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I. Gambari: Address to World Summit 2013


Prepared Text

While Africa has achieved much progress in leaving behind the shadows of its colonial past and in promoting development and democratization on the continent, it continues to grapple with ways to end violent conflicts with their devastating record of deaths, suffering, and displacement of civilian populations.

African leaders are also grappling with continued widespread underdevelopment and poverty.

Conflicts in the 21st century -- in the world in general and in Africa in particular -- are characterized by their multi-dimensional nature and complex causes, such as inequality, state failure, political, economic and social marginalization, scarcity of resources, human rights violations, environmental degradation, and others.

Globalization and the rapid implementation of neo-liberal economic policies also played a part in weakening state sovereignty in Africa.

Most conflicts in Africa today are intra-state conflicts but with considerable regional and international implications and involvement. In addition to conflicting interests of rebel groups fighting the government -- as well as, in some instances, other non-state actors -- terrorist networks around the globe have become involved in the majority of conflicts plaguing Africa from the Sahel region all the way to the Somali coast.

Such conflicts cannot be addressed solely by preventive diplomacy, political negotiations and mediation, peacemaking and peacekeeping, and the use of force. Nor can they be resolved only through national actions alone. What is needed is an integrated and comprehensive yet coherent approach that includes, in addition to political and military activities, transparent and urgent improvements in the areas of environmental protection, human rights, good governance, democratization, economic growth, and poverty eradication.

In this context, human development is hugely important. The first global Human Development Report was launched by the United Nations Development Programme in 1990 and defined human development as being about enlarging people’s freedoms, choices, and capabilities. It was based on the assumption that when human development advances, people live longer and lead healthier lives, are better educated, have more income, and can live in greater dignity.

Regrettably, however, it seems that understanding and practice remain disjointed and ill-conceived, and intervention continues to have limited effect.

Drawing from past practical experiences

It is widely acknowledged that development actors have to play an increasingly vital role in peacebuilding. In addition, what is required is more effective coordination and cooperation among the various peacebuilding actors. The UN Agendas for Peace and Development, the OECD Development Assistance Committee Guidelines on Conflict, Peace, and Development Cooperation, and numerous governmental and intergovernmental policy statements reflect this change in thinking.

It is in the same vein that in 2003, the African Peer Review Mechanism was launched to foster the adoption of policies, standards, and practices that lead to political stability, higher economic growth, sustainable development, and accelerated sub-regional and continental economic integration. This mechanism attempts to achieve this through sharing of experiences and reinforcing successful and best practices, including identifying deficiencies and assessing requirements for capacity building. It is a self-monitoring mechanism within the New Partnership for Africa’s Development that can be voluntarily acceded by African countries.

The process focuses on four thematic areas to assess a state’s compliance with a wide range of African and international human rights treaties and standards:

  • Democracy and political governance;
  • Economic governance and management;
  • Corporate governance; and
  • Socioeconomic development.

The mandate of the mechanism is to encourage conformity in regard to political, economic, and corporate governance values, codes, and standards among African countries, and the objectives in socioeconomic development within the New Partnership for Africa's Development.

In 2006, the African Union also developed a Draft Policy Framework on Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development, which is conceived as a tool to

  • Consolidate peace and prevent relapse of violence;
  • Help address the root causes of conflict;
  • Encourage fast-track planning and implementation of reconstruction activities; and
  • Enhance complementarity and coordination between diverse actors.

The policy framework outlines six focal elements: security; humanitarian/emergency assistance; political governance and transition; socio-economic reconstruction and development; human rights, justice and reconciliation; and women and gender.

It emphasizes collaboration between state and non-state actors in determining priority areas for engagement and the design and implementation of programs. It also calls for the promotion of gender equality and women’s participation.

However, until recently, the implementation of the framework has been lagging; the African Union has been more preoccupied with peacemaking and peacekeeping efforts than with post-conflict reconstruction.

Recommendations and the way forward

The real challenge is to design better-informed, more comprehensive conflict management strategies -- including all the various actors involved -- to address the root causes of the respective conflict in all aspects and dimensions. In this regard, in the planning and implementation of strategies and programs designed to prevent, manage, and sustainably resolve violent conflicts, the following requirements should be given adequate consideration:

  • Deep-rooted understanding of the conflict dynamics, trends, and drivers through the conduct of a comprehensive conflict analysis and mapping and linking the outcomes thereof to programming priorities and objectives.
  • Adoption of a holistic approach (rather than piecemeal). But this is often difficult to translate down to a practical level because of contextual difficulties, the multiplicity of actors, the lack of political will, and/or human and financial resources.
  • National and local ownership: the affected countries set their own strategies and agendas for addressing the root causes of the conflict and donors and international actors to align behind the objectives and priorities of their national partners. This also includes the need to prioritize local actors (i.e. local NGOs, authorities, etc.)
  • Civil society and community engagement are key in efforts towards lasting peace and development.
  • Promoting inclusive development across all communities and parts of societies, including women, youth, and elderly: Eradicating poverty and fighting inequality and ensuring food security and basic livelihoods for all citizens.

Promoting youth employment: If youth cannot be productive members of our society they will feel disenfranchised and marginalized with possible attendant negative consequences for political and societal stability within a country. Marginalized youth may gravitate towards violence as a means to an end.

Promoting women’s participation: In the conflicts of today, women and children are the most affected. Women have to be included in the planning and implementation of peace, reconciliation, and development processes to ensure that peace and recovery is sustainable. In this regard, the Beijing Platform for Action, agreed on at the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 recognized that the active participation of women in decision-making processes was a prerequisite for equality, development, and peace.

  • Coherence and complementarity through increased coordination and cooperation among the intervening actors (donors, peacekeeping missions, implementing agencies and NGOs, etc.) in ALL stages of the intervention:

Efforts already underway to enhance coherence and complementarity: the requirement established by the UN Secretary-General to develop multidimensional, integrated peacekeeping missions; integrated strategic frameworks defining joint UN action across all UN missions and agencies in a particular country/region; the work of the UN Peacebuilding Commission and the UN Peacebuilding Fund.

Obstacles to coordination may include: the structure of the government and local administration (e.g. competition between departments); differences in approach, institutional cultures, opinions and administrative procedures between different institutions and departments; a multiplicity of actors with, at times, conflicting agendas, mandates and financial means; donor priorities overriding country priorities; multiplicity of coordination mechanisms which in themselves can result in new layers of bureaucracy and many others.

  • Making efficient use of limited resources and avoiding duplication and funding gaps.
  • Balance the need for short-term humanitarian assistance with medium- and long-term recovery and development planning and implementation so as to reap the peace dividends as early as possible.


Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted in 2000: “Human security encompasses human rights, good governance, access to education and healthcare and ensuring that each individual has opportunities and choices to fulfill his or her own potential. Every step in this direction is also a step towards reducing poverty, achieving economic growth, and preventing conflict. Freedom from want, freedom from fear and the freedom of future generations to inherit a healthy natural environment – these are the interrelated building blocks of human and therefore national security.”

Promoting sustainable peace, therefore, requires a human security and a human development orientation. High-level political commitment and coordinated public policy and initiatives will play a critical role in overcoming continuing challenges to the nexus of peace, security, and human development.

For more information about World Summit 2013, click here.