UN and African Union sign new human rights agreement

UN and African Union sign new human rights agreement

At the meeting, UN Secretary-General António Guterres and AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat signed a framework agreement on human rights, which follows a previous accord on peace and security, and another on development. 

Speaking afterwards to reporters, they underscored the need to reform the global financial architecture to reflect current realities.

“What Africa needs above all is justice in international relations because Africa has been the victim of the structural injustices of our international relations,” said Mr. Guterres. 

Haven for terrorism 

Touching on their discussions, Mr. Faki began by focusing on peace and security.  He said that Africa is going through a “difficult period” as it has become “a haven for terrorism and extremism,” affecting many regions and as some AU peacekeeping operations are drawing down.

Africa is also facing economic challenges brought on by what he called the “triple crisis” of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and the consequences of the war in Ukraine, which has impacted food supply.

He stressed that financing for both development and peace is critical, together with reform of global financial institutions.

Call for climate justice

Mr. Faki said the two leaders will attend the COP28 climate conference that opens this week in Dubai which must also be the opportunity to advocate for Africa “which is severely impacted by the effects of climate change even though it pollutes very little.”

The transition to green energy must be fair, he said, given that some 600 million people across the continent still do not have access to electricity.

“We also need to ensure that we are on the right track for development. And this will perhaps help us to mitigate the issue of migration which has become a particularly delicate issue for our neighbors in Europe,” he added.

A top priority 

Mr. Guterres underscored that Africa remains a key UN priority, highlighting the importance of working with the AU “based on the principle of African-led solutions for African problems”.

He said the continent has been “the double victim of injustice” linked to colonialism and slavery in the past and financial and economic power relations today.

Seeds of frustration 

Africa had some of the highest economic growth rates in the world prior to the pandemic, which exposed injustices, including through the distribution of vaccines and in increased debt burdens that restrict fiscal space.

As a result, countries cannot respond to the basic needs of their populations, which are mainly made up of youth, leading to enormous frustration which sows the seeds for instability, coups and other developments that undermine peace and security.

“It’s very important to give a double response to those problems of peace and security. First of all, to recognize that peacekeeping missions do not make sense where there is no peace to keep,” said Mr. Guterres.

Support AU operations 

He called for peace enforcement and counterterrorism operations in Africa that are led by the AU and mandated by the UN Security Council, and the assessed contributions necessary to finance those missions. 

“They are the only way to be effective in fighting the kind of violence and terrorism that is now proliferating in many African countries,” he said.

The UN chief also emphasized the need to mobilize the international community to address the economic and social root causes of conflicts.  “And that is why we are so keen on the need for reforming international financial institutions in order to make sure that they correspond to today’s economy and not to the economy after the Second World War,” he said. 

Gaza and Sudan 

During a question-and-answer segment, the UN chief was asked about the current pause in fighting in Gaza, which has been in place for five days. 

Although the truce was “a step in the right direction” and “a symbol of hope”, Mr. Guterres said “it doesn’t solve the key problems we face”.  He repeated his call for a humanitarian ceasefire leading to the unconditional release of hostages and the delivery of aid to all people in Gaza. 

Both leaders were also asked if the call for the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers from Sudan, and reports of atrocities in West Darfur, represented a failure of the international community. 

Mr. Guterres described the situation in Sudan – where rival generals have been fighting since mid-April – as “the fault of those that sacrifice the interests of their people for a pure struggle for power, and of the ones that support them based on considerations that I would not like to comment (on) today.” 

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