Summary Report of the 2nd African Forum for Dialogue: “Peace and Security for Sustainable Development” – 25th May 2010, Geneva

AU website. The African Union Commission, through its Permanent Representation accredited to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva and in collaboration with the international community based in Geneva, celebrated the Africa Day and the Year of Peace and Security in Africa on 25 May 2010. Pursuant to the decision adopted by the Heads of State and Government to proclaim 2010 as the Year of Peace and Security in Africa, the theme of the Forum focused on “Peace and Security for Sustainable Development in Africa”.

The choice of this triptych theme of peace, security and development was not just timely, but it has brought out a host of concepts, information and ideas that will help enrich our intra-African work in the future.

During the proceedings, participants were privy to a plethora of high-level interventions and speeches from a stellar group of contributing guests, ranging from Ministers, Parliamentarians, Ambassadors, renowned academics, business persons and other distinguished people.

To all the speakers, peace, security and development are inter-dependant and mutually-supportive; therefore only a holistic outlook on the three can help achieve the MDGs, attain basic human rights and resolve conflicts on the African continent. As a means to achieve this, Africa’s voice in the new and emerging political and economic international governance structures must be made more audible through establishment of global partnerships and collaboration with its development and political partners.

Added to the more common or traditional challenges facing Africa’s efforts at development in peace and security; are new challenges related to environment and climate change, hard-drug crime, arms trafficking etc. In the area of climate change, it was noted that despite being the lowest producer of emissions among the Earth’s continents, Africa is by far impacted the most. Africa should, therefore, continue to play a central role in the formulation and implementation of climate adaptation and mitigation frameworks and agreements. In fact, it was noted, climate change has become a challenge and will pose considerable risks for global security because of increasing potential for conflicts over the ownership of vital resources such as internationally shared water resources, enforced migrations and deterioration of health and nutritional standards due to hunger and spread of diseases. The Africa Union, with international support and alongside key actions from the likes of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the Climate for Development in Africa Programme (Clim Dev-Africa), could prevent unavoidable climate changes from becoming an even more serious threat to the future of the continent and the planet as a whole.

It was also stressed that despite the African Union’s priority efforts in the area of peace and security, these have fallen short of the overall goal of conflict elimination in the region. Africa’s efforts in the areas of armed conflict resolution and economic development have not yet achieved the required targets; partially due to a flagging financial and political engagement and unfulfilled pledges and commitments by the international community.  International framework agreements for conflict resolution and arms control exist; and also examples exist of proper “utilisation” of such instruments to help reduce the impacts of conflict in some regions in Africa. Better implementation of these instruments – with an African ownership of its participation – is a necessary prerequisite and target for the whole of the AU.

In fact, it has been stressed that Africa has shown the world the way in nuclear disarmament; and similar courage and initiative is needed in other areas of disarmament and arms control.  Finally, peace-building requires a long-term engagement and sustainable injection of resources from the international community, while post-conflict humanitarian assistance must be followed-up by medium and long-term development assistance, based on a thorough and deep analysis of its causes – from bilateral and multilateral development partners to avoid possible relapse into conflict situations. While the preservation of peace remains the basic responsibility of the United Nations, it was observed that cooperation with different international and regional organizations such as the AU is more than necessary to increase the chances of success, taking into account regional realities, sensitivities and socio-cultural affinities. The reiteration of partners from the North and South of sustainable and predictable commitments to support Africa’s efforts for peace and development was laudably welcomed and supported by the entire meeting.

Among the suggestions offered towards meeting the peace and security objectives of the AU in the region, emphasis was laid upon placing disadvantaged groups, women, youth, the rural poor etc at the core of African development policy. Members of these groups particularly women, the elderly and children tend to suffer more than others from insecurity and conflict. Therefore, adopting of targeted policies, legal frameworks and institutional arrangements favouring these groups could go a long way in supporting sustainable and peaceful development in many African countries, while also ensuring conflict prevention in the future. Similarly, ideas for assistance in developing robust and independent national and regional judiciaries as a means of achieving human rights and fair growth were offered to Africa.

Furthermore, efforts aimed at achieving “development for peace” should be framed in a comprehensive manner; with a strong ownership by Africa’s continental, regional and national institutions. Several speakers advised civil society, national governments, sub-regional institutions, international organisations and development partners to weave their efforts as equal partners, and under a common vision, to support sustainable and inclusive African plans for conflict resolution and prevention, and those for economic and social development. Civil society organisations – particularly those working for women empowerment – could play a positive role in attaining viable post-conflict human rights advancements. In this particular area, a call was directed at the AU to play a more important role in training and deploying peace-keeping personnel, and in reinforcing dialogue and confidence-building measures amongst all parties in conflicts.

As Africa moves into the post-crisis mode, mobilisation of national resources for sustainable development – in conjunction with more committed support from the international community – should seek to promote sectors that favour employment; while diversifying away from resource extraction-based industries towards agriculture and manufacturing. Indeed, a vibrant private sector could play an important role in post-conflict recovery efforts; by delivering much needed services that support better standards of living, and policies that encourage businesses to absorb higher levels of employment (particularly among the young) should have a higher priority. This could be the harbinger of inclusive and equitable development in Africa.

Proposals were made for the future editions of the Africa Forum to look into developing, intensifying and consolidating trade and investment relations between Africa and its international partnerships; on a fair and equitable basis. Business opportunities for sustainable and legitimate investments in Africa require a close collaboration between all players – national and international – in creating the appropriate legal, institutional and other frameworks needed to promote small and medium national enterprises and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). South-South and North-South cooperation in the economic field were also discussed; and proposals that require further elaboration and investigation in future events were made. However, it was noted that financial assistance alone will not automatically produce success across the continent. There remains the need to make progress in food security, public health, economic growth, and democratic governance. Similarly, Africa’s economic growth requires working with the private sector, increasing African trade competitiveness, and integrating African nations into the global economy with a focus on many sectors deemed essential for Africa such as  public health and health-related issues , agriculture, environment, education, infrastructures, etc.

In this regard, it was posited that innovation and the proper utilization of intellectual property systems for development remain a priority for Africa, since these are considered the key components of economic growth and precursors of employment generation which are indispensible to peace and security. That was why it was noted with concern that Africa’s share of the global R&D output was very minimal at around 1% compared to its resource base and population size which amounts to about 14% of the world’s population. It was noted also that Africa still lags behind in many areas of innovation and technological development while access to knowledge and scientific information in the region remains limited. Remedies to these situations should include better physical and network infrastructures such as those offered by some special international organizations, better human-resource capacity-building and higher levels of collaborative innovations across the world. ICT and related technologies have supported post-conflict management and can play an equally important role in sustainably achieving socio-economic development by linking communities and making exchange of vital information on timely basis possible. Transfers of technology – alongside improved market access to Africa’s trading partners – should become part of a coherent, coordinated international response to Africa’s economic development challenges.

Different perspectives to peace and security were also heard from global partners from different regions including the Arab region, Latin America, Europe, Japan, Russia, China, as well as from international organizations with active interest and positive collaborative initiatives with the African continent. These will be taken into account and useful models of peace and security initiatives will be studied and examples of best practices will be employed to further advance and complement the efforts of the AU and its various organs, as well as the regional economic communities (RECs).

We have heard from Africa’s development partners – national, regional and intergovernmental – on their contributions in peace-making, peace-keeping and development efforts. Africa is aware of all these splendid efforts and appreciates them with sincerity. While doing so, Africans are calling for a paradigm shift in such efforts to eradicate conflict altogether especially by addressing their root causes and catalysts, and by boosting efforts to attain sustainable socio-economic development in a partnership of equals. Supporting the continents efforts at achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the year 2015 should be a primary focus of the international community, while at the same time, intensifying all initiatives that would ensure the continued reign of peace and security in the entire continent.

May God bless Africa, its peoples and its friends!

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