Africa Least Responsible for Climate Disruption, but among First to Suffer Its Worst Effects, Secretary-General Tells Regional Summit

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I congratulate incoming Chairperson President [Cyril] Ramaphosa, and I commend President [Abdel Fattah] al-Sisi for his service as Chairperson over the past year for the achievements for the African Union.

The United Nations’ strategic partnership with the African Union is of paramount importance for us.  Since I took office, I have sought to build stronger ties between our two organizations, based on shared values, mutual respect, common interests and, if I may, my own deep personal commitment to Africa’s peace, prosperity and well-being and my conviction that Africa’s challenges can only be solved by African leadership.

We see the fruits of those efforts in what we have agreed and achieved together, a far-reaching joint African Union-United Nations framework on peace and security on the continent.  I commend the African Union for making Silencing the Guns such a prominent part of its work for 2020.  And a comprehensive plan to make the most of our complementary sustainable development programmes — the UN’s global 2030 Agenda and Africa’s Agenda 2063.  I can guarantee the full support of the United Nations for this landmark initiative.  Ultimately, Silencing the Guns is not just about peace and security but also inclusive sustainable development and human rights.

Today I wish to highlight three challenges of particular urgency.  First, making further inroads against poverty through a critical Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.  The eradication of poverty remains an essential social and moral obligation for humankind.  Second, tackling the climate crisis.  And third, silencing the guns.

On poverty, Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development have galvanized Africa’s Governments and their development partners.  I commend the African Union for completing the first report on the country-level implementation of the 10-year implementation plan of Agenda 2063.  This is a key milestone on the path to realizing the “Africa We Want”.  We can point to significant improvements in living standards, including access to quality education, health care, food security, basic social services and infrastructure.

But progress remains slow and uneven when it comes to eradicating poverty and ending exclusion.  Africa has long been a victim of a globalization that has not benefitted all nations equitably, with agricultural and other subsidies, trade and financial rules, and distorted markets working often to the detriment of the continent.  That is why I will continue to advocate for a fair globalization that works for all nations and all peoples.

I have been witnessing the efforts of many Governments in Africa to eliminate corruption, reform tax systems and improve governance and institutions.  But the international community must complement these efforts with much stronger determination in fighting tax evasion, money-laundering and illicit flows of capital.  These have been depriving African countries of essential resources for development.

One key to poverty eradication is the promotion of gender equality and the rights and meaningful engagement of women and girls.  Again, we have seen advances across Africa, but, as is the case everywhere in the world, much remains to be done.  At the bottom line this is a question of power.  We still live in a male-dominated world and this will have to change.  That is why I have made gender parity a centrepiece of United Nations reform and gender equality and the advancement of women a top priority in all the United Nations does.

Peace, social cohesion and sustainable development require women’s contributions and leadership.  It is our joint responsibility to ensure that women are not excluded from critical decision-making in peace processes and post-conflict governance.  I commend the efforts of the African Women Leaders Network and FEMWISE-AFRICA in strengthening the role of women in conflict prevention and mediation.

It is also necessary to engage and empower Africa’s youth.  They too have a vital contribution to make as agents of change and must not be marginalized or excluded.  In its seventy-fifth anniversary year, the United Nations is committed to listening to youth and all actors to determine how to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and the future we want.  I am inspired by young people across Africa who have become advocates for peace through dialogue and addressing the root causes of conflict.  Let us work to provide not only social space to young people, but opportunities for work and incomes.

Let me turn now to the climate crisis.  The past 10 years were the hottest on record and global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.  Africa is the least responsible for climate disruption yet is among the first and worst to suffer.  Its nations need assistance to build resilience to adapt to the inevitable impacts to come.  Temperature rise in Africa is twice the global average.  Last year was devastating; along with the destruction of cyclones Idai and Kenneth, there are numerous underreported climate-linked crises from the Sahel to Zambia, from Kenya to Madagascar.

A climate-related locust infestation is causing misery across vast swathes of East Africa.  Addressing climate-related security risks in the Horn of Africa, Central Africa and the Sahel must be a priority.  Ultimately, science tells us the solution to the climate crisis is to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees from pre-industrial levels and boost resilience.  That means achieving global climate neutrality by 2050.

Major emitting countries and industrial sectors that are not yet claiming they are doing something so have a particular responsibility.  If they don’t deliver, all our efforts will be in vain.  We need more ambition on mitigation and, especially for Africa’s sake, more ambition on adaptation and financing to build resilience of African countries and communities and allow for effective recovery and reconstruction.  I commend Africa’s long-standing moral and political leadership on the climate emergency.  COP25 was a disappointment.  It is imperative that we work together to make COP26 a success so Africa can receive the support and resources it needs.

There is also a link between climate change and the unprecedented locust crisis plaguing Ethiopia and East Africa.  Warmer seas mean more cyclones, generating the perfect breeding ground for locusts.  I express my deep solidarity with the people and communities affected.  The United Nations has issued an urgent appeal for assistance.  I ask the international community to respond with speed and generosity.

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