Open session on the Commemoration of the International Day of Peace

Living in Peace Together

Date | 21 September, 2021

Tomorrow (21 September) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is set to convene its 1033rd session, which will be an open session dedicated to the commemoration of international day of peace. Council will receive briefing on the second edition of the Luanda biennale “pan-African forum for the culture of peace” at the session.

Following the opening remarks of the PSC Chairperson of the month and Permanent Representative of Chad to the AU, Mahamat Ali Hassan, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, is expected to make a statement. It is also expected that Amira El Fadil, Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development will be making remarks. Representatives of the Republic of Angola, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as well as United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are also expected to make presentations. A statement is also expected to be delivered by Solomon Dersso Founding Director of Amani Africa. All AU member States and the Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs) are envisaged to participate in the session.

A joint initiative of the AU, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Government of Angola, the Pan-African Biennale was held for the first time in September 2019, in Luanda, where it was agreed that the forum shall be convened every two years. The first edition of the forum served to highlight the importance of strategic partnerships to scale up projects for sustainable peace in Africa, the value of disseminating good practices for the prevention and resolution of conflicts and the need to showcase cultural diversity in Africa and demonstrate the resilience of the people in the face of conflicts. Tomorrow’s briefing is expected to elaborate the main contents of the second edition of the biennale which is planned to take place on 4 October, under the theme “Strengthening the Pan-African Movement for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence: Towards a Global Partnership”.

As indicated in the concept note for the biennale, one of the thematic areas of focus expected to feature at the event is “the contribution of arts, culture and heritage to peace”, in line with AU’s theme for the year 2021. As emphasised by the PSC at its 995th meeting commemorating “International Day of Living Together in Peace”, respect for history, heritage and religious and cultural diversity are fundamental for maintaining peace. Similarly, at its 928th session committed to the same theme, Council underscored the need to address the underlying root-causes of conflicts in the continent including “inequalities, exclusion, marginalization, as well as mismanagement of ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity”. As demonstrated in different crises throughout Africa, intolerance for religious and cultural diversity is among the main factors instigating and exacerbating conflicts and violence. In connection with that, tomorrow’s briefing may address the growing concern over terrorism and violent extremism in the continent, which are largely the results of fundamentalism that is based on intolerance of diversity. Promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogues therefore needs to be emphasised as a critical means of countering intolerance, a major underlying root-cause for conflicts as well as the increasing incidence of terrorism and extremism in Africa. AU’s 2021 theme also presents the best opportunity to demonstrate through various arts, Africa’s rich heritage as well as the diverse history, culture and religion of its people as a way of promoting better appreciation and respect for varied identities, thereby strengthening the culture of peace.

In addition to intolerance of diversities, deeply entrenched inequalities also contribute immensely to the outbreak and exacerbation of violence and conflicts in Africa. Ethnic, religious and other minorities, indigenous people and other marginalised groups are particularly most impacted as a result of legal norms or State practices which result in unequal treatment among citizens. Exclusion of specific sects of society, principally women, from participation and decision-making in peace processes and other State affairs is also another adverse impact of inequality on nurturing sustainable peace and development. Most importantly, the dominance of power and consequently, access to wealth and resource resting in the hands of very few, while an overwhelming majority of the continent’s population lives under poverty lines is a principal reason for the creation of social divides in Africa. This is further complicated by either perceived or manifest ethnic dimensions to such class divides which have in multiple cases led to the creation of interethnic and clan based tensions culminating in political crises and armed conflicts. Violation of civil and political rights, lack of good governance and corruption also form part of factors which contribute to the creation and furthering of socio-economic inequalities. Tomorrow’s briefing may reflect on how governments, civil society and the people at large could better utilise existing AU norms and frameworks on equality, human rights and democracy, to effectively fight against socio-economic inequalities.

Another topic that may feature at tomorrow’s briefing is the contribution and importance of Africa’s youth for the sustainability of peace and stability on the continent. One of the thematic areas of focus at the upcoming biennale, youth engagement in peace processes throughout the phases of conflict prevention, management and resolution is paramount to ensuring that peace efforts will have lasting impact. Also taking into account that Africa’s youth constitutes almost 60% of the continent’s population, it is important to take advantage of this and work towards building a generation that advances and champions peaceful settlement of disputes. It is also to be recalled that at its 933rd session on “Youth, Peace and Security”, Council emphasised the importance of increasing youth involvement in peace and security efforts and recognising the youth as resourceful agents for peace and security as well as for socio-economic development, and particularly, their role in the realisation of the Silencing the Guns agenda. In light of that, Council highlighted the importance of ensuring full implementation of the various relevant instruments including the African Youth Charter, Aspiration number four of Agenda 2063, as well as the Continental Framework on Youth, Peace and Security and its 10-year implementation plan. At tomorrow’s session, Council may reiterate its request for the AU Commission to collaborate with the regional economic communities and regional mechanisms (RECs/RMs) towards the popularisation and implementation of the Continental Framework and its 10-year implementation plan.

The last theme which will be addressed at this year’s Luanda biennale is the potential of Africa’s maritime domain for fostering peace and development. The importance of Africa’s blue economy for the continent’s sustainable development and integration, and therefore the need to ensure its effective management was among the key concerns stressed by the PSC at its 834th session. At a more recent session convened on maritime security (Council’s 1012th meeting), emphasis was given to the need for concerted efforts, particularly among littoral States, to address maritime insecurity and its root-causes, including through adoption of security and military measures. One of the more contemporary concerns around the African maritime sector is also the vulnerability and exposure of sea traders to cyber attack. Hence, in addition to the traditional threats such as piracy and other crimes committed at sea, there is need for addressing cyber security concerns within the maritime domain, mainly through incorporating cyber security measures in instruments and frameworks dealing with Africa’s maritime security. Tomorrow’s briefing may capture the major challenges to Africa’s effective utilisation of its maritime domain and reflect on the available normative standards for addressing these challenges.

The expected outcome of the session is a Press Statement. Council may underscore the importance of the Luanda biennale for strengthening African unity and solidarity and for fostering the culture of peace. In light of that, it may reiterate the call made by the AU Assembly in Assembly/AU/Dec.796(XXXIV), for all AU member States to support and participate in the 2nd Luanda Biennale. It may call on member States and all other relevant stakeholders to take all necessary measures against intolerance of diversities, including through formal and informal education and awareness creation. It may also urge member States to address existing inequalities in their societies and to work towards building social cohesion based on equal rights and opportunities. Council may encourage the meaningful participation of youth, women and other marginalised groups in peace processes, as well as the instrumentality of indigenous approaches to prevention, management and resolution of conflicts. It may call on member States to ensure ratification and implementation of relevant instruments relating to maritime domain, including the Lomé Charter as well as Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) and its Action Plan.

Open Session on Living Together in Peace

Living in Peace Together

Date | 05 November, 2019

Tomorrow  (5  November),  the  African  Union  (AU)  Peace  and Security Council (PSC) is expected to hold an Open Session  on  Living  Together  in  Peace  based  on  United  Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 72/130. It was Algeria, as chair of the Month that initiated this item as agenda of tomorrow’s session.

During the session, Algeria as the PSC Chair of the month is  expected  to  make  a  presentation.  A  representative  from the UN may also deliver a statement. The presentations  will  be  followed  by  interventions  from  member states and invited participants.

On  8  December  2017,  the  UNGA  adopted  Resolution  72/130, which designated 16 May as the ‘International Day  of  Living  Together  in  Peace’  and  a  means  of  mobilising international efforts “to promote peace, tolerance,  inclusion,  understanding  and  solidarity”.  The  resolution highlights the need to promote the culture of peace and non‐violence and underscores the importance of  respect  for  religious  and  cultural  diversity  across  the  world. It calls on States and world leaders to work in collaboration  with  religious  communities  and  find  ways  to promote reconciliation, resolve differences and pave the way for peace and sustainable development.

Tomorrow’s  open  session  is  expected  to  provide  the  forum for participants to suggest practical steps for the realization  of  Resolution  72/130’s  goals  in  the  political,  economic, social, religious, cultural and educational spheres of public life. Resolution 72/130 recognizes living together  in  peace  as  ‘accepting  differences  and  having  the ability to listen to, recognize, respect and appreciate others, as well as living in a peaceful and united way’. As such, the session is also anticipated to serve as a means for  participants  to  reflect  on  the  value  and  practical  applications of ‘living together in peace’.

The  UNGA,  through  adopting  Resolution  72/130,  called  upon UN Member States, agencies and other International and Regional Organizations, as well as Civil Society  Organizations  including  Non‐Governmental  Organizations and individuals, to devote 16 May to celebrate “International Day of Living Together in Peace” to  respecting  culture  and  other  local,  national  and  regional customs, and taking educational initiatives and sensitization  activities.  It  particularly  tasked  the  United  Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)  to  facilitate  the  commemoration  of  annual  International Day of Living Together in Peace.

María  Fernanda  Espinosa  Garcés,  President  of  the  73rd  Session of the UN General Assembly, in her opening statement  at  the  celebration  of  2019  International  Day  of Living Together in Peace, stressed that all countries across  the  world  should  seek  to  promote  dialogue  and  reconciliation as well as acceptance and respect of diversity and differences.

The  increasing  trend  in  Africa  of  hate  speech,  identity  and religious based conflicts, hatred, exacerbation of ethnic  divisions  and  extremist  ideology  among  religious and  ethnic  groups  has  been  noted  with  concern  by  the  PSC in its decision adopted at its 836th meeting on 3 April  2019.  Taking  account  of  the  multiple  armed  conflicts, political tensions and instabilities disrupting peace as well as social and economic cohesion in Africa, the  PSC  may  use  tomorrow’s  open  session  as  an  opportunity to call on Member States, political oppositions  as  well  as  faith  leaders  to  embrace  and  promote a culture of tolerance and appreciation of diversity.  This  also  highlights  the  need  for  complementing peace‐making, mediation and peacebuilding  efforts  with  interventions  that  leverage  and support advocacy for a culture of peace and peaceful coexistence.

The PSC may in particular highlight the need for putting in  place  policy  measures  at  national  level  to  discourage  the manipulation of ethnic, religious, cultural and social identities for fuelling tension, spreading hate and inciting communal  violence  in  pursuit  of  narrow  political  objectives. Also, of interest for PSC members is the need for addressing the conditions and factors that make the manipulation of identities for political mobilization, inter‐communal acrimony and violence possible. These conditions  and  factors  include  inequality  in  political  representation and socio‐economic opportunities, corruption  and  other  forms  of  bad  governance,  natural  resources curse and forms of political competition (winner  takes  all)  that  accentuate  identity‐based  mobilization.
The concept note for tomorrow’s session also underlines the importance of democracy, good governance and rule of law for the realisation of mutual respect for diversity. This  rightly  highlights  the  need  to  promote,  protect  respect, and fulfil core human rights principles such as the  principle  of  equality  and  the  principle  of  non‐discrimination based on race, religion, gender, language or any other status, which are fundamental for building up a culture of tolerance of diversity.

Adopting  inclusive  government  policies  aimed  at  equitable distribution of wealth plays a significant role in the  realisation  of  the  socio‐economic  dimension  of  Resolution 72/130. Similarly, promoting moderate religious discourses helps to eliminate radicalisation and extremist  religious  ideologies  and  considerably  contributes to the religious aspect of ‘living together in peace’.  Utilising  education  as  a  means  of  instilling  a  culture of peace and tolerance in the minds of the youth and future generations would then ensure achievement of the social, economic, religious and political aspirations envisaged in Resolution 72/130.

It  is  to  be  recalled  that  various  African  countries  have  celebrated International Day of Peace on the 21st of September  over  the  past  years.  Themes  such  as  “Meaningful Youth Inclusion in Peace‐Building” and “Together  for  Peace:  Respect,  Dignity  and  Security  for  All” have marked the celebration of International Day of Peace in African countries. This year it was observed in a high‐level forum that was convened in Luanda, Angola in collaboration with UNESCO. Given that the themes of the celebration  of  21st  September  and  16  May  are  interrelated, tomorrow’s session can reflect on how member  states,  civil  society  and  the  media commemorate  the  two  days  in  a  complementary  way  through public awareness campaigns and education on peace,  unity,  inclusion,  and  tolerance  with  particular  focus on the youth.

In  her  speech  at  this  year’s  celebration  of  International  Day of Living Together in Peace, María Fernanda Espinosa  Garcés  also  particularly  underscored  the  importance of the theme of the day with due regard to the challenges faced at the UN in adopting collective and multilateral  decisions.  Given  the  adverse  impacts  of  unilateralism on peaceful co‐existence within and among states,  tomorrow’s  session  also  helps  to  reflect  on  the  importance of multilateralism and collective action in the promotion  of  peace,  reconciliation  and  mutual  respect  among countries and communities.

The  expected  outcome  of  the  session  is  a  press  statement. The PSC may call on Member States for strengthened  efforts  in  advancing  solidarity  and  reconciliation. It may task the AU Commission to ensure that  on  16  May  ‘living  together  in  peace’  is  commemorated annually.