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EUME-Africa Heads of State, Government Meet at ISCP Webinar

Africa/Europe/Middle East—The former president of Malta and the former prime ministers of Burkina Faso, Gabon and Kosovo were the distinguished speakers at the International Summit Council for Peace webinar held on September 11, 2020.

The ISCP online webinar was the second of nine webinars that made up the International Leadership Conference 2020, which took place from September 11 to 13, 2020, and was dedicated to the theme “Opportunity and Hope at a Time of Global Crisis: Interdependence, Mutual Prosperity and Universal Values.”

ILC 2020 commemorated both the centenary of UPF’s co-founder, Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon (1920-2012), and the 15th anniversary of the Universal Peace Federation, inaugurated on September 12, 2005.

Each webinar was held jointly by UPF Europe and the Middle East and by UPF Africa and featured  prominent speakers from both regions.

The speakers at the ISCP webinar were:

H.E. Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, president of Malta (2014-2019)

H.E. Paul Mba, prime minister of Gabon (2009-2012)

H.E. Albin Kurti, prime minister of Kosovo (2020)

H.E. Luc-Adolphe Tiao, prime minister of Burkina Faso (2011-2014)

Adama Doumbia, the president of UPF Africa and coordinator of ISCP-Africa, introduced the panelists and served as moderator.

H.E. Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, the president of Malta (2014-2019) and currently the president of the Eurochild network, said the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the fragility of our world by affecting the socio-economic development of our human family. It has shown the lack of resilience, solidarity, and lack of good leadership of some countries. Communities of children and women, which were vulnerable even before the pandemic, have been much affected. Children’s rights and gender equality are at stake, she said.

COVID-19 undoubtedly has changed the goal posts set by the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, President Coleiro Preca said. State capacity, social trust and solidarity, unity, and leadership are essential to limit the damage and to create the necessary resilience for our nations to face unprecedented challenges. 

Division promoted through populist and nationalistic rhetoric leads to tension and international conflict, the former president said. However, global solidarity is key to fighting COVID-19 and its consequences. A constructive partnership is imperative between Europe and Africa, which are twin continents, as former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker described them in his 2018 state of the union speech. SDG 17 emphasizes the need to revitalize global partnership for sustainable development as a first step to overcoming the present crisis. Unfortunately, we are still too far off this goal, with fewer than ten years to go, she said. The pandemic has revealed the injustices, the inequalities, and the lack of equity in our world and has further compounded them. Today’s choices will determine how far-reaching the negative effects of the pandemic will be in the future. 

President Coleiro Preca said that collective action is essential to rebuilding economies that deliver economic growth, prosperity, and holistic well-being for all. This crisis should be tackled through increased multilateral exchanges of experience, knowledge sharing and joint action.

She reiterated that the international community needs to be concerned about children’s lives. The lockdown of schools has affected more than 1.5 billion children and youth, and the digital divide has never been so evident. Governments, local authorities and non-governmental organizations must support those who have been badly affected to ensure that fundamental human rights are rightfully enjoyed by all. Both Europe and Africa can benefit from each other’s potential and experiences, Mrs. Coleiro Preca said.  A prosperous Africa would provide new opportunities for investment and a supply of a skilled new workforce. However, Europeans must acknowledge this and also realize that Africa should not be exploited. It is encouraging to note that according to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the European Union wants to establish greater political, economic and investment opportunities between Europe and Africa, and move toward a partnership of equals beyond the donor-recipient relationship. The relationship between Africa and Europe has indeed to be built on a partnership of equals. As the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said: “If we don’t solve the problem in Africa, we will not be able to solve the problem in Europe. Africa is of particular concern to us.”

H.E. Paul Mba, the prime minister of Gabon (2009-2012), said the measures taken against COVID-19 have impacted not only the behavior of people worldwide but also geopolitics. The spreading of COVID-19, being a corollary of globalization, is now a threat to globalization and world order. In this difficult context, ideas of a new  paradigm and of deglobalization are emerging. The virtues of the old order have been overshadowed by the emergence of the state as the main player that monopolizes leadership on national and international levels.  States have been given a privileged place in times when supranational organizations have behaved passively in the worst case. Reactions to the pandemic go beyond health measures and also lead to nationalism and xenophobia.

Africa has to adapt to the consequences of the pandemic, if it does not want to stay on the margins, the prime minister said. To reach their development goals, the African countries have to adopt new ways of public management based on the creation of a new framework of international cooperation and solidarity, with a focus on sustainable development such as education, culture, healthcare, industry, ecology, social security, the oceans. Moreover, domestic production should be boosted, especially in vital sectors such as health, food, energy. E-governance and telecommunications should be promoted in the light of better social integration.

Prime Minister Mba said there is a need for cultural and personal identity. As development is an endogenic process, no progress can be made by rejecting one’s culture or identity. The organization of our political system or educational system, for instance, is the result of our culture. Most importantly, peace should be promoted, as it is coming increasingly under threat. Only in a climate of peace can the world develop.

H.E. Albin Kurti, the prime minister of Kosovo (February to June 2020), said that we have been hit by three crises. First, there is the health issue. Second, there is the economic crisis, which is deepening the depression of the global economy, already in stagnation since 2008. Third, and not least, is the crisis of democracy and the rise of authoritarian leaders.

However, as every crisis brings opportunities, we should keep our hearts and eyes open so as not to miss them, he said. Businessmen, understandably, will find their way to profit and will hold to their opportunities. Politicians, however, rather look for opportunities to benefit the society, nation, region, or entire continent, instead of one-sided profit.

The deepening economic crisis has exposed what didn’t work and how we can bring a progressive change. We have come to realize that this change must happen on an international level.

The prime minister then spoke about Kosovo and the Balkans, where small businesses are engaged in an unequal fight against powerful monopolists, or oligarchs.  Good governance and democratization of the economy are therefore indispensable.

COVID-19 has worsened an already hopeless situation, he said. Kosovo’s GDP is expected to shrink by 3 percent this year, which will further increase unemployment. During the four months that Mr. Kurti was prime minister, his government managed not only to contain the spread of the virus but also to bring new hope for change in the country and the region. Unfortunately, the relationship with the Serbian government remains problematic. Its ability for disruption and destruction outperforms its ability to cooperate and build, he said.

In conclusion, he said, poverty, hunger, genocide and disease are no longer issues that countries can solve on their own.  When there is a conflict in one country, there is a refugee crisis in other countries. Diseases in one country travel beyond national borders. Therefore, we must not act merely as citizens of one country but as citizens of the world.

H.E. Luc-Adolphe Tiao, the prime minister of Burkina Faso (2011-2014), was the last panelist to speak.

Our debate today, he said, invites us to reflect deeply on the theme “Opportunities and Hope in Times of Crisis: Interdependence, Mutual Prosperity and Universal Values.” In fact, he said, the elements of this theme have always been at the heart of the thought and vision of UPF co-founders Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon and his wife, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon. COVID-19 has confirmed the interdependence of nations, the relevance of which has always been revealed in their teaching, he said. 

Prime Minister Tiao explained how he experienced the epidemic as an African citizen. First, he mentioned fear-mongering by the great communication channels of the North (Europe) while solidarity with Africa has been weak. The second observation he made is that COVID-19 has been used as a weapon of war in the geopolitical and economic confrontation of those in power in this world. This is illustrated by, among others, the competition between states in vaccine development. Hence, the urgent need for transparency in the management of information on the international scene.

The coronavirus has confirmed the marginalization of Africa on the international scene, he said. However, Africans no longer want to be mere spectators of major global issues. The coronavirus, as it strikes without distinction between rich and poor, north and south, east and west, black and white, calls for a cultural revolution to face the new challenges. A paradigm shift in international relations, a global and united approach, and worldwide solidarity are required. The teaching of Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon and her late husband call for a new culture centered on God, the family, universal values and living for the sake of others. If humanity lives up to these values, peace, solidarity and fraternity will prosper. Therefore, the initiatives of the Mother of Peace deserve our support. The prime minister said that the debates organized by UPF should have an echo in all international bodies at the level of each country.

To conclude, he quoted former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “UPF will become a cornerstone in building lasting peace in the world.”

Question-and-Answer Session

To former President Coleiro Preca: As a prominent leader of Malta, the European nation in closest proximity to Africa and one that has a significant African diaspora, what are the two best things Europe can do to right past and present failings toward Africa?

The president answered that two main things come to mind. First and foremost, Europeans should look differently at Africa. It should not be a donor-recipient relationship. The African continent is a land of opportunity, she said. Besides this, children, communities and nations should be empowered. We need to ensure that we include and appreciate each other’s cultures when relating to one another.  

President Coleiro Preca said she would like to see Europeans engage in sustainable partnerships of equals between African and European states, between the European Union and the African Union. We need a holistic approach in the way we approach and help each other and especially the young people in Africa, she said. Africans know best what their needs are and how they can develop. Therefore, they should be given more space in their dialogue with Europeans. Most importantly, she said, without peace there can never be prosperity. Therefore no European state should facilitate or fuel conflicts on the African continent.

To H.E. Albin Kurti: Would a policy of European nations making a much greater investment in Africa, in order to create jobs and prosperity there, help to solve the refugee crisis and be better for both Africa and Europe, instead of spending much money on preventing illegal migration into Europe?

Prime Minister Kurti answered that people want to stay and work together. They want to integrate. In a globalized world we should integrate the economy, which implies integrated investment and fewer inequalities, he said. People will integrate and be peaceful if they feel equal. The Mediterranean is a factory of civilizations. It is not something that divides Europe and Africa; it is rather something we have come from. 

To H.E. Paul Mba: What are, in a nutshell,  the main areas in which Europe and Africa can best cooperate to mutual advantage?

Prime Minister Mba answered: “I will tackle just two aspects, even though there are many. First, we need to make the utmost of the mutual capabilities that exist both in Africa and Europe. Notably in the field of health and medicinal herbs, Africans can make a great contribution. Communication is poor in Africa. Education has an important role to play in that regard. There should be joint educational programs to meet the needs in both continents. Conflicts may not be avoided 100 percent, but they should be avoided as much as possible.”

To H.E. Luc-Adolphe Tiao: How could the COVID-19 crisis lead to reconciliation in Africa? What have we learned in terms of the common destiny of nations? How does it impact our future way of thinking and promoting reconciliation in Africa?

The prime minister answered: “Burkina Faso has also seen massive terrorist attacks, which will have a great impact on the upcoming elections. It is not certain yet whether it will be possible to properly organize them or whether they will be organized at all, which is a great problem for democracy. The coronavirus has hit the economy hard and has forced us to totally review our way of governance. Our lack of communication makes it difficult to put in place prevention campaigns to fight the pandemic. We therefore need to develop our own strategies and reimagine our ways of communication.”

To close the ISCP webinar, Katherine Rigney, the regional chair of UPF-Africa, gave a message of goodwill. She thanked the heads of state and government, as well as Ambassadors for Peace, for showing the way forward to build a peaceful and unified world by working together in the International Summit Council for Peace.

Indeed, the ISCP, initiated by UPF co-founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon in February 2019, is an international network and meeting place for current and former heads of state and government, who, through dialogue and collaboration, explore solutions and offer recommendations to address the world’s critical problems, including climate change and environmental issues, religious conflicts, poverty, war, corruption and family breakdown.

To conclude, she shared the content of the declaration made by Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon at the first Rally of Hope on August 9, 2020. In front of many heads of state and government and world leaders, Dr. Moon said: “If Heavenly Parent is at the center of a community of people united under the values of interdependence, mutual prosperity and universal values, all problems can be solved. Peace can be achieved only with God at the center of the universe.”

To go back to the executive summary for the Africa-EUME ILC, click here.

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