Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the thirty-second Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union, in Addis Ababa today:
In the search for durable solutions to forced displacement, the world — and indeed, I, personally — have drawn constant inspiration from African leadership, African vision and African compassion. Africa hosts nearly a third of the world’s refugees and internally displaced persons. Despite the continent’s own social, economic and security challenges, Africa’s Governments and people have kept borders, doors and hearts open to millions in need.
Unfortunately, this example has not been followed everywhere. Unfortunately, generosity is not proportional to wealth. Africa has set the gold standard for solidarity. Five decades ago, the continent adopted the 1969 OAU [Organisation of African Unity] Refugee Convention — which goes beyond even the landmark 1951 Refugee Convention by expanding the definition of a refugee. Ten years ago, you took a step further in adopting the Kampala Convention on Internally Displaced Persons — the first and only regional convention of its kind. In 2015, the Abidjan Declaration was a pioneering moment in the global fight to eradicate statelessness. And last year, African leadership helped secure the adoption of two pivotal Global Compacts — on Refugees and on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
I have seen the words of these crucial conventions and declarations come to life in every corner of this continent through the spirit of African compassion. I will never forget seeing Liberian farmers share their seed rice for the next planting season to feed desperate newcomers fleeing civil unrest in Côte d’Ivoire. I will always remember the electric air of joy as I stood with Congolese returning from [the United Republic of] Tanzania, joined a repatriation convoy to South Sudan or rode on a truck carrying Liberians home from Sierra Leone. And my heart still breaks as I recall people such as Musleema, a Somali woman refugee I met in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia. She walked two weeks and lost three of her six children along the way before finally finding desperately needed safety and care.
Over many years, it has become clear to me: Africa’s generosity to those seeking havens from war and persecution is unmatched. As High Commissioner for Refugees, I greatly admired and depended on that solidarity. And from day one as Secretary-General, I have been determined to forge ever closer ties between the United Nations and Africa. Indeed, there has been a quantum leap in our strategic cooperation with the African Union.
We have signed Joint Frameworks on Peace and Security and on Sustainable Development. We have institutionalized United Nations-African Union annual conferences at the summit level. We have conducted numerous joint high-level visits across the continent. Chairperson [Moussa] Faki [Mahamat] and I recently signed a Joint Declaration on cooperation for peace support operations. And the African Union Commission and the United Nations Secretariat held our first Human Rights Dialogue — an encouraging step on a critical issue.
We have much to show from our combined efforts — and are better positioned to address our shared challenges. I would like to highlight three such challenges today: peace and security, sustainable development and climate change.
On peace and security, strong winds of hope are blowing across the African continent. The African Union’s efforts to “silence the guns” by 2020 are gaining ground. The United Nations surge in diplomacy for peace is producing results. The fruits of our strategic partnerships are indeed making a difference.
Ethiopia and Eritrea have shown the way and I pay tribute to wisdom and leadership of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali of Ethiopia. In the Central African Republic, the signing of a peace agreement this week — led by the African Union with United Nations support — can prove to be an important step on the long path to ending bloodshed. In South Sudan, the agreement — facilitated by IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development] — between the parties to the conflict has revitalized chances for peace. And in Libya, the ceasefire in and around Tripoli brokered by the United Nations is still holding despite difficulties. Our efforts have helped stabilize the currency, brought some measure of economic relief and enabled a realistic prospect for security reform. Now it is time to help unite the Libyan people to advance the political process through a national conference paving the way for reconciliation and future elections.
All this remarkable progress in conflict resolution in Africa shows the determination of the African Union and the United Nations. A similar story is unfolding with respect to prevention. I welcome the first peaceful transition of power in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since independence in 1960. In Mali, presidential elections were successfully organized in line with Mali’s constitutional and legal frameworks. In Madagascar, the peaceful presidential elections are testament to the responsibility of national stakeholders and to our close cooperation.
It is in this context of renewed hope that we increase our mutual support to peace operations in Africa. To consolidate and build on our gains, I launched the Action for Peacekeeping initiative to enable our missions to be more effective, better equipped, safer and more robust. I thank African Member States and the African Union Commission for endorsing this effort. African countries provide nearly half of all “Blue Helmets” deployed worldwide, including some two thirds of all women peacekeepers and the majority of United Nations police.
Their service and sacrifice are always at the forefront of our minds. Just yesterday, three Ethiopian peacekeepers serving in the United Nations mission in Abyei were killed when their helicopter crashed. I want to extend my deep solidarity and condolences to their families, as well as to the Government and people of Ethiopia. I wish a speedy recovery to all those injured.
But, our peacekeeping operations are increasingly being called into areas where there is no peace to keep. That is why I have been repeatedly expressing my support for African peace-enforcing and counter-terrorism operations. I salute the sacrifices of the African soldiers in AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia], the G5 Joint Force, and the Multinational Joint Task Force in the Lake Chad Basin. To be fully effective, these African peace operations require robust mandates from the Security Council and predictable, sustainable financing, including assessed contributions. You can count on my full support fighting for that effort.
I also welcome our joint advocacy for women’s leadership in peace processes and political agreements. Groups such as FemWise and the African Women Leaders Network are making invaluable contributions and are important initiatives for joint United Nations-African Union collaboration. Women’s equality, meaningful participation and leadership are critical to lasting peace.
We all know there cannot be durable peace without sustainable development. All our gains in peace and security need to be consolidated by addressing the root causes of conflict. The United Nations is strongly committed to supporting the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda.
But the global community is falling behind in addressing two key challenges: meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and tackling climate change. The world is not moving far enough, or fast enough, to translate the promise of the SDGs into reality.
At present trends, we will only get half the job done. Financing is critical. Developed countries must fulfil their obligations under the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. I salute African countries’ efforts to create conditions for mobilizing domestic resources, including through tax reform, fighting corruption and other good governance measures.
At the same time, the international community must take much more effective steps to fight illicit flows of capital, money laundering and tax evasion, which continue to drain vital resources from the African continent, mostly towards developed countries.
We have another mighty challenge before us. Climate change is still moving much faster than our efforts to slow it. Just this past week, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) confirmed that the last four years have been the hottest since records began — emphasizing the urgency of accelerated climate action. Climate change is an existential threat — particularly here in Africa, which has least responsibility for the crisis, but will shoulder some of the heaviest burden.
Global emissions continue to rise and the essential target of limiting warming to 1.5°C becomes ever more elusive. We need more ambition — ambition on adaptation, ambition on mitigation, ambition on finance and ambition on innovation. I will convene a Climate Summit in New York in September to spur action by political leaders, the business community and civil society. This includes mobilizing the $100 billion a year for climate action pledged by the developed world.
Great challenges remain, but winds of hope are blowing throughout our shared agenda. Africa is on the move and there are real reasons for optimism. The United Nations will continue to work together with you for a peaceful and prosperous future for all Africans. Thank you.