NEW YORK CITY—At the United Nations last week, the inaugural Africa Dialogue Series concluded a marathon of panel discussions debating how to transform the continent into “The Africa We Want.”
The quote refers to the title of Agenda 2063, the long-term aspirations for economic growth and sustainable development initiated by the African Union (AU).
Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, noted that Agenda 2063 has synergy with the UN’s Agenda 2030. “They address the same problems, and they promote the same solutions,” Guterres said during opening remarks of the two-day event themed, “A Stronger AU-UN Partnership for Peace, Security and Development in Africa.”
Guterres drew comparisons to the agendas: “Both call for a prosperous, peaceful and secure continent based on human rights, good governance, the rule of law, and aiming at leaving no one behind.”
Implementing the AU-UN strategic plan is dependent on many critical conditions, said Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of New Partnerships for Africa’s Development. Among them is the need to have a full endorsement and alignment of international efforts on the national and local levels, Mayaki explained, taking into consideration that not all leaders are committed to sustainable peace.
“Some [leaders] are preoccupied with staying in power, regardless of the negative impact on their countries, people or the economy,” Mayaki said. “Others need help to manage corruption and nepotism, or support to combat terrorism, or assistance to resist state-capture by transnational criminal organizations.”
There cannot be sustainable development so long as the threat of conflict hangs in the air, said Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces, president of the 73rd UN General Assembly.
“How can we empower youth and women to play a more active role? How do we encourage girls to attend school when routes aren’t safe? How do we ensure food security or livelihood when there is fighting over limited resources?” Garces asked, before suggesting that more must be done to predict and avert conflicts before they emerge.
Throughout the series, many speakers from the diplomatic corps, civil society, NGO community and private sector commended the UN’s policy making but criticized its policy implementation.
“There is a great frustration with a lack of economic opportunity for our people,” said Lazarous Kapambwe, the permanent representative of Zambia to the United Nations. “It is not that we lack resources. Resources are not an economic issue; resources are a political issue. It’s how we choose to prioritize the distribution of those resources.”
Kapambwe commented that the peace and security budget tends to be far more than the development budget. “My plea is that as we pursue the implementation of the two [agendas], we ensure that we re-calibrate the narrative so that development is not sacrificed by peace and security,” he said. “They are not enemies of each other and should be given the appropriate balance.”
Mayaki echoed those sentiments. The standard model has focused on securing stability to promote peace then invest in development, Mayaki said. However, in many situations, he added, “There is need to support governance, security sector reform and development initiatives amid ongoing conflicts.”
The dialogue series, which replaced the UN’s Africa Week, was sponsored by the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa. Next year’s series will be in May to coincide with the commemoration of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity on May 25, 1963.
The series provides a platform to explore and engage in critical debate, said Bience Gawanas, special adviser on Africa to the UN Secretary-General.
“Africa is rapidly rising and seeking to achieve peace, prosperity and socioeconomic transformation,” Gawanas said. “Despite existing challenges, Africa is and remains a continent full of potential … .”
photo credit: webtv.un.org
[Left] President of the 73rd General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the Africa Dialogue Series