United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres departed New York on Thursday, 25 January, for Ethiopia. During an hour-long layover in Lomé, Togo, he had a courtesy call with President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé at the airport. The Secretary-General arrived in Addis Ababa late on Friday, 26 January.
On Saturday, 27 January, the Secretary-General began the day with a bilateral meeting with the Chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat.
The Secretary-General and the Chairman signed the Framework for the Implementation of the Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for the Sustainable Development, which underscores the overriding priority of both organizations to eradicate poverty. Building on the unique relationship between the African Union and the United Nations, the Framework’s objective is to have greater coordination between the agencies to ensure that both agendas, including alignment with the Paris Agreement, are mainstreamed and intergraded into national planning frameworks of member States and contribute positively to African development.
In speaking to the press after the meeting, Mr. Guterres said the partnership with the African Union was a strategic choice for the United Nations. He added that the United Nations stands with the African Union and recognizes its leadership as it tackles African problems.
The Secretary-General then had a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn.
The Secretary-General later joined the leaders of the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) for a meeting on the situation in South Sudan. Speaking at the meeting, the Secretary-General stressed the importance, not only that the three organizations remain aligned with a common purpose, but also the membership of the organizations. “So we need to make sure,” he said, “that not only we are together, but that we bring all the countries of our organizations to be together in a common commitment.” In a personal observation, the Secretary-General called out South Sudan’s political elite as not focusing on the suffering of the country’s people. “I’ve never seen a political elite with so little interest in the well-being of its own people,” he said. (See Press Release SG/SM/18872)
The Secretary-General, joined by his Special Representative for Libya, Ghassan Salamé, met with the country’s Foreign Minister, Mohamed T.H. Siala. The Secretary-General encouraged him to bring competent people with integrity into the Libyan political process.
Later in the afternoon, he attended an event entitled “Renewed Partnership to end hunger in Africa by 2025 — Five Years Later: Taking stock of progress and lessons in light of the Sustainable Development Goals”. Given the warning sign that Africa needs to step up its efforts and find new ways of working with its partners towards the ambition of ending hunger in Africa by 2025, the meeting brought together key participants to take stock of a process launched five years ago. The Secretary-General told the participants that stronger commitments by Governments, the African Union and the United Nations were needed to promote peace, human rights and sustainable development, which are also key instruments to fight hunger. (See Press Release SG/SM/18871)
The Secretary-General then attended a special meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council, chaired by Egypt, to examine a comprehensive approach to combating the transnational threat of terrorism in Africa. The Secretary-General told the delegates that the world should never forget that the vast majority of terrorist attacks take place in developing countries. Looking at the devastating consequences of the threat posed by terrorism on the continent, the Secretary-General said they demanded collective and comprehensive action. “The African Union,” he stressed, “is a vital partner in confronting the global challenge posed by terrorist groups.” (See Press Release SG/SM/18874)
On Sunday morning, the Secretary-General began his day with a bilateral meeting with President Alpha Condé of Guinea. He congratulated President Condé on his accomplishments during his tenure as Chairperson of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union. Together, they reviewed a number of political situations on the continent in which the African Union and the United Nations are engaged in joint efforts.
Mr. Guterres then attended a working breakfast on the theme of “Equal Access of African Women in High-Level Positions at the African Union and in the United Nations System”. He told the attendees that, while he had just reached gender parity in his cabinet, gender parity is a long journey and we have a long way to go. He noted that, within the United Nations system, although women comprise 42.8 per cent of the professional levels and higher, they represent just 26.8 per cent of its highest levels. Gender equality is essential for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Agenda 2063, he added.
That day, the Secretary-General also had a number of bilateral meetings, including with the President of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo. He pledged United Nations support for Somalia, noting the importance of a comprehensive approach to security sector reform. He also commended the President for his 2018‑2020 road map.
He also met with the new President of Liberia, George Weah, whom he congratulated on his recent election. The Secretary-General also conveyed to the President the United Nations continued support to Liberia and its people.
Lastly, he met with the President Faustin Archange Touadera of the Central African Republic. They reviewed the security situation as well as the state of the political dialogue. The Secretary-General was pleased to hear from the President his appreciation for the arrival of the additional troops for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) as approved by the United Nations Security Council.
The Secretary-General then joined the African Union Heads of State and Government and other guests for the opening ceremony of the thirtieth Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union. The theme of this year’s meeting was “Winning the fight against corruption: a sustainable path to Africa’s transformation”.
In his remarks, the Secretary-General reaffirmed the United Nations strong commitment to the Member States and people of Africa. (See Press Release SG/SM/18876)
Following the ceremony, the Secretary-General met with South African President Jacob Zuma. The Secretary-General thanked the President for South Africa’s very important contribution to peacekeeping, especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They discussed the political situation in that country, as well as the need for the United Nations Mission’s mandate to be reviewed and adapted to the realities on the ground.
The Secretary-General then held a press conference. He stressed the need for a redesign of peacekeeping forces, for them to be better equipped, better prepared, better led, more able to protect populations and themselves, and to have adequate mandates and political and financial support. He also stressed the need for adequate support to African forces in peace enforcement and in counter-terrorism operations, with strong mandates from the United Nations Security Council and predictable funding.
Prior to leaving Addis Ababa, the Secretary-General stopped by the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), where he swore in the new Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe.
At ECA, he attended an event on strengthening humanitarian and development collaboration, hosted by Prime Minister Desalegn of Ethiopia and the United Nations country team. “We must break down the silos that have existed for too long between humanitarian and development actors,” the Secretary-General told the gathering. “Government leadership and ownership is essential,” he stressed. (See Press Release SG/SM/18877)
The Secretary-General arrived back in New York on Monday, 29 January.