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Africa Dialogues Series 2020: UN Special Adviser on Africa speaks on COVID-19 and Silencing the Guns in Africa

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Africa Dialogues Series 2020: UN Special Adviser on Africa speaks on COVID-19 and Silencing the Guns in Africa

Ms. Bience Gawanas
27 May 2020
Bience Gawanas, Special Adviser on Africa
Bience Gawanas is the UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Africa

Two and a half years ago, OSAA launched the Africa Dialogue Series with two main objectives: promote policy discussions on issues of critical relevance to Africa; and ensure that Africa is high on the agenda of the United Nations (UN).

This may be the third time that the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA) organized the Africa Dialogue Series in this format, but it is the first time ever in the virtual space.

After three-half days of the 2020 Africa Dialogue Series, we can say that we have succeeded.

Thanks to multiple contributions, we have held insightful discussions on Silencing the Guns and fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa.

In this regard, I would like to thank Member States, African Institutions and UN entities for their participation in these Dialogue Series. And I would like to convey my special gratitude to the civil society representatives and the scholars who have taken the floor during these three-half days.

As I said before, governance is not about structures, it is about people. And to listen to the people we need to bring civil society in. I would therefore like to reiterate OSAA’s commitment to continue serving as a platform to bring civil society and policy and decision-makers together.

In my welcome remarks, I noted that the goal of the Africa Dialogue Series was to come up with actionable recommendations on the way forward for Africa’s transformation. These recommendations will be developed in detail in the report that OSAA will produce but let me highlight some of these points.

  • It is critical to bridge the generational gap and promote inclusive leadership through leveraging the knowledge and expertise of all segments of the population and strengthening youth participation in decision making.
  • It is imperative to adopt a new paradigm towards the way we do business, manage health systems and improve livelihoods. The new paradigm requires significant investment in education and skills development. In addition, investments should be made in health, water and sanitation, social protection, employment and sustainable infrastructure.
  • Sustainability should be factored into planning processes. The pandemic has a profound impact on the implementation of development plans and strategies at all levels and of important initiatives such as the African Union’s (AU’s) Silencing the Guns initiative. It is imperative to factor in effective ways of mitigating unforeseen circumstances of this nature into planning processes.
  • International solidarity and action are required to strengthen Africa’s health systems, maintain food supplies, avoid a financial crisis, support education, protect jobs, keep households and businesses afloat, as well as cushion the continent against lost income and export earnings.
  • A comprehensive debt framework is needed, starting with an across-the-board debt standstill for countries unable to service their debt, followed by targeted debt relief and a comprehensive approach to structural issues in the international debt architecture to prevent defaults.
  • The international community should support African efforts in fighting COVID-19 through the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC)-led continent wide pooled procurement and by scaling up capacity for local manufacturing of key commodities; providing support on logistics of distribution of medical supplies; engaging private sector to supplement government response capacity; and deploying and scaling up the use of technology applications and innovation.
  • There is a need for rapid implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to secure a level playing field for Africa’s poor and marginalized groups.
  • It is imperative to simplify the registration procedures and offer incentives to informal sector actors to formalize their activities by providing assistance to the micro, small and medium enterprises in times of adverse global shocks.
  • A global ceasefire is essential for African countries to sustain their efforts to silence the guns and address violent extremism, and to be able to focus on the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The AU and the UN with the full participation of African governments and regional and local actors, should review and adjust conflict prevention and resolution tools in order to effectively and efficiently respond to the ever-changing nature of conflict, violence and criminality on the continent.
  • National governments should ensure the inclusion and participation of women and youth in all aspects of conflict and post-conflict peace processes. This is crucial for the success of efforts towards peaceful resolution of conflicts, including through comprehensive mediation strategies.
  • It is also important to invest in building the capacities of public institutions to play their role in promoting participation and inclusiveness as well as in delivering public goods.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the underlying causes of instability and conflict. Responses to the pandemic should contribute to building trust and promoting dialogue and engagement of all stakeholders.
  • The need for a state-society relationship based on trust and a national vision based on consensus is essential. Governance should be built on a compact between government and society, providing transparency, predictability and minimizing discontent.
  • Empathetic leadership is key and developing such leadership requires governments that understand who they lead and those who understand the pulse of their own societies and internal dynamics rather than responding to external pressures. Governments should involve the vulnerable groups, mainly women and youth, as well as refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and immigrants during the full cycle of the response to COVID-19, including needs assessments, design of education and other interventions, to ensure the effectiveness of the response.
  • As COVID-19 has shown, women’s leadership has been more effective in dealing with the pandemic with a comprehensive and inclusive approach. Let us ensure that the measures put in place to respond to the pandemic enhance the contribution that women and girls can make in their societies.

I would like to pay our respects to those who have sadly lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic and voice our support for the resolve of those who are still trying to recover from this disease – physically, mentally, socio-economically.

*Adapted from the closing remarks of Bience Gawanas, Under-Secretary-General, Special Adviser on Africa to the UN Secretary-General