Africa continent of hope amid problems

Tuesday February 7 2017

United Nations

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (right) and Delcy Eloina Rodriguez Gomez, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, shake hands during their meeting on January 13, 2017 in New York City. He said the world has much to gain from African wisdom, ideas and solutions. PHOTO | AFP  

By ANTONIO GUTERRES
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Far too often, the world views Africa through the prism of problems.

When I look to Africa, I see a continent of hope, promise and vast potential.

I am committed to building on those strengths and establishing a higher platform of cooperation between the United Nations and the leaders and people of Africa.

This is essential to advancing inclusive and sustainable development and deepening cooperation for peace and security.

That is the message I carried to the recent African Union Summit in Addis Ababa — my first major mission as United Nations Secretary-General.

Above all, I came in a spirit of profound solidarity and respect.

I am convinced that the world has much to gain from African wisdom, ideas and solutions.

I also brought with me a deep sense of gratitude. Africa provides the majority of UN peacekeepers.

African nations are among the world’s largest and most generous hosts of refugees.

Africa includes some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

The recent resolution of the political crisis in The Gambia once again demonstrated the power of African leadership and unity to overcome governance challenges and uphold democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

I left the summit more convinced than ever that all of humanity will benefit by listening, learning and working with the people of Africa.

SOLVING CONFLICTS

The international community has entered the second year of implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an all-out effort to tackle global poverty, inequality, instability and injustice.

Africa has adopted its own complementary and ambitious plan: Agenda 2063.

For the people of Africa to fully benefit, these two agendas need to be strategically aligned.

Our world needs to move from managing crises to preventing them. We need to break the cycle of responding too late and too little.

Most of today’s conflicts are internal, triggered by competition for power and resources, inequality, marginalisation and sectarian divides.

Often, they are inflamed by violent extremism or provide the fuel for it.

The UN is committed to working with partners wherever conflict or the threat of conflict endangers stability and well-being.

But prevention goes far beyond focusing solely on conflict.

The best means of prevention and the surest path to durable peace is inclusive and sustainable development.

UPLIFT WOMEN AND YOUTH

We can speed up progress by doing more to provide opportunities to young people.

More than three out of five Africans are below 35.

Making the most of this tremendous asset means more investment in education, training, decent work, and engaging young people in shaping their future.

We must also empower women so they can play a full role in sustainable development.

I am pleased that the African Union has consistently placed a special focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

I travelled to Africa as a partner, friend and committed advocate for changing the narrative about this continent.

From a higher platform of cooperation, we can see the enormous potential and the success stories.

I have no doubt we can win the battle for sustainable and inclusive development, which is also the best means to prevent conflict and suffering, allowing Africa to shine even more vibrantly and inspire the world.

Mr Guterres is Secretary-General of the United Nations