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Deputy Secretary-General's opening and closing remarks at the Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development - Opening Plenary Session with leaders: “The Africa We Want: Sustaining Peace, Security & Development” [as prepared for delivery]

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Aswan, Egypyt

Opening remarks

Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I commend President Al-Sisi for convening the Aswan Forum on sustainable peace, security and development in Africa – and I welcome our very distinguished panel.

The discussions today will enrich the global debate on holistic approaches to peace and development, and will provide critical inputs to the 2020 UN peacebuilding architecture review now underway.

To talk about “The Africa we want” is to talk about Agenda 2063, which integrates Agenda 2030, our global roadmap to the world we want.

In Agenda 2063, African Heads of State and Government set a bold vision to deliver “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena.”

Agenda 2063 lays out seven key aspirations for Africa: inclusive growth and sustainable development; good governance and respect for human rights; a strong cultural identity; people-driven development; and an Africa that is a global player and partner.

Excellencies,

As Africa implements the objectives of Agenda 2063, we can already observe concrete progress towards these goal – from successful constitutional transfers of power in countries like Mali and Madagascar to rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

In the Central African Republic, the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation, facilitated by the African Union with the support of the United Nations and ECCAS, has led to significant progress in the re-establishment of security structures and improved humanitarian access.

In Sudan, a civilian-led transitional government, established last August after the successful facilitation of Ethiopia and the African Union, has prioritized peace across Sudan and economic recovery.

And African leaders are also “walking the talk” in terms of financing and self-reliance, with African member States having contributed $131 million to the African Union Peace Fund.

Meanwhile, the vibrant partnership between the United Nations and the African Union is growing ever stronger, particularly through our recent Joint UN-AU Frameworks on peace and security and on sustainable development.

Our partnership is underpinned by shared values, and the principles of complementarity, respect and African ownership and leadership. African problems require African solutions.

We know that progress, development and peace in Africa will not be achieved without the full engagement of half the population.

And we are intensifying efforts to ensure the participation and leadership of women in political processes, including through the African Women Leaders Network – which I have the privilege to co-lead with AU Special Envoy Bineta Diop – and the Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation, FemWise-Africa.

Excellencies,

As much as we note progress across the continent, we must also confront very real political, economic and social challenges: Political and socio-economic exclusion and discrimination, governance issues, the need to deliver the strongest possible institutions and public sector services.

All of these are crucial to building lasting peace for the peoples of Africa.

In any part of the world, we also know that if human rights are violated and good governance is lacking, discrimination, exclusion and injustice is not far behind.

We see this playing out in the Sahel. Proxy conflicts, inter-communal violence and organized crime are exacerbating factors that must be addressed with collective resolve and action. It is only in this way that we will stop the alarming spread of violent extremism and terrorism on the continent.

The youth of Africa need positive, constructive opportunities for income, leadership and social progress. That means education and skills to leverage their enormous talents. We need their creativity, imagination and energy.

The key to expanding opportunity and innovation is by implementing Agenda 2063 and leveraging the African Continental Free Trade Area at every level, and at scale.

We also must address the impact of climate change, degradation of the natural environment, and food insecurity in Africa, manifested through floods, hurricanes and humanitarian crises, including widespread displacement.

Excellencies,

Let me conclude by posing two questions to the other leaders* in this important panel:

  1. How can Africa harness its enormous and untapped people potential – youth, women and others on the margins of our societies -- to better address the myriad threats and challenges to realizing economic growth, development and peace and security?
  2. The ongoing reform efforts of the African Union present a once in generation opportunity for strategic reflection and foresight, and organizational renewal. How can this opportunity best be used to help realize the organization’s pan-African vision of an “integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena”?

Closing remarks

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I know you join me in thanking the panel for the extremely rich discussion today.

First, is crystal clear that Africa has a bold and achievable vision, through Agenda 2063, as well as the United Nations Agenda 2030 and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Our shared challenge is ensuring effective coordination for implementation and results that truly enhance opportunities and improve lives.

Our collective promise to leave no one behind requires targeted and tailored interventions across the humanitarian, development, peace and security nexus.

A holistic approach to building and sustaining peace – with sustainable development at its core – is the essential to building the future Africa wants.

Our discussion emphasized that sustained peace and development requires inclusive solutions.

Humanitarian action, development and peacebuilding programmes, or peacekeeping operations are a complement -- not a substitute -- for political engagement to tackle sources of violence, dissatisfaction and other impediments to progress.

Minorities, women and the youth -- who comprise three quarters of Africa’s population -- are critical in shaping the Africa we want. Let us fully integrate their views and make space for them to participate in political and economic processes for the greater good of all. More women need to be at the table – and in discussions like the one today – as they have much to contribute.

Inclusive and sustainable development is not only an end in itself. It is also the best defense against the risks of violent conflict.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides a concrete roadmap.

With regards to climate change and the environment, let me emphasize a point very close to my heart: Africa is well placed to build a more resilient and greener future for its citizens and the world.

It is Agenda 2063 that calls upon us to “act with a sense of urgency on climate change and the environment.”

We have a golden opportunity to manage growth and plan our cities, towns, villages and regions in a cleaner, more sustainable and socially inclusive manner.

Today, we also heard calls for enhanced support to strengthen the capacity of governments to improve governance and provide services and security for their citizens.

As a partner, the United Nations remains committed to advocate and mobilize international support and work with governments and national and international development partners to find solutions, rooted in national ownership.

Strong cooperation among the United Nations, the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms is paramount to achieving peace and sustainable, inclusive development on the continent. We recognize the potential of regional integration to help resolve cross-border challenges, promote innovation, knowledge exchange and technology transfer to achieve collective prosperity.

Excellencies,

The Agenda 2063 vision of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens, representing a dynamic force in the international arena” is within our power to achieve. The African Union can count on the United Nations as a full and committed partner.

I again commend the Government of Egypt for its leadership and this timely initiative.

Thank you.