PSC Session on Living Together in Peace

International Day of Peace

Date | 17 May 2022

Tomorrow (17 May), African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to convene its 1084th session on Living Together in Peace.

Following opening remarks by Churchill Ewumbue-Monono, Permanent Representative of Cameroon to the AU and the Chairperson of the PSC for the month of May, Bankole Adeoye, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), is expected to make a statement. AU Commission for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, Minata Samate Cessouma is scheduled to make presentation. The representatives of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Amani Africa, and the Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs) are also expected to make statements at tomorrow’s session.

Tomorrow’s open session on Living Together in Peace is convened within the framework of Council’s decision, at its 891st session held on 5 November 2019, to dedicate an annual session to commemorate the International Day of Living Together in Peace, as a forum for continuously raising public awareness and taking stock of efforts undertaken by Member States in upholding the UN General Assembly resolution 72/130. It is to be recalled that the UN General Assembly, on 8 December 2017, adopted resolution 72/130 declaring 16 May as the ‘International Day of Living Together in Peace’. The International Day of Living Together in peace, as highlighted in the resolution, is a means of ‘regularly mobilizing the efforts of the international community to promote peace, tolerance, inclusion, understanding and solidarity, and to express its attachment to the desire to live and act together, united in differences and diversity, in order to build a sustainable world of peace, solidarity and harmony’.

It is worth noting that Algeria played an important role in the adoption of the General Assembly resolution, on the basis of its national experience in deradicalization and the fight against extremism. PSC’s decision to make the theme of Living Together in Peace as one of its standing agenda items was also taken during the chairship of Algeria in November 2019. Council has dedicated three sessions so far, the last being held on 13 May 2021 at its 995th session. Tomorrow’s session will be Council’s fourth dedicated session on Living Together in Peace.

The second dedicated session, which was held on 27 May 2020, had a specific focus on the Covid-19 pandemic and its implication on living together in peace in the continent. On the other hand, the last dedicated session was focused on drawing a linkage between AU’s 2021 theme: “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers of The Building of Africa We Want” and living together in peace. Accordingly, the utility of art and culture for the promotion of tolerance, inclusivity and peace was highlighted. As this session comes amid the war in Ukraine and heightened geo-political rivalry, PSC members may take the opportunity to reflect on how the crisis impact multilateralism and the commitment towards living together in peace more broadly. Even in 2020, the Council, at its 928th session on COVID-19 and Living Together in Peace, noted with concern the ‘rise of geo-political rivalry between major powers of the world’ and its impact on multilateralism and Africa’s peace and security landscape.

Apart from the major power rivalry, of interest to the Council is the rising trend of identity-based violence, hate speech, and radicalization and extremism in the continent as highlighted by the Council at its 891st and 989th sessions, among others. Often, the issue of identity-based violence is linked with political exclusions and political manipulation of existing ethnic or religious divisions. Bias and favoritism to a certain ethnic or religious group in the distribution of political power and economic benefits to the exclusion of the ‘others’ create sense of marginalization. This not only widens the rift between the state and society but also fuels inter-communal tension and violence, particularly in a fragile setting. Indeed, the PSC flagged such concerns during its 891st sessions where it highlighted governance deficits such as exclusion, marginalization, mismanagement of ethnic, religious and cultural diversity as some of the root causes of conflicts in the continent. In a context of mineral rich African countries, Council in the same session stressed unequal distribution of proceeds from national resources among the structural causes of violent conflicts. In some cases, gender inequality, ethnic and religious polarization, coupled with the rise of hate speech (both online and offline) and disinformation, is destroying social fabric of communities, thereby triggering inter-communal violence.

Another key issue Council likely to focus on is the deteriorating humanitarian condition of the continent and growing needs for humanitarian assistance. Cessouma’s presentation may also highlight this issue in her presentation, building on the two previous sessions already conducted this month on humanitarian related themes. More than 114 million people in 15 most affected African countries require urgent assistance in 2022, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The number of people facing a critical lack of food has more than tripled where nearly 282 million are undernourished in the continent. Food security crisis in Africa has reached a disaster level, according to the International Community of the Red Cross (ICRC). It reported that 346 million people (one in four Africans) are facing severe food insecurity. Despite the alarming trend, the humanitarian response plans have been limited and funding gap remains large. The COVID-19 pandemic has further worsened the humanitarian crisis and resulted in a reversal of a hard-won progress on poverty reduction in the continent. A report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) indicates that ‘COVID-19 pandemic pushed an estimated 55 million African into extreme poverty in 2020 and reversed more than two decades of progress in poverty reduction on the continent’.

On the other hand, the continent has been witnessing the phenomenon of youth bulge with almost 60 percent of Africa’s population being under the age of 25, making Africa world’s youngest continent. While this by itself is not a problem (it can even be transformed into a demographic dividend), youth bulge may however risk political instability and exacerbate social tension when coupled with other structural conditions such as high unemployment, marginalization, absence of political space, and social fragmentation.

The expected outcome is a press statement. Council is expected to express concern over the ongoing geo-political rivalry between major powers its impact on multilateralism as well as on the peace and stability of the continent. In this respect, Council may appeal to all states to renew their commitment to multilateralism as international cooperation has become more crucial than ever to address global challenges. It may also re-emphasize the imperative of Africa speaking with one voice in defending and promoting common positions and interests. Council may express its concern over increasing trends of inter-communal violence, hate speech, radicalization and extremism, and in this regard, it may reiterate its 995th session that stressed the importance of ‘adopting inclusive national policies for addressing situations of exclusion and marginalization in society’. Council may urge Member States and RECs to protect, promote and respect human rights principles and standards as well as cultural, ethnic, religious diversity and gender equality. In terms of addressing root causes of conflicts, Council may in addition stress the importance of ensuring inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development, addressing governance deficit, and promoting democracy and rule of law in order to realize the aspiration to Live Together in Peace. Ensuring equal participation of the youth and women in decision making process is also expected to be highlighted in the outcome document.

Open session on the Commemoration of the International Day of Peace

International Day of Peace

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.

Briefing on the impact of COVID19 on Living Together in Peace

International Day of Peace

Date | 27 May 2020

Tomorrow (27 May) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to hold its 928th session on the impact of COVID19 on Living Together in Peace. It is envisaged to be a video teleconference session.

Held under PSC Chairperson of the month, Mafa Mosothoane Sejanamane, Ambassador of Lesotho, who will make an opening statement, the session is expected to receive updates from the Commissioner for Social Affairs, Amira El Fadil and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC). Zainab Ali Kotoko the Executive Secretary of the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA) and Solomon Ayele Dersso, Founding Director of Amani Africa, are scheduled to deliver briefings to the PSC.

The first time the PSC dedicated a session on ‘Living Together in Peace’ was in November 2019. At that time the format of the meeting was an open session and the PSC decided to hold annual sessions to commemorate the day. However, tomorrow’s virtual meeting will be a closed briefing for PSC members.

The UNGA Resolution 72/130 adopted on 8 December 2017 designated 16 May as the ‘International Day of Living Together in Peace’ ‘to promote peace, tolerance, inclusion, understanding and solidarity, and to express its attachment to the desire to live and act together, united in differences and diversity, in order to build a sustainable world of peace, solidarity and harmony’. The major principles and values of harmony and compassion articulated in the resolution are particularly relevant and timely during the current fight against COVID19.

The briefing is expected to commemorate the international day amidst a global pandemic. It is thus taking place at a time that precisely requires global solidarity as well coordination and mobilization of global efforts to mitigate the spread of the pandemic. As much as the values of living together are most in demand at the moment, there are also concerning global trends of increased hostility and tension.

Tomorrow’s briefing offers an opportunity to reflect on how the pandemic has impacted the global order, how multilateral institutions are adapting and the effects on peace and security in Africa. As it can be discerned from ongoing developments the values of living together and solidarity have been put under immense strain as the response to the pandemic has become highly politicized. This has further exacerbated already brewing tensions among global powers. It would be detrimental if African issues are entangled with these geostrategic big power deepening tensions.

Also, of note are the emergence of unilateralism and inward-looking approaches, that are impeding not only cooperation but also the operation of the market in medical supplies and services. A global problem most certainty requires a global solution. Moreover, for any national responses to be effective it is necessary that others are also able to muster the response necessary to ensure that no resurgence and global spread of the virus repeats itself. This means global responses should be inclusive by taking into consideration the particular needs of developing countries. This is why a greater solidarity is needed to ensure that developing countries are supported in not only fighting the health hazard but also in mitigating the socio-economic losses.

Indeed, the socio-economic fallouts from COVID19 is feared to result in more devastation than the pandemic itself. In this context, the application of Living Together in Peace necessitates that measures are taken to prevent the wiping out of the investment put towards poverty reduction and social development. Initiatives that fall in this category include the establishment of the COVID19 response fund of the AU, the recent appeal of the UN Secretary General for a global support package of more than $200 billion and the related joint call of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights for restructuring or relieving of the debts of African countries.

At the national level it is high time to also demonstrate particular compassion and solidarity to vulnerable and marginalized groups that face high level of exposure and will be disproportionately affected by the virus and the socio-economic consequences. Among others economically disadvantaged households, refugees, internally displaced persons, migrants and asylum seekers require specific protection measures. There is a great risk of widening socio-economic inequalities given that the pandemic and its impact will particularly hit certain groups more than others. Thus, this requires government’s efforts in bridging gaps within communities by particularly targeting the most vulnerable section of society.

Amani Africa’s briefing will focus on the peace and security impact of COVID19. More particularly, it will provide an overview of the major security trends, conflict situations and the impact of the pandemic on ongoing conflict prevention and management efforts. Hence the various measures taken to contain the spread of the virus and their effects on planned elections during the year, on mediation, implementation of peace processes as well as peacekeeping operations will feature in the briefing. In line with the theme of the session ‘Living Together in Peace’, the briefing will highlight the need for increased global solidarity in addressing the humanitarian and socio-economic fallouts in the continent.

Resolution 72/130 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. Multiple incidents of xenophobic attacks, discrimination and mass deportation of migrants have taken place in various parts of the world following the spread of the virus. All of these components are deterrent to effectively respond to the pandemic. As also underlined in the resolution the importance of awareness raising and education is particularly important to cultivate tolerance among communities. During this global pandemic it is critical that communication materials and messages of leaders on prevention, transmission and treatment of the virus should be strictly informed and backed by scientific findings and recommendations of health experts. This plays a key role in fighting misinformation that leads to stigma, discrimination, fear and suspicion.

In this process of awareness creation and communication, elements in the resolution related to interfaith dialogue to foster national cohesion can also be useful. In addition to the scientific community, many governments have also worked closely with religious leaders to reach out, inform and educate people on COVID19. In this regard it is extremely important for many countries and world leaders to reconcile scientific findings, religious and traditional practices. While accommodating religious and cultural diversity it is important however that strict measures are put in place against untested traditional herbal remedies that may derail control of the spread. While indigenous knowledge and practices have a great value it is also important that any form of treatment should go through a rigours process of test and trial before being distributed.

During its 891st session the PSC underscored the importance of promoting living together in peace through regional integration and free movement of people. However, to contain the spread of the current pandemic mobility of people and goods have been highly restricted. These limitations will most likely delay the various milestones set by the continent towards greater cooperation and integration. Nonetheless it will be important for the Council to also note that practices related to social distancing should not undermine ongoing efforts of solidarity and living together. Indeed, it is essential to physically distance while living together under the common ideals of solidarity, harmony and unity.

The global call on cessation of hostilities is another initiative that needs to be followed up. This call is particularly essential for Africa given that there is steep increase in the number of confirmed cases across the continent. The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has noted a 32% increase of new cases over one week alone. As of 24 May the total confirmed cases have reached 107,412. Although currently the cases in Africa are only 2% of the global cases, however these numbers are most likely to rise and the only way the devastation that may result from the spread of the virus in conflict situations can be prevented is if a humanitarian truce is observed by conflict parties.

The expected outcome is a communiqué. The PSC may primarily underline that countries cannot defeat COVID19 in isolation through unilateral measures. At the regional level the PSC could urge for more support to the AU COVID19 response fund and the work of Africa CDC and the necessity of African countries showing compassion and solidarity with the most vulnerable including refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in their response to COVID19. The PSC may underscore that the fight against COVID19 should unify the world to live up to the ideals of living together in peace, harmony and tolerance and support the WHO. It may reiterate previous calls by stressing that only when all countries defeat the pandemic that the world wins the fight against COVID19. It could also welcome the call of the UN Secretary General for a global response package of $200 billion as a measure consistent with the values of Living Together in Peace and for avoiding the worst consequences of the socio-economic and humanitarian fallouts of the pandemic. The PSC could also emphasize the need for access to diagnostics and therapeutics and reiterate the call for access to any eventual vaccine and treatment.