30 January 2015

Secretary-General Urges African Union Summit to ‘Guide the Way’ to Sustainable, Safe World, Calling Continent’s Member States Backbone of United Nations

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the twenty-fourth African Union Summit, in Addis Ababa today:

I am honoured to join you today.  We meet at the start of a crucial year for global action to secure our global future.  We are in the final stretch to the target date of the Millennium Development Goals, which have achieved so much on this continent.

At the same time, we will adopt a post-2015 development agenda, including a set of sustainable development goals that will chart a path for the next generation of development.  I hope African countries will be represented at the highest levels when this agenda is adopted in New York in September.

Momentum is growing towards a meaningful, universal climate change agreement in Paris in December.  No continent has more at stake in these negotiations than Africa.  The potential for success on all of these efforts starts here in Addis Ababa in July, when we will gather for a pivotal Financing for Development Conference.  We count on leaders to make serious commitments.  Without resources, our commitments to sustainable development will amount to little more than fine words on paper.

Women must be at the centre and front of all our lives.  I applaud your proposal at this summit:  Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063.  Africa is home to parliaments and cabinets with the world’s highest percentage of women members.

But we have much more work to do to unleash the tremendous potential of Africa’s women and girls.  They need better access to secondary education, decent work and economic opportunities.  They need more help to combat maternal mortality and poverty, and genital mutilation.  They need more protection from the scourge of violence at the hands of men and boys.

Gender equality and the empowerment of women are at the heart of the AU’s [African Union] Agenda 2063, which I hope you will formally adopt at this summit meeting.  But women and girls cannot wait.  Neither can Africa and the wider world.  While I appreciate and support Agenda 2063, I would strongly call and urge all of you when it comes to women’s rights, to make a deep and lasting difference to the lives of African women and girls by 2020.

Last month, I travelled to the Ebola-affected countries of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mali.  I thank African Governments and the African people for your support and solidarity and generous contribution.  We are seeing clear signs of progress.  I urge the international community to commit more resources at this critical time.

This outbreak shows the risk that fragile health systems pose for our interconnected world.  Affordable, quality health care must be a central feature of Africa’s development agenda.  The remarkable success of polio eradication and efforts to combat AIDS across the continent show what we can achieve by acting together.

The past year has seen progress in our joint work on peace and security.  Our joint high-level mission with the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, helped to prompt dialogue and agreement in Burkina Faso.

In Somalia, our joint efforts to attain lasting peace are making some headway.  Our two organizations, the African Union and the United Nations, together with IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development], worked as partners to support the political process.  We must continue this work to help consolidate these gains and to maintain momentum in 2015.  I pay tribute to the courage and dedication of AMISOM [African Union Mission to Somalia] in their battle against Al-Shabaab.

In the Central African Republic, our collaboration to protect civilians and combat impunity remains critical.  In Sudan, the UN and AU continue to work in partnership.  I am concerned about continued conflict in Darfur and elsewhere, and I hope the national dialogue process can be strengthened.

Attaining peace and stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes region requires joint decisive action, including neutralizing the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda — the FDLR.  The signatories of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework agreement must fully abide by their commitments.

The situation in Libya is affecting regional stability.  The AU’s International Contact Group and Special Envoy — and my own Special Representative — are pressing the parties to end the bloodshed and engage in political dialogue.

We must also redouble our joint efforts to secure peace and stability in South Sudan.  I welcome the recent agreement between President Salva Kiir and Dr. [Riek] Machar and urge South Sudan’s leaders to reach an immediate and inclusive power-sharing arrangement with a transitional government.  They must make sure that the agreement is implemented, in order to end this man-made tragedy.

In Nigeria and beyond, we are all appalled by the brutality of Boko Haram, which poses a clear danger to national, regional and international peace and security.  This group continues to kill Christians and Muslims, kidnap women and children, and destroy churches and mosques.  We will never forget the girls and boys kidnapped from Chibok last April, and I will never stop calling for their immediate and unconditional release.

The humanitarian consequences are enormous, with up to 1 million people forced from their homes.  I welcome your decision to focus specifically on this serious threat in the Peace and Security Council of the African Union.  I am encouraged by progress towards the African Standby Force and the African capacity for crisis response.  I urge you to make these mechanisms operational.

The United Nations is reviewing its peace operations, including its peacekeeping missions and special political missions.  Your contributions will be invaluable.  African troops are a backbone of our peacekeeping capacity and we rely heavily for our peacekeeping capacity on the full cooperation of national Governments that host UN peacekeeping operations.

Terrorism knows no boundaries and affects African countries in the Horn, the Sahel and elsewhere.  No grievance or cause justifies terror.  At the same time, let us remember that counter-terror efforts that fail to respect human rights can make the problem worse.

There have been positive developments this year in many African countries on democracy, governance and human rights.  I welcome the affirmation of the rights of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] individuals by the AU’s Human Rights Commission, and the Cotonou Declaration on the abolition of the death penalty in Africa.

The AU has a long record of supporting democratic transitions.  I hope the elections that take place in African countries this year will be as peaceful and successful as Tunisia, Botswana, Malawi, and others were in 2014.  I congratulate the people and Government of Zambia on their successful presidential election last week.

People around the world have expressed their concern about leaders who refuse to leave office when their terms end.  I share those concerns.  Undemocratic constitutional changes and legal loopholes should never be used to cling to power.  I urge all leaders, in Africa and around the world, to listen to your people.  Modern leaders cannot afford to ignore the wishes and aspirations of those they represent.

I also call on AU Member States to stand up for accountability, which is critical to end impunity and for post-conflict reconciliation.  I welcome the AU Commission of Inquiry report on South Sudan and the final report of the Commission of Inquiry for the Central African Republic.

This year marks the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the United Nations.  African membership of our Organization has gone from four Member States in 1945 to 54 Member States now.  African countries have been the backbone and leading Member States of the United Nations since the day they achieved independence.  We have been with you since birth.

Now, many African countries are taking dramatic steps towards realizing their massive cultural, human and economic potential.  The United Nations — and I personally as Secretary-General of the United Nations — will continue to stand with Africa as your partner and strongest supporter.  In this critical year, we need Africa to help guide the way to a world of sustainability and dignity for all the people, where nobody will be left behind.  Let us work together.  I count on your leadership and strong commitment.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.