Addressing conflict and fragility in Africa: Leaders discuss empowerment, partnerships and accountability in Brussels meeting

18/04/2014
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“Addressing conflict and fragility in Africa” was the theme of an event organized by the African Development Bank’s High Level Panel on Fragile States during the Africa-EU Summit in Brussels on April 1. The event was chaired by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia with opening statements made by President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana, and Andris Piebalgs, Commissioner for Development at the European Commission. The meeting discussed the findings of the High Level Panel’s final report, “Ending Conflict and Building Peace in Africa: A Call to Action,” which was launched on January 30, 2014 at the 22nd Summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa.

In her opening speech, President Johnson Sirleaf emphasized that “it is important that all of our friends and supporters, all of those who have invested so much in Africa’s development, should join in the call of this report for adequate policy responses to disruptive social, economic and environmental changes by building resilience in our states and our societies. We need stronger links of institutions and partnership among the private sector, among civil society, all of the institutions that are part of this collective political arena involved in managing the processes of development. That’s how we get sustainable peace, sustainable development.”

The Liberian President also stated that the African Development Bank is encouraging countries to strengthen regional integration in order to create more inclusive benefits for all through collective efforts. She also highlighted that the report endorses the principles of the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States. “The New Deal, as you know, calls for stronger ownership – something very consistent with Africa’s own priorities. Whether we look at long-term perspective (Africa 2063) or we look at the [African] Common Position on the post-2015 agenda, ownership is said to be a key. Africa must take charge of its own destiny, must determine its priorities and its future. It calls for harmonization; it calls for mutual accountability.”

President Mahama commended the African Development Bank for the interest it had taken in fragility in African states. “The report covers most of the main issues. I think that if we address those issues, we should see stronger, more solid nations in Africa that have brighter prospects to ensure that our people live in decency and dignity.”

The Ghanaian President cited peace, security and stability, respect for human rights and constitutional governance as important factors in strengthening states and institutions. “Of course transparency, accountability, a strong fight against corruption are all important ingredients,” in building resilience and peace, he added.

President Mahama raised the challenge of inequality as one of the critical issues in fragility. “Addressing inequality by decentralization and empowering the people fiscally to take their destiny into their own hands is a very important issue that we must build into strengthening our states.” He also called on countries to create more integrated economies in order to strengthen structures that support countries in similar geographic regions.

For his part, European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs referred to the report as a practical guide to fragility that the European Commission will use in future responses to fragility. An intervention was also made by Pia Stjernvall, Special Representative for the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and State-Building from Finland, who stated that the New Deal offers an opportunity to make a change in development.

Barnaba Benjamin, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in South Sudan, made a request that might enforce policy change by urging that donors do not suspend aid during the rise of instability or conflict. “Partners have congenital conditions. . . when crisis takes place everything gets suspended,” he said. The Minister also emphasized that donors cannot wait for absolute peace before implementing the New Deal, for instance, because these are the mechanisms that should help to put a peace process in place.

Sunita Pitamber, Head of the Secretariat to the High Level Panel for Fragile States at the African Development Bank, moderated the Brussels session, which included participation by High Level Panel members Sarah Cliffe and Gilbert Houngbo.

The meeting, which was attended by Government Ministers and officials, representatives from international donor communities, NGOs and civil society organizations, generated discussions around challenges during instability and fragility.