The support of United Nations African member states and that of the African Union Commission in peace operations on the continent has been noted with appreciation by the world body’s Secretary-General.
Speaking to heads of state in Addis Ababa for the African Union Summit at the weekend, Antonio Guterres said the “service and sacrifice of African peacekeepers is at the forefront of our minds”. His address was a day after three Ethiopian peacekeepers serving with the UN mission in Abyei (UNISFA) died in a helicopter crash.
African countries, he said, provide almost half all UN peacekeeping troops – including 60% of all women peacekeepers and the majority of UN police. Guterres acknowledged the sacrifice of African soldiers in AMISOM (the AU Mission in Somalia); the G5 joint force, which counters violent extremism and terrorism in the Sahel; and the Multi-national Joint Task Force in the Lake Chad Basin, set up to restore security in areas affected by the Boko Haram terror group.
“To be fully effective these African peace operations require robust mandates from the Security Council and predictable, sustainable financing, including assessed contributions,” he said.
United Nations peacekeeping operations, the UN chief added, are “increasingly called into areas where there is no peace to keep,” explaining this is why he repeatedly expressed support for peace enforcement and counter-terrorism operations and launched the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative last year. The initiative aims to provide UN missions with the means to be more effective, better equipped, safer and more robust.
Guterres spoke of the “critical” role women’s equality, meaningful participation and leadership have to play in ensuring lasting peace, citing contributions made by FewWise – the African Women’s Network on Mediation – and the African Women Leaders Network. He said both groups were important initiatives for joint UN-AU collaboration.
The Secretary-General said he was determined from his first day in office to forge closer ties between the United Nations and Africa, noting a significant improvement in strategic co-operation between the UN and the African Union. The two sides recently signed frameworks on peace, security and sustainable development, a Joint Declaration on co-operation for peace support operations and the first Human Rights Dialogue, an “encouraging step on a critical issue,” according to Guterres.