Addis Ababa

21 October 2019

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks to the African Union Peace and Security Council [as prepared for delivery]

Your Excellency, Ambassador Robert Y. Lormia, Chairperson of the African Union Peace and Security Council,

Distinguished Members of the Council, 

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to be with you today, joined by the  African Union Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative to the African Union, the Executive Director of UN Women, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on the Horn of Africa, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict and the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission on Africa as we embark on our joint solidarity mission to the Horn of Africa.

I am particularly appreciative of you finding the time today, as you are hosting the UN Security Council. The fact that we have such joint missions and shared frameworks speaks to the strength of the UN-AU partnership in addressing the continent’s multidimensional peace and security challenges in a coordinated, comprehensive, coherent and efficient manner.

Excellencies,

I would like to use this opportunity to commend the African Union Commission, especially the Chairperson, the Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security, and the Women Comissioners for their commitment to gender equality and women’s participation and leadership, with the support of the Peace and Security Council.

It is just one more area where our shared goals come together. The Secretary-General is strongly committed to women’s leadership and political participation as part of his vision for conflict prevention. 

This is borne of a personal conviction on the need to harness the expertise and capacities of all of our people if we are to address the complex global challenges we face today – from inequality to violent extremism and now exacerbated by the climate crisis.

Gender equality is a precursor to sustaining peace and achieving sustainable development. 

There is ample evidence that women’s participation makes peace and security processes more inclusive, effective and durable. 

Women’s inclusion contributes to the development of responsive decision-making processes, that ensure sustainable development.

In situations of conflict, and in preventing violence, women’s mediation and peacemaking efforts have been proven to be more effective. 

And female peacekeepers are often indispensable in responding to the complex needs of the communities in which they serve. 

Women’s meaningful participation is also essential for designing and delivering effective responses and durable solutions in humanitarian contexts.

In post-conflict contexts, it is women who are often the first to pick up the pieces of shattered societies and broken relations, to pave the way to social cohesion and reconciliation.

Moreover, we know that women's leadership in political decision-making processes improves outcomes for everyone in society. 

Women often work across party lines through parliamentary women's caucuses – even in the most politically combative environments – to champion issues of great income equality, better health and education outcomes, parental leave and childcare, pensions, and electoral reform.

Yet, the statistics remain of grave concern. 

Next year, we will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, the fifth anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 2250 on youth, peace and security, and the fifth anniversary of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

We look forward to the meaningful participation and leadership of women, including of young women - a priority of all continental peace, security and development policies and programmes, especially in the renewing of the Silencing the Guns initiative.

Our joint efforts can accelerate Africa’s transformation and stability in line with Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Women’s networks, such as the African Union network of women in conflict prevention and peace mediation (FEMWISE-AFRICA) and the African Women Leaders Network, play an important role in advancing women’s participation in leadership positions in Africa. 

Excellencies,

In the coming days, as stated by the Chairperson of the Peace and Security Council, we have the privilege to travel to Djibouti, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan with a focus on  Women Peace and Security and development. This is the third such joint UN-AU mission we have undertaken. In past years, we have visited the DRC, Nigeria, South Sudan, Niger and Chad. 

This continues to be essential to building a peaceful, prosperous, just and integrated Horn of Africa.

The region offers tremendous opportunities. 

It is youthful; geo-strategically important and has abundant natural resources. 

However, there remain challenges and delicate transitional processes ahead, with considerable implications for continental peace and stability. 

These transitions require the understanding and support of the African Union and the United Nations in their journey to peace and prosperity.

The Strategy also calls for UN collaboration with IGAD and the African Union in encouraging the participation of women and youth in peace negotiations and mediation.  

If we fail to assist the countries of this region to seize the current window of opportunity, we fail a generation of young people and the future of peace and progress in the region. 

At this time of change, women and young people must be at the centre of our efforts to forge sustainable peace and development. 

We must encourage the countries of the region to create the space so that women can lead the change.

The Horn of Africa region must be encouraged to invest in and benefit from the contributions of more than half its population if we want to see durable progress. 

The recent appointment of women in senior decision-making positions in Sudan, are encouraging signs. What they show us is that women do not need lesson sharing, or capacity building – they simply need opportunity to serve.

As we have seen in Sudan, women, including young women, are agents of change. 

They have the greatest transformative effect on societies. And that is transformation that benefits us all. 

Once again, I thank you for the opportunity to speak as we begin our mission. I look forward to hearing your feedback and wisdom, so we may benefit from this opportunity as we visit the Horn of Africa. 

Thank you.