Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, Excellencies,
I wish to express my appreciation to the President of the General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic, for convening this timely thematic debate on the “Peaceful Resolution of Conflicts in Africa.” My warmest gratitude also to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his opening remarks and his constant personal commitment to the prevention and resolution of conflicts in Africa.
Today’s debate takes place at a propitious moment, in the midst of our preparations for the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OUA), the predecessor of the African Union (UA). In 1963, OUA set as one of its priorities the promotion of peaceful solutions to conflicts and the improvement of living standards on the continent. Security and development have thus been inextricably linked from the beginning, along with aspirations for the cohesion of the African continent.
Building on this legacy, the African Union has been engaged in fostering the collective defense, security and stability of its members, and the improvement of the socio-economic conditions of the African peoples. It is making an extraordinary contribution to the maintenance of peace and security on the Continent, in close coordination with the UN and other international partners, and to the forging of African solutions to African problems. Thanks to the continued support of the international community, the AU has developed a toolbox for conflict management and crisis response, through the Africa Peace and Security architecture, and enhanced its capacity to deploy peace operations.
There are challenges: a need for adequate resources, civilian capabilities and expertise, political will to prevent conflicts and disputes, and better coordination of international efforts. Regional and international early-warning mechanisms, including the AU Continental Early Warning System (CEWS), must be strengthened to take notice of potential conflict situations and avert them in an efficient and timely manner. But first and foremost, the root causes of conflicts must be tackled to ensure sustainable peace and foster the substantial progresses and impressive growth that African countries have achieved.
The Sahel crisis has shown us that military influence on political life needs to be reduced so civilian authorities can assume sole responsibility, while greater focus should be placed on strengthening national institutions, promoting human rights, eradicating poverty, and fostering equitable development. African States have the primary responsibility in addressing this challenge, while the international community should offer and provide its support in a coherent and coordinated manner.
We commend the European Union on its comprehensive strategies for the Horn of Africa and the Sahel region and we look forward to the presentation of the UN Integrated Strategy on the Sahel by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the region, Professor Romano Prodi.
Italy is deeply engaged in the prevention and resolution of conflicts in Africa, in full respect for the principle of national and African ownership. We provide assistance and support to our African partners on a bilateral basis or through the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and other African sub- regional organizations. Our initiatives address many areas, from debt cancellation to the empowerment of women, the campaign against female genital mutilations, the involvement of civil society, the fight against malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, the fostering of rural development and employment opportunities, education, countering terrorism and transnational crime, institution and capacity-building, and humanitarian assistance.
Let me mention, in particular, Italy’s support for the AU’s initiatives in the field of peace and security and for the AU’s logistical and operational capacity. In 2007 Italy launched the Italian African Peace Facility (IAPF), our main instrument of cooperation with the AU. Through the IAPF we have already funded more than 30 million euros in programmes, to pay for the salaries, board and medical assistance of one-third of the Somali Security Forces, to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which is still playing a major role in stabilizing Somalia. We have just concluded a three-million-euro training course for 200 units of the Somali Police, delivered by the Italian Carabinieri in collaboration with AMISOM. Through the IAPF we have also supported the activities of the AU Panel of the Wise and the operations of its Secretariat, as well as the AU High-Level Implementation Panel led by former President Thabo Mbeki and its facilitation of the negotiations between the Sudan and South Sudan.
Africa has the experience to forge solutions to its own challenges and contribute to the global goals of inclusive growth, social justice and protecting our environment. The UN and international partners, such as the EU, are ready to back regional efforts. Italy is eager to continue its support for international efforts to promote peace, security and development for the African people and Continent.
For there to be a true African Renaissance, we must all join together – the African peoples, Member States, the United Nations, the African Union, and the European Union and other regional organizations – and engage in a constructive dialogue on long-term peace, human rights, stability and development.
Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, Excellencies,