudan, the African Union, the United Nations and all international community partners, as wells as the people of Sudan.
He voiced concern over the unresolved post-referendum issues, including border security, citizenship, wealth sharing, frontier demarcation, popular consultations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states and the status of Abyei region.
“Consolidating the peace in North and South Sudan will require statesmanship ? wisdom ? patience ? and the consistent engagement and support of the international community,” the Secretary-General said.
He appealed to all parties in the conflict-affected Darfur region of western Sudan to recommit themselves to finding a peaceful solution.
On Somalia, the Secretary-General said he will continue to urge greater international support for the Transitional Federal Government and the UN-backed African Union Mission in the Horn of Africa country.