The United Nations is proud to be a key partner with Africa, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told continental leaders gathered for a summit in Equatorial Guinea today, underscoring the Organization’s commitment to working with them to resolve and prevent conflict, as well as to enhance agricultural productivity, promote industrialization and ensure gender equality.
“We are committed to your goal of ‘an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena’,” Mr. Ban told the 23rd African Union (AU) Summit in Malabo, echoing the regional body’s vision of a transformed continent.
“As you develop and implement Agenda 2063, the United Nations will remain by your side – promoting peace, human rights and sustainable development,” said the UN chief, referencing the “call to action” for all segments of African society to work together to build a prosperous and united continent, adopted by African Heads of State and Government last year on the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the regional body.
Mr. Ban said that “narrative of hope” had been consolidated over the past year: “Across most of Africa, we saw stability, economic growth and continued progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). And wherever there was crisis, the African Union and regional partners took the lead in forging solutions. The United Nations is proud to be a key partner.”
He also spotlighted the collaboration between the UN and the AU in the field of conflict prevention and resolution, from promoting a peaceful democratic transition in Guinea-Bissau and helping restore constitutional order in Madagascar, to the Central African Republic, where the UN is working closely with the AU to prepare for the transition from the African-led peacekeeping force to a UN operation.
Regarding the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the Secretary-General welcomed the commitment of sub-regional countries to remove the threat posed by rebel groups. “But many rebels and persons suspected of serious crimes escape justice by moving from one country to another,” he said, emphasizing that he counts on all signatories to the Framework Agreement for Peace, Security and Cooperation not to accommodate any person accused of crimes under international law or protect any individuals covered by UN sanctions.
“Our goal in these troubled places is to restore a peace based on the rule of law, responsive institutions and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms,” he said, adding that if the foundation of peace is built in these countries, development can take root and prosperity will follow.
As for the continent’s other top priorities, the UN chief said the period after 2015 must ensure that development is sustainable and beneficial to all. “We must therefore promote rapid industrialization that leads to job creation. [Africa] must export more value-added goods, develop regional markets, eliminate illicit financial flows and ensure a more efficient and responsible use of natural resources.”
He also called for stepping up the fight against inequality, and improving access to social protection and basic services such as water supply and sanitation, as well as education and health care quality. The continent had made significant strides in the fight against HIV and AIDS, in boosting the health of women and children, and it is on track to eradicate polio.
“A transformed Africa will also need an empowered civil society, gender equality and respect for human rights,” Mr. Ban said, commending the work of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the recent decision condemning acts of discrimination and violence against individuals based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
“I welcome, too, the decision to declare 2016 as the ‘African Year of Human Rights with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women’, he said, calling for intensified efforts to protect women from violence and secure their right to fully participate in all aspects of society on an equal basis with men.
Africa’s transformation and economic progress will also entail sustainable energy for all and a revolution in agricultural productivity through policy reforms and technology, he continued, explain that agriculture does not simply produce the food people need. “It is a source of employment, an engine for economic growth and a vital contributor to environmental services. It is the glue that binds rural societies.”
Commending the AU on its resolve to end hunger and malnutrition by 2025, the Secretary-General thanked the 44 AU members that have so far joined the Movement for Scaling Up Nutrition, which focuses on the critical 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday.
On efforts to tackle climate change, “a crucial investment in a nation’s future,” he said the African Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture is setting a global example with its goal of enabling 25 million African farmers, fishers and livestock keepers to increase productivity, adapt to climate change, and reduce emissions by 2025.
The UN chief hoped to see similarly ambitious plans as part of a global alliance to be launched at the climate summit that he will convene in New York on 23 September.
Finally, he noted that on this day, 69 years ago, the UN Charter was signed in San Francisco. Over the next 16 months, the Organization will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the UN’s founding in 1945. Of the 51 original members of the UN, only four were from Africa.
“Today, each of you is a member, including the Organization’s youngest. The issues which the UN has addressed most successfully, which include decolonization, apartheid, and development, are deeply connected to this continent," said Mr. Ban.
“And the issues where we must remain engaged are rooted here too – from eradicating poverty to promoting climate-smart development; from ending preventable disease to human rights for all; from peacekeeping to democratic nation-building,” he said urging the UN and the AU to commit to working together in common cause for the people of Africa, so they may live in peaceful, prosperous nations.
Later in the day, the Secretary-General met with several African leaders, including President Salva Kiir of South Sudan. They discussed the latest developments in the country. According to a readout of the meeting, Mr. Ban urged in that regard President Kiir to resume talks with Mr. Riek Machar, in the context of the IGAD-led process, and ensure the full implementation of the 9 June Agreement signed in Addis Ababa.
The Secretary-General informed the President that he had conveyed a similar message to Mr. Riek Machar, and called on the two parties to rapidly agree on the composition of the transitional government. The UN chief further called on the President to continue to fight impunity and ensure full accountability for human rights violations committed in South Sudan.
He informed President Kiir of the steps taken by the United Nations to beef up the capacities of UNMISS, consistent with the relevant Security Council resolution, to enhance the protection of civilians and support the verification mechanism set up to monitor the implementation of the 9 June Agreement.
Mr. Ban also met with Catherine Samba Panza, Head of State of the Transition of the Central African Republic, to discuss the latest developments in her country, ahead of the transfer of authority from the African-led peacekeeping force (MISCA) to a UN operation, scheduled for 15 September 2014.
He commended Ms. Samba Panza for her leadership of the transition, reiterated the full support of the United Nations to her efforts and encouraged her to launch the national dialogue in earnest, with a view to address some of the key challenges faced by the country.
In a meeting with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali, the Secretary-General discussed the latest developments in that country, including prospects for the launch of a dialogue with the armed groups in the North, as well as the role of the UN mission there (known as MINUSMA) in support of the political process and stabilization of Mali.
Also on the margins of the AU Summit, Mr. Ban met today with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt. The Secretary-General noted the importance of Egypt’s leadership in the region and globally. The President and Secretary-General discussed issues of Middle-East peace and security and Egypt's domestic developments.
Mr. Ban pledged the ongoing support to the UN to the Egyptian Government in helping to meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people for a prosperous, peaceful and democratic Egypt. According to a readout of the discussion, he urged President El-Sisi to use his leadership and popular mandate to promote full respect for human rights in Egypt.