A key message from the High-level General Debate yesterday is the emergence of a new Africa. There are reasons for optimism. Long-lasting conflicts are on the way to be ended and peace-building is firmly taking root in many African nations. Democracy, good governance and the rule of law are gaining ground on the continent. We see economic growth in many parts of Africa, and there is increased intra African trade and investments.
The OAU/AU and not least the NEPAD can claim their share of the credit for the "African Renaissance" in promoting unity and cooperation among the African nations. Norway therefore welcomes the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the OAU/AU at the UN General Assembly. We expect that this event will further consolidate the close partnership between the AU and the UN. We need enhanced cooperation between the AU and UN both in preparations and training for peace operations, and in enhancing political and operational capacities. We welcome the AU’s efforts to make the protection of civilians a priority in all operations. Gender issues should always be heeded when planning and executing such operations.
Yet, despite these hopeful signs, Africa faces fundamental challenges. Development in Mali, DR Congo and the Central African Republic is alarming. Fragility and insecurity are nurtured by transnational organized crime, piracy and terrorism, which continue to plague the Horn of Africa, Western Africa and the Sahel region. The recent progress in Somalia and the peace process between Sudan and South Sudan is fragile.
Peace and security and sustainable development are closely inter-linked. Despite solid economic growth in many parts of Africa, far too many people suffer from extreme poverty. A large majority of the Least Developed Countries are from Africa. Most of the countries are highly vulnerable to external shocks, the effects of climatic changes and environmental degradation. Norway is deeply committed to support Africa’s fight against poverty through investments, trade, capacity building and aid.
The establishment of an effective, professional and accountable security sector is a cornerstone of peace and sustainable development. The bulk of the international community’s assistance in security sector reform takes place in, and is directed to, countries in Africa. At the same time, a number of African countries are becoming important providers of such assistance, promoting intra-African collaboration and African perspectives. This is highly encouraging.
Sustainable peace and development cannot be anchored without national ownership. This does not imply that only authorities in a given country must be in the lead, but all segments of society must be given a voice. It is obvious that domestic resource mobilization will further enhance such ownership.
It goes without saying that the gender dimension is of crucial importance, which covers girls’ access to education, women’s effective participation in political and economic life and put in place effective measures to combat gender based violence. Africa cannot advance without fully empowering its women.
Many African nations are at a cross-road. Important achievements can be washed away by relapse of old conflicts or the emergence of new armed conflicts. A far more attractive option would be to stay the course of peaceful settlement of conflicts through mediation, build democratic societies and foster economic and social progress. In choosing the latter course, Africa and the AU can rely on the support from the whole international community. We all have a stake in the future of Africa.