Statement by Minister Coveney at the UNSC Open Debate on Peace and Security in Africa
Statement19 May 2021
Thank you Mr. President.
I would like to thank China for hosting this important debate.
I would also like to thank our briefers – Secretary General Guterres, Administrator Steiner and Chair of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat.
I am pleased that we are adopting a Presidential Statement on this important issue today.
Peace and security in Africa has been central to Ireland’s partnership with the continent since the deployment of Irish UN Peacekeepers to the Congo in 1960.
Today, Irish women and men are serving in three UN peacekeeping and five EU peace support missions across the continent of Africa. Africa remains an important focus of our international development programme and we will continue to expand our engagement in the coming years.
I would like to make three points in our debate today.
My first point is on common challenges and fragility.
There is no doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened inequality.
It is having an uneven impact, and compounding challenges for the most vulnerable of people.
Our efforts to respond in a collective and coherent manner have been insufficient.
National approaches are essential in protecting our people. But if we are to put the pandemic behind us, it must be addressed everywhere at the same time, where possible.
So Ireland is fully committed to efforts by the UN system to deliver COVID-19 vaccines in a fair, transparent, and efficient way.
As part of the €100 million being provided to support global public health this year, Ireland is contributing bilaterally to the COVAX Facility, and we will do a lot more as the year goes on.
We also support it as a member of the European Union, which to date has contributed €860 million to the Facility and has exported over 200 million doses of vaccine.
While responding to the pandemic, we must also keep a focus on strengthening wider public health systems, especially in conflict settings.
Another shared vulnerability is the impact of climate change. This is felt nowhere more acutely than across the continent of Africa.
We have seen in the Sahel, particularly in the countries around Lake Chad, how conflict and climate combine to diminish access to natural resources.
Across the Horn of Africa, the multiple and repeated shocks of drought and flooding undermine community resilience and livelihoods, creating drivers which armed groups exploit.
During our term on this Council, and as co-chair of the Informal Experts Group on climate and security, we will work to ensure that we recognise and act on climate-related security risks, which will only become more pressing in the years to come.
Sustainable and transparent management of natural resources is also essential. Illegal exploitation and trade of natural resources is a significant driver of conflict in Africa.
Regional economic cooperation and integration can play a key role in reversing this dynamic.
I commend the African Union, and Africa’s Regional Economic Communities, for their progress in supporting socioeconomic development.
Ireland is committed to supporting this work, including through implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which has enormous potential to drive positive economic development and employment.
My second point relates to upholding the principles and responsibilities that are essential to our shared humanity.
When this Council speaks, it can make a real difference for people in conflict situations.
Parties to the conflict must comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law.
We must act in calling out those who are failing to live up to their obligations and legal responsibilities.
Since the start of the year, this Council has responded to developments in Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
We have spoken out for people in need of humanitarian support, people at risk of violence, and people suffering grave human rights violations.
I remain deeply concerned by the ongoing conflict in Tigray, which has seen many people killed, injured and displaced, and which is feeding into instability across the Horn of Africa.
The promotion and protection of human rights for all, gender equality, and the rule of law must be meaningfully integrated into pandemic recovery strategies.
This is key to addressing the root causes of conflict and supporting sustainable development at the same time.
The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women and girls, who must be at the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic response and recovery.
Advancing gender equality, and ensuring meaningful youth engagement, can drive transformative recovery and accelerate progress on peace, security and development. All three of those need to be the pillars of what we do together.
Supporting good governance must also be at the heart of recovery in Africa. Its absence fosters inequality and grievances over access to land, power and resources, and can lead to a culture of impunity.
My third and final point, relates to how we work together to deliver shared solutions.
The triple nexus of peacebuilding, humanitarian action and sustainable development must be central to our recovery efforts.
The Peacebuilding Commission’s comprehensive approach to supporting recovery, which recognises the unique challenges faced by people in conflict-affected areas, is an example of the nexus approach in action.
Peacekeeping operations will continue to play a critical role in preserving peace, preventing the resurgence of conflict and protecting civilians.
When the time comes for peacekeepers to leave, though, we must be fully prepared for their transition by putting in place the resources and planning to preserve the peace that they leave behind.
We must do better at linking peacekeeping to peacebuilding, ensuring continued support for countries emerging from conflict and finding long-term solutions to the causes of those conflicts in the first place.
The Women, Peace and Security agenda has been a key priority for Ireland for many years.
This is an agenda with an African heart.
Namibia shepherded the landmark first resolution, 1325, and Africa continues to show the way in implementing through innovations like the African Women Leaders Network and Femwise.
Transforming our post-pandemic world demands us to silence the guns and amplify the voices of women peacebuilders. The meaningful participation of civil society in peacebuilding is also essential for its long-term success. We know that only too well in my own country.
We must prioritise cooperation with regional organisations, whose context-specific knowledge and capabilities can help prevent and resolve conflict.
Root causes of conflict in Africa, which often cross borders, cannot be addressed effectively without coordination with the African Union, regional economic communities, and other regional initiatives. Nobody knows Africa better than African communities themselves.
The COVID pandemic demonstrates our global fragility and our shared responsibility to act.
It reminds us that the challenges facing African countries due to conflict and fragility are not theirs alone. They are shared challenges for us all.
We must renew our efforts to put in place a strong, global response to the pandemic, while working together to tackle the root causes of conflict.