Africa Regional Consultation
11 February 2015
Address of Mr. José Ramos-Horta
Excellencies, representatives from all countries present here,
civilian and military,
Respected members of Academia and Civil Society,
Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of my distinguished colleagues whom you have met, I wish to sincerely thank the Government of Ethiopia and our colleagues at the UN Office to the African Union, and all the other authorities who have made possible this gathering in Addis and made us feel very welcome.
I also thank AU Commission Chairperson Zuma, for her kind invitation for the Panel to visit the AU and we have already had good discussions with her and her team. Yesterday, we also had good discussions with the Foreign Minister. I was also very pleased to see that, during the recent summit, the Assembly welcomed the establishment of this Panel, and looked forward to our interactions this week. I share their view that an innovative and forward-looking UN-AU partnership is critical to the future of peace and security on this Continent.
Another word of appreciation is due to all the distinguished diplomatic representatives, experts and civil society participants, many of whom have come a long way from other countries in the region. I thank the Governments of Norway and the United Kingdom for making it possible to have so many civil society friends from the region with us today and tomorrow. I would also like to thank our friends from the Training for Peace project: ACCORD, ISS and NUPI who worked so closely with our support staff at HQ to bring this event together.
The Panel held its first meeting in New York in November 2014, where we interacted with a wide range of Permanent Missions, key UN inter-governmental bodies such as the Security Council and key General Assembly bodies, as well as UN departments and agencies in both New York and Geneva. In January, we met with representatives of the Asia-Pacific region in Dhaka. Some of us have also visited Tokyo, Islamabad and Delhi for follow up discussions.
Following our discussions here, other regional consultations will be held in Europe, the Middle East and Latin America.
Excellencies, today, the nature of conflicts and the types of actors involved are changing and the tasks undertaken by UN as well as AU peace operations also continue to evolve. The number of UN missions on the ground – peacekeeping operations and special political missions – is higher than ever. They are operating in some of the most demanding environments imaginable. And in a climate of financial constraints, the UN – and the broader international community – is being asked to do more with less. For these reasons, the Secretary-General has asked our Panel to undertake this review. His goal is to ensure UN peace operations are ready to face the current and future demands of a changing world.
Strong and strategic partnership with the African Union, regional mechanisms and regional economic commissions, and its member states will be key to more effective peace operations. Already we see many important and varied forms of partnership across several operations today, in Mali, CAR, Darfur, and Somalia and between UN mediators and AU missions or vice versa. The political coherence of these collective efforts, in particular, is very important. This week, we would like to better understand your views on this important partnership and your vision for the future.
The aim of our consultation today is to listen to the experiences and concerns of Member States, civil society and think tanks about peace operations – and what many of you refer to here as peace support operations – and to solicit suggestions for the Panel’s consideration.
Within UN operations, Africans are an important and growing stakeholder. At the close of 2013, Africa became the leading provider of uniformed personnel to UN peacekeeping, accounting for about 44% of the total. Our host today is the largest contributor from the Continent. In addition, some 80% of all personnel serving in UN peace operations are in Africa. If we count the additional operations currently undertaken by all – including operations by the African Union and its regional mechanisms and regional economic commissions – 70% of all peace operations are currently in Africa. Your envoys are working to support peacemaking efforts across the continent, often working closely with envoys of the Secretary-General and UN mediation experts. Many of the countries represented here have also championed the importance of prevention efforts. All of these dimensions – prevention, peacemaking, as well as complex issues related to the use of force and sustainable peacebuilding – are issues that the Panel is wrestling with. For this reason, we have been very keen indeed to come to Addis and engage with you as vital stakeholders.
It cannot be questioned that, in many respects, the future of peace operations is closely tied to the future of efforts to advance peace and security across Africa. You all have deep experience and I look forward with great interest to our exchanges.
So thank you for taking the time to join us in this city and to offer us, Panel Members, your informed advice and rich experience on many questions that are before us:
– How should the UN – to which we all belong and which we all need – better serve the cause of peace?
– How should we – individually as Member States and collectively as the United Nations – redeem ourselves after past and current failings? For there are many.
– How can the UN and regional organizations work together on behalf of countries and peoples striving for a more peaceful future?
– How should we better anticipate, prevent and resolve conflicts?
– How should we better protect the people – girls, boys, women and men – caught up in war?
– How can we ensure women fully participate in crafting the political settlement after conflict and in ensuring sustainable peace and security?
– How can we deploy UN peace operations in a more timely, relevant fashion?
Given the central importance of the UN-AU partnership:
– What lessons have been learned about this partnership and the experiences to date?
– How can the UN, AU and African member states work together toward a shared understanding and an agreed strategic partnership?
– How can the coherence of these respective efforts be strengthened and adequately resourced?
I personally know Africa reasonably well. I have traveled to many countries on the Continent over the years, in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. Several of your countries contributed to peace and security stabilization in my own country during the early years of United Nations administration of Timor-Leste, far from your homes.
Others of you I may know from my time as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Guinea-Bissau. During this time, I came to understand better the challenges of working to address conflict but also the wealth of spirit and energy that can help to build a strong future; the strength of communities and people – particularly women who play critical roles not only in the home but in the economy and political life. And the youth who I had the pleasure to work with; they are the future.
In Guinea-Bissau, ECOWAS played an essential role and, through their efforts, I came to see firsthand the vital role played by regional organizations who are often the first to respond to crises.
Recently, this Continent and particularly West Africa have suffered greatly as a result of the Ebola outbreak. Not only Africa but many health workers around the world have responded, understanding that we are all part of an increasingly interconnected world. Allow me to say again that out poor my country was first to deliver $2m – $1m in 2014 and $1m this semester in spite of the dramatic decrease in the oil price.
As seen in the recent AU Summit, serious peace and security challenges remain as well. Complex civil wars have recurred in some cases. In addition, non-state armed groups are aligning with criminal groups or international extremist networks, creating regional threats. Civilians and, in particular, women and girls, continue to be the target of attacks, sexual violence, and forcible recruitment into armed groups.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our esteemed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has encouraged the Panel to be “bold and creative”. Those are his words. We are here to ask you to be bold and creative and to help us craft a vision for our shared United Nations and its partnerships with Africa that can more effectively serve the many people caught up in conflict and its destabilizing effects. We come to Addis to ask for your help, your wisdom, your experience, and your support. We come to Addis to work with you in partnership.
I have said enough. In the next few days we will listen and learn from you.
May God the Almighty bless and inspire us all as we search for solutions to our shared problems.