Your Excellency, Mr Alpha Conde, President of the Republic of Guinea and Chair of the African Union, Your Excellency President Mahmoud Abbas of Palestine, Your Excellency Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am indeed honoured and humbled to participate in my first African Union Summit as Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.
I am particularly pleased to be with you at the halfway mark of the African Union’s Year of harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in our youth.
Our organizations are embarking on two extremely ambitious agendas – Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – along with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement.
This year’s thematic focus on youth is a powerful reminder of the core principle at the heart of these agendas: creating a better world for the next generation.
For the 226 million young people aged 15 to 24 living in Africa today, these agendas address challenges and opportunities that are integral to their futures.
The challenge of eradicating poverty and achieving inclusive and sustainable growth has spurred Africa’s steady pursuit of transformative sustainable development.
These efforts have been marked by historic steps towards regional integration, industrialization and diversification, infrastructure development, private sector development, and strengthened agricultural productivity. All of these are vital for creating decent jobs and a better future for our young people.
The challenge of strengthening Africa’s human capital, starting with its young people, has galvanized commitments to promote their rights and invest in quality and relevant education at all levels, health, science and technology and innovation.
The emphasis on youth has also spurred efforts on peace and security. The African Peace and Security Architecture, and Agenda 2063’s commitment to Silence the Guns by 2020, have brought a new focus to preventive diplomacy that is critical for ensuring that young Africans inherit and shape a continent that is free from conflict in all its forms.
Here I would like to welcome democratic progress that we have had in Somalia and The Gambia, where successful elections have been held and transitions made with the support of one another in solidarity. In the coming months we must all continue to support other countries in their upcoming elections and in the important days after the transitions. I would like to express special appreciation to the governments and people of Uganda, Ethiopia, DRC, Tanzania and other countries on this continent who have kept their doors open and given refugees fleeing from conflict not only a warm welcome but also dignity and hope.
Their humanity and compassion should be an inspiration to other countries around the world that have not demonstrated the same solidarity and support for the most vulnerable. The bold efforts of governments like Uganda who have gone beyond the camps by integrating men, women and children into their communities, and all this despite of the levels of poverty, is exemplary and an example that should be emulated all over the world.
Today you are here taking decisions that will ensure that Africa benefits from the full potential of all its people, including young women and men, has generated greater efforts to ensure that all young African women and girls have equal access, opportunities and leadership roles in all areas of political, economic and public life. Investing in our youth today reaps the dividend of a peaceful and prosperous Africa tomorrow.
I am encouraged and commend the leadership of the AUC with the launch in May at the UN of the African Women Leaders Network. I also look forward to collaborating with the African Union on a new UN/EU initiative that will be launched at the UNGA in September that will end Gender-Based Violence globally. We must address the root causes of this scourge which affects us so personally -- our mothers, our sisters, our daughters and our granddaughters. None of our religions nor cultures condone that we do harm to our women and girls. We must build on progress that has been made and work even harder to prevent and end these atrocities urgently.
While Africa has made significant progress, the great challenge that lies before us now is how to deliver on the full promise of the global 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063 for Africa and its people.
We have a saying in my country, Nigeria: In times of great challenges, the wise build bridges and the foolish build dams.
Today our organizations continue to strengthen our partnership, building new bridges between us, and fortifying the ones that already exist.
When Secretary-General Guterres addressed you in January of this year, he underscored the principles of solidarity and respect as the foundation for our strengthened partnership.
Since then, we have made progress in some key areas:
First: we have raised the level of the strategic partnership between our organizations.
On 19 April 2017, the UN Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the AU Commission convened the inaugural UN-AU Annual Conference in New York, culminating in the adoption of a Joint Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security.
Our organizations have also agreed to prepare a joint framework on sustainable development focusing on the implementation of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda.
Second: we have continued our efforts to enhance the UN’s partnership with Africa’s Regional Economic Communities, working with them on various peacekeeping efforts on the continent as well as in supporting peaceful elections and democratic transitions.
Third: we continue to seek ways to support the African Governance Architecture, including the African Peer Review Mechanism, or APRM.
The APRM will be a vital partner in the broader joint monitoring and reporting framework currently being established in order to ensure efficient and coherent implementation of our agendas.
Fourth, the UN has continued to support the AU initiative to Silence the Guns by 2020, including by strengthening support for the African Peace and Security Architecture.
The Secretary-General has reinforced his calls for predictable, reliable and sustainable financing for AU peace operations, and is working with the AU to present a set of concrete proposals to the UN Security Council. Our efforts should continue to be based on the urgency, flexibility and innovation, to improve complementarity, cost-effectiveness and impact.
We commend African leaders for their commitment to self-reliance as reflected in their decision to fund 25 per cent of the AU’s peace and support operations by 2020.
We also welcome the establishment of the African Union Peace Fund, which will go beyond peacekeeping to support preventive diplomacy and institution-building. The United Nations is truly honoured and humbled by the invitation to serve on its Board of Trustees.
And I would like to thank African countries again for your continued contributions to United Nations peacekeeping operations.
Fifth and finally: the UN has continued to support African integration, including efforts to establish the Continental Free Trade Area. We have already provided technical support for mapping intra-African trade and analysing regulatory frameworks. Here we must work to take advantage of one of the world’s largest infrastructure initiatives, the Chinese ‘Belt and Road”. It calls for our global partners to scale up investments in Africa’s infrastructure for regional economic integration. This is an opportunity not just to provide alternatives to silencing the guns for our people but one that will keep our assets both human and natural on the continent building our tomorrow today.
Our organizations are both engaged in transformative reforms that are essential if we are to be fit for purpose for the ambitious agendas that lie before us.
These courageous reforms led by President Kagame will strengthen the AU Commission’s essential work of delivering on development, and its investment in human resources. They will make the African Union an employer that is sought after by the many young people on this continent who are passionate about making a difference. They will make the African Union the destination of choice for our leaders and global partners.
And as each organization works to strengthen itself, we must also strengthen the important relationship that exists between us here and in New York, Geneva, Bonn and Rome.
We must never stop building bridges towards one another overcoming broken promises on both sides by fortifying them to bear the weight of the expectations we have for one another, and that the world has for us.
Let us continue to work together to achieve the Africa We Want for Africa’s young people, our children and grandchildren.