Guterres urges Africa to “unleash its peace power”

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United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres maintains peace is the key to unlocking Africa’s future as well as strengthening the continent’s voice when it comes to building peace globally.

Addressing the Security Council (SC) last week, the top UN official said “now is the time to unleash Africa’s peace power”. He opened an SC debate on global security and development challenges, convened by Mozambique, SC president for the month of May.

Calling Africa “an important voice for the global good” Guterres cited examples of how the continent has shown “unity and solidarity in a fractured world”. These include focusing on ending poverty and hunger, supporting refugees, achieving sustainable development and pushing for reform of the decades-old global financial system.

According to him efforts like these require peace in Africa and beyond as “too many Africans are caught up in the hell of conflicts or living with the relentless danger of terrorism and violent extremism in their communities”.

Addressing the war and “deepening humanitarian nightmare” in Sudan, he warned increased hostilities in El Fasher are “opening an alarming new chapter” in the conflict, now in its second year.

“We need a concerted global push for a ceasefire followed by a comprehensive peace process to end the bloodshed,” he said.

Guterres outlined three steps to strengthen Africa’s peace leadership, both on the continent and globally.

“First – we need peace in Africa itself,” he said, naming the UN partnership with the African Union (AU) and support for its ‘Silencing the Guns’ initiative. He commended the SC adoption of resolution 2719 last year which allows AU-led peace support operations with SC mandates to access UN assessed contributions.

The AU and UN “will continue working together to defuse conflicts before they escalate, manage them effectively when they occur and build sustainable peace when they are resolved.”

Secondly, African participation and leadership must be embedded across “global peace and security architecture”.

Guterres stressed the need to reform the UNSC and other global institutions established following World War Two and now outdated.

Structural inequalities resulted in African states suffering disproportionately from the effect of conflict, an unjust global financial system and the climate crisis.  At the same time, according to him, they are stepping up and contributing to global peace efforts.

Guterres commended Kenya for spearheading the upcoming multilateral security support mission to Haiti to bolster national efforts to quell rampant gang violence and praised other African countries which have offered to send troops.

The Secretary-General was insistent that Africa deserves a voice in the global peace and security architecture.

“But strengthening Africa’s voice can only happen if African countries can participate in global governance structured as equals. This must include correcting the lack of permanent African representation at this Council.”

The Secretary-General pointed to the September Summit of the Future at UN Headquarters as an opportunity to push forward on this and other issues, including reform of the global financial system.