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International community needs to 'change narrative' about Africa – UN chief Guterres

Briefing the Security Council on their strengthened collaboration, top officials from the African Union (AU) and the United Nations today highlighted their joint work on peace and security in the Gambia, Somalia and South Sudan, as well as other African countries, and urged adequate, timely and predictable funding.

Addressing an open debate of the Council in New York, Secretary-General António Guterres said, “the international community needs to change the narrative about Africa and to establish a higher platform of cooperation that recognizes its enormous potential and promise.”

He noted that the AU and the UN have a shared interest in strengthening mechanisms to defuse conflicts before they escalate, and to manage them effectively when they occur.

The organization's shared objective is “to work closely on the basis of the principles of mutual respect and comparative advantage in all stages of the conflict cycle and in a systematic, predictable and strategic manner,” he added.

Mr. Guterres highlighted a landmark framework signed between the UN and the AU in April to strengthen partnership between the two organizations on peace and security pillars, as well as their organization's commitment to further institutionalize and build on the partnership.

The Joint UN-AU Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security includes four key action areas: preventing and mediating conflict and sustaining peace; responding to conflict; addressing the root causes; and the continuous review and enhancement of the partnership.

Financing peace operations in Africa

One of the main points raised by Mr. Guterres, as well as Smail Chergui, the Commissioner for Peace and Security of the AU, who also addressed the Council, was the question of financial resources, equipment and technology.

Mr. Guterres echoed points from his 26 May report, where he identified four options where UN assessed contributions could be used to help meet AU's operational needs in peace missions. The report was submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2320 (2016) on enhancing the relationship between the UN and regional and sub-regional organizations.

In his address, Mr. Chergui urged Council members for political leadership and guidance to help the AU and the UN deliver on their mandates.

Calling the AU “an indispensable partner in promoting peace and security in Africa,” Mr. Chergui noted that the number of AU troops killed in the last decade exceeds the number of UN peacekeeping casualties over the last 70 years.

“Despite these sacrifices and commitment, African troops are faced with some of the most challenging situations due to inadequate force enables and multiplies, as well as financial resource gaps,” he said.

Mr. Chergui said that financing of peace support operations “remains a perennial issue,” and given that the AU is not able to fund peace initiatives on its own, looks forward to a possible decision by the Security Council this September on a dedicated mechanism from the UN to support Council-mandated African peace support operations.