Critical Situations around Continent Show Importance of United Nations-African Union Cooperation, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Regional Summit

16 July 2012

Critical Situations around Continent Show Importance of United Nations-African Union Cooperation, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Regional Summit

16 July 2012
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Critical Situations around Continent Show Importance of United Nations-African

Union Cooperation, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Regional Summit

Following is UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s address to the nineteenth Summit of the African Union, in Addis Ababa on 15 July:

Thank you for inviting and welcoming me to this important Summit of the African Union.

I take up my new post as Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations in the footsteps of a very distinguished African, Her Excellency Asha-Rose Migiro, who left a sterling record of service to the world Organization.  I want to build on her legacy.

I am proud and I am honoured to make my first trip as Deputy Secretary-General to the African Union Summit here in Addis.  My message to you is that Africa will always be a high priority and special concern for my work at the United Nations.  This also reflects the conviction and the mission of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who sends you his warmest and best wishes for a successful Summit.

Looking around this hall, I see many friends and colleagues.  It has been my privilege to work on African issues throughout my life in international affairs.  I began in Harare, then Salisbury, where I opened Sweden’s first embassy in 1980.  Before and after that, I was in contact — I would say in close contact — with several of the liberation movements in Africa while serving with Prime Minister Olof Palme of Sweden.

As the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs in the 1990s, I was involved in critical operations in Somalia, Sudan and Mozambique.  Later, as the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, I worked closely with the African Union Special Envoy, my dear friend Salim Ahmed Salim, and I also worked closely with the African Union Peace and Security Council.  During these years, I saw with my own eyes how war and starvation ravage societies and degrade human existence.  But I also witnessed how political will and courageous leadership can achieve substantial progress.  My guiding principles have always been: solidarity, respect and commitment to make concrete contributions to the people of this great continent.

As President of the United Nations General Assembly, I had the honour to serve with two distinguished African leaders – Secretary-General Kofi Annan and His Excellency Jean Ping, my predecessor as the General Assembly President.  During these years, we struggled to confront the real problems facing the people of our world on a daily basis – poverty, diseases, natural disasters, environmental degradation, conflict and violations of human rights and of fundamental freedoms.  The United Nations, the African Union and African subregional organizations share this mission.  It is gratifying to see how far we have come by working together ever more vigorously over the years.  Let me mention a few specific examples.

For Somalia, we are seeing the prospect for a peaceful future, thanks in large part to the extraordinary contributions and sacrifices of the African Union, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the troop-contributing countries.  This vision should extend to cover the Horn of Africa as well.  There is still work to be done.  The food crisis still persists.  New disasters must be avoided.  Immediate action must be taken.  The United Nations is and will be fully engaged in this work.

The United Nations is committed to work with the African Union to help Guinea-Bissau resolve its crisis and ensure an immediate return to constitutional rule.  The United Nations is also working with the African Union in addressing piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.  Attacks at sea are a threat to the region.  I am encouraged by progress towards convening a joint regional summit on piracy.  Regional efforts to stamp out this scourge are to be supported.  The subregion should also come together to address the threat of cross-border movements of armed elements and weapons, as well as illicit trafficking and the growing problem of organized crime.

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) remains extremely dangerous.  Despite the recent capture of a senior commander and the weakening of the LRA, this criminal group can still inflict terrible suffering, as you know.  The United Nations has worked closely with the African Union and concerned parties to develop a strategy to address the LRA threat.  Now we must carry it out together.

In Sudan, our organizations have been working in partnership for many years.  We have done so to protect civilians, facilitate humanitarian assistance and support efforts to reach comprehensive and inclusive settlements of conflicts.  In the mediation of the Darfur conflict, I was personally and closely involved.

Sudan and South Sudan are sadly still embroiled in disputes. Hundreds of thousands of people in Sudan and South Sudan are in grave need of assistance. Aid agencies should have the funds and access they need to assist internally displaced persons and refugees.  I welcome the resumption of talks under the AU High-Level Implementation Panel.  Ultimately, it is up to the parties to meet their obligations under Security Council resolution 2046 (2012) and the African Union Peace and Security Committee Roadmap.  Their people desperately hope for security and prosperity.  We have a common duty not to shatter their hopes.

In Mali, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations must also continue working together, as well as with the transitional Government and the country’s neighbours, to restore territorial integrity and human security.  There has been some progress in stabilizing Bamako, but the transitional institutions, as you know, remain fragile.

The situation in the north of Mali, where armed militias and terrorist groups continue to control local populations, is alarming and is a threat to the region, and, I would say, beyond.  The destruction of historical sites is shocking and outrageous.  Extremist groups and criminal networks are spreading rampant fear and insecurity.  Weapons are being trafficked over porous borders.

We must intensify our efforts to find a political and humanitarian solution to end the suffering in the Sahel.  Eighteen million people are at risk of fatal starvation.  One million children are in immediate danger.  The world must wake up to this ongoing humanitarian disaster, no doubt the worst in the world today.

In the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, conditions have been deteriorating, as the Chairperson also just elaborated.  The violence must end immediately.  Countries of the region are to respect the principle of non-interference and to work together to resolve the basic issue of the crisis as soon as possible.

All these critical situations — and you know there are more, unfortunately — demonstrate the importance of close and active cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations.

The Rio+20 Conference moved the world forward on some critical issues – including water, energy, food and women’s empowerment.  Member States launched a process to establish universal sustainable development goals to build on the Millennium Development Goals.  These will be particularly important for Africa, and I will personally work on this issue very much in the United Nations.  Africa played an important role as the only region that came to Rio with a clear plan approved by its leaders.  I count on the support of African leaders also on the work to establish the post-2015 development agenda.  But let us not, in the meantime, forget the necessary achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, particularly related to the fight against poverty.

Africa has already made steady progress – on education, gender equality, health and poverty reduction.  They have put millions of children in school.  Almost all your children have obtained primary education, which will help to build your future.  Many nations are showing strong economic gains, putting millions more children in school, or are reaching targets to stop the needless death of mothers and children.  We also witness how African States are harnessing the power of technology to help pregnant women.  Many African nations experience growing per capita national incomes.  All of this positive energy and vitality emanating from this great continent of Africa should be recognised and acknowledged, not least when violent conflicts dominate the headlines.

On the political side, Africa is home to thriving democracies, where elections are peaceful and the press is free.  Several examples were mentioned earlier by the Chairperson.  Indeed, many have recently enjoyed their first real chance to vote in decades.  The voices of the people are heard and respected all over the continent.  I dare say Africa needs global solidarity to create jobs, generate growth and stop preventable deaths.  The United Nations is your close partner, not only in advocacy, but in action.  The Africa Millennium Development Goals Steering Group has produced concrete recommendations for progress.  We need to put these ideas into practice, including by mobilizing new and additional resources.  I am fully committed to this important task.

Looking ahead, in September the General Assembly will hold its High-level Meeting on the Rule of Law.  This is a chance for the African Union to show how delivering justice is critical to peace, security and development on the continent, not least, as we have seen in so many crises, in post-conflict situations.

In closing, I am confident that if we come together, the partnership between the African Union and the United Nations will be stronger and more effective.  This will in turn strengthen both our organizations in our collective resolve to discharge the responsibilities incumbent upon us all for the well-being of the people of this great continent and the world.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.