African Union’s annual summit should preserve focus on peace and security

Press release
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Minasse Wondimu Hailu / Anadolu Agency via AFP

(Nairobi, Paris) – Ahead of the African Union’s (AU) 34th ordinary session, set to take place virtually from 6 to 7 February 2021, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and nine other groups urge the AU Commission, in a letter to the Chairperson H.E. Mahamat Moussa Faki, to keep focus on peace and security.

Peace and security comprise a critical theme and a top priority on the Union’s agenda and must continue to do so. The 10 undersigned regional think tanks and civil society organisations salute the extension of the AU Master-Roadmap on Silencing the Guns (AUMR) by 10 years – a decision recently taken at the AU Assembly’s 14th Extraordinary Session. The flagship project, established in 2017, [1] aims to address insecurity and entrench peace on the continent.

These goals are particularly important in light of several ongoing concerns. The socioeconomic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic have brought about instability, while countries strive to foster public health in the context of a pandemic and work to ensure that vaccines are accessible and affordable. At the same time, there are several ongoing and emerging armed conflicts that result in civilians – including children – being killed, maimed, and displaced. All this against a backdrop of persisting governance gaps and approaches to elections which, themselves, often result in conflict. In our letter, we express to Chairperson Faki that " is our hope that the upcoming 34th AU Summit will acknowledge the weightiness of these issues, deliberate on and lay out a clear agenda for the pursuit of these concerns in 2021."

As President Felix Tshisekedi of Democratic Republic of Congo prepares to chair the Union for the year to come, we welcome the new yearly theme of Arts, Culture and Heritage. This theme for 2021 presents an opportunity to "entrench the culture of peace and tolerance" as envisaged under the continental 50-year agenda’s aspiration of a peaceful and secure Africa. [2]

As non-governmental organisations (NGOs), we can be most effective when we have a seat at the table – from multi-stakeholder dialogues anchored in constitutionalism, human rights, and the rule of law, to consultation and participation in the AU’s deliberations on peace and security. Our organisations are eager to act as constructive partners to evaluate the successes and shortcomings of the Silencing the Guns agenda thus far, while setting goals for the next 10 years with regard to peace and security.

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