Open Debate: Silencing the Guns in Africa
On Thursday (30 March), the Security Council will hold an open debate on “Peace and security in Africa: The impact of development policies in the implementation of the Silencing the Guns initiative”. The anticipated briefers are: Cristina Duarte, Special Adviser of the UN Secretary-General on Africa; Mohamed Ibn Chambas, High Representative of the AU for the Silencing the Guns Initiative; Mirko Manzoni, Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Mozambique; and a civil society representative. President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi of Mozambique is expected to chair the meeting.
AU heads of state and government created the Silencing the Guns in Africa initiative when they pledged “to end all wars in Africa by 2020” in the Solemn Declaration of 26 May 2013 to mark the 50th anniversary of the AU and its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity. As ending conflict is crucial for Africa’s development, Silencing the Guns is one of the flagship projects of the AU’s Agenda 2063 for achieving inclusive and sustainable socioeconomic development over a 50-year period. To promote implementation, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) adopted an AU Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in November 2016. The roadmap sets out a wide range of actions. These include steps to make fully operational the African Standby Force and prevent the circulation of illicit arms, as well as activities to address socio-economic and governance challenges, such as reducing vulnerabilities to livelihoods from climate change and preventing leaders from amending constitutions to extend their terms in office. At a 6 December 2020 extraordinary session on “Silencing the Guns”, the AU Assembly extended the implementation of the AU Master Roadmap for a period of ten years from 2021 to 2030.
The Security Council welcomed the AU’s Silencing the Guns initiative and the AU Master Road Map in resolution 2457 of 27 February 2019 during an open debate organised by then-Council member Equatorial Guinea. Resolution 2457 recognised, among other things, the need for a strong focus on combating poverty, deprivation and inequality, and called upon AU member states to enhance good governance and redouble their efforts with regard to economic development and the promotion of the well-being of their people.
The concept note for tomorrow’s open debate says that the meeting aims “to facilitate a deeper understanding of the contribution that socio-economic factors have in promoting social cohesion, peace, and stability, or, conversely, in triggering conflict, including the resurgence of unconstitutional change of governments in Africa and beyond”. It adds that the debate is an opportunity “to exchange views on…continent specific solutions and innovative ways of preventing conflict, promoting conflict resolution, and ensuring long-term peace and security through inclusive, transparent, and effective development policies”. President Nyusi may share lessons from Mozambique’s experience trying to overcome recurring conflict since its armed struggle for independence.
The AU Master Roadmap underscores, as highlighted in the concept note, Africa’s political history, in particular the impact of three major tragedies: slavery, colonization and the unpaid-for extraction and exploitation of natural resources. As an example, the concept note cites the colonial period’s creation of institutions and infrastructure that were designed to extract resources instead of to provide services to populations, which has led to the concentration of public investment in a few urban centres while leaving vast expanses of territory without state presence. Poor public services and the absence of the state often underly the grievances that foster instability in Africa today or are even exploited by terrorist groups, which have become a major threat to much of the continent. According to the concept note, it is crucial to address the underlying factors that have undermined African countries’ capacity to deliver inclusive and equitable sustainable development.
The concept note outlines six sets of guiding questions that participants may address during the debate:
- What is the best way to ensure complementarity between development and security policies in Africa?
- What are the best practices for ensuring that development policies do not undermine peace and security on the African continent?
- How can progress in the implementation of the Silencing the Guns Road Map inform policymakers and development practitioners in fostering resilience in conflict and emergency scenarios?
- What tools, such as decentralisation and devolution, can be developed to embrace diversity and empower communities?
- What is the role that religious and traditional leadership can play to reinforce African democracies? What are good examples of local management of resources and informal resolution of conflicts facilitated by religious and traditional leadership structures?
- What guiding principles can facilitate the prioritisation of resource allocation in conflict situations? What should be the role of the international community in supporting this prioritisation?
Briefers and members states may draw from findings and recommendations of the Secretary-General’s 15 December 2022 report on the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa (A/77/644-S/2022/959). The report observes that Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 remains one of the most difficult goals for Africa, with 46 of 54 African countries reportedly facing “major challenges” in achieving it, according to calculations by the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa. SDG 16, which is one of 17 SDGs that UN member states adopted in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development seeks to promote peace, justice, and strong institutions.
The December 2022 report echoes the concept note regarding the impact of the colonial period on current shortcomings of African countries’ performance in governance and its relationship to development and conflict. It highlights, among other points, that religious and traditional leaders in Africa, whose role in governance and conflict resolution were undermined by colonisation, can play a key role in complementing formal democratic structures, addressing local needs and promoting social engagement and cohesion.
At tomorrow’s meeting, some members may reflect on the view expressed in the concept note that to deliver inclusive and equitable sustainable development, it is crucial to resolve conflicts through dialogue, promote peace and security through regional and international cooperation, and priortise specific policies and programs given limited resources, among other measures.
The Council’s previous session to consider the AU’s Silencing the Guns initiative was also an open debate, which was held in February 2019 and culminated in the adoption of resolution 2457. Council members have also discussed this initiative on several occasions during their annual consultation with the PSC.