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Pandemic must not distract from peace, security efforts in Africa, stresses Secretary-General, during debate on cooperation with regional bodies

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SG/SM/20472

Following are UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ remarks, as delivered at the Security Council debate on Cooperation between the United Nations and Regional and Subregional Organizations: African Union, today:

Let me begin by congratulating you on assuming the Presidency of the Security Council for the month of December and for your leadership as Chair of the African Union.

With the support of United Nations special political missions and peacekeeping operations, our partnership has also yielded significant results at the country level. In Libya, the parties signed a ceasefire agreement under the auspices of the United Nations, and political talks have resumed. I am grateful for the [continued] and close engagement of the African Union in support of the ongoing dialogue processes, including as co‑chair of the Security Working Group of the International Follow‑up Committee.

The Contact Group of the African Union High‑Level Committee on Libya, chaired by the President of the Republic of Congo, continues to be an important platform to facilitate UN‑AU joint engagement in Libya. We look forward to continue our cooperation, especially in supporting the organization by the African Union of a Libyan National Reconciliation Conference.

In the Central African Republic, the United Nations has supported the establishment of the African Union Military Observer Mission, and we have seen progress in the implementation of the Peace Agreement brokered by the African Union with our support.

The United Nations has also reinforced its engagement with the Economic Community of Central African Countries (ECCAS), following the establishment of the new ECCAS Commission in September. This stronger collaboration was exemplified by the recent joint visit of senior officials from the UN, AU and ECCAS to the Central African Republic to support the country’s efforts to consolidate peace. Our joint work and close collaboration will be critical in ensuring peace consolidation through the organization of free, credible and fair elections within the constitutional timelines.

The United Nations and the African Union continue to cooperate in South Sudan, where the ceasefire has mostly held, and where improved political stability across the country has generated cautious optimism. We are also working closely with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), including in South Sudan. The United Nations, through my Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, has also supported IGAD in the development of its regional response strategy to address the COVID‑19 pandemic.

We are also working hand‑in‑hand in Sudan, where a new peace agreement between the Government and armed movements is the culmination of a year of constructive talks and a testament to the commitment of the parties to peace. It opens a new chapter, particularly for people living in Darfur, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile.

In Somalia, beyond our support to AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia], we are also supporting the Government on extending State control to additional areas and preparing for new elections.

Our two organisations also worked with the Economic Community of West African States in Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea, before and after elections, and joined efforts to facilitate in September the establishment of the 18‑month transition in Mali.

Together with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the Office of the SADC Facilitator, President [Cyril] Ramaphosa, we are supporting political and institutional efforts towards the implementation of Lesotho’s comprehensive reform process. We are also cooperating with SADC to facilitate the reconfiguration of the Force Intervention Brigade and the joint strategy on the exit of MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo].

Despite these positive steps, the challenges loom large. New conflicts are erupting, the climate emergency is raging and the COVID‑19 pandemic is exacerbating fragilities, impacting disproportionally women and the most vulnerable.

As in other parts of the world, trust is being eroded — which underscores the importance of good governance and respect for human rights. This is not just essential to the continent’s development. It is also crucial to peace and security. Dealing with the pandemic must not take attention away from maintaining peace and security in Africa.

As highlighted in the high‑level dialogue with regional and other organizations I convened a few days ago, we see around the world growing restrictions in civic space and increasing threats to minorities. Terrorist and violent extremist groups are exploiting the uncertainty created by the pandemic, as we observe in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin. I welcome and support the effort of UN entities towards providing assistance to Member States against terrorist and related threats in various African countries.

Enhanced cooperation with the African Union Commission, its African Centre for Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT), and regional bodies in the continent is crucial in that regard. As an example, the UN Office of Counter‑Terrorism is working with the ACSRT to develop options as part of a suite of UN inter‑agency projects to assist Mozambique. But more must be done. I reiterate my appeal that African‑led peace and counter‑terrorism operations receive Security Council mandates, under Chapter VII of the Charter, and predictable funding guaranteed by assessed contributions.

Mr. President, I want to reaffirm my full support to the African Union’s initiative that you lead, to solve the grievances through dialogue. More broadly, I repeat my appeal for a global ceasefire, I also thank Chairperson Moussa Faki for his call on all belligerents to stop fighting, allow access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and enable political solutions.

Earlier this year, I commissioned an independent assessment on the United Nations‑African Union partnership and the work of the UN Office to the AU. It revealed a broad consensus that a strong UN‑AU partnership is essential to address the range of peace and security challenges in Africa. Moreover, it is one of the most important relationships in the domain of international peace and security and a cornerstone of multilateralism.

This process highlighted significant progress in our partnership, both in mission and non-mission settings, but also acknowledged areas for improvement. Our organizations and our action in Africa would benefit from a number of concrete steps: the further institutionalization of our cooperation at every level — a sustainable partnership must be grounded in the trust between the two organizations, and it will also require stronger collaboration among the United Nations Security Council and African Union Peace and Security Council; ensuring — through assessed contributions — the predictability of financing African Union peace support operations; and doing much more to involve and engage women and youth in the peace and security agenda.

To foster resilience and prepare for the challenges of the future, we need to build more networked, inclusive and effective institutions to prevent conflict, reinforce good governance and boost service delivery. In short, we need a renewed multilateralism.

As we mark the seventy‑fifth anniversary of the United Nations, we have embarked on a deep reflection on how we can best advance our common agenda. I count on the African Union to help lead the way. As Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” May his wisdom, compassion and example help us all and inspire us all to get it done.

For information media. Not an official record.