SRSG Tetteh's Quarterly Message (Jan-Mar 2021)

31 Mar 2021

SRSG Tetteh's Quarterly Message (Jan-Mar 2021)

Dear Partners and Friends,

It is an honour to present the first edition of UNOAU’s Quarterly Newsletter for 2021, featuring several highlights and UNOAU initiatives, such as the launch of the book” She Stands for Peace,” the “She Stands for Peace”podcast series, the election of a new AU Commission and commemoration of International Women’s Day.

The last few months have certainly had their challenges! Aside from the human toll, the Covid-19 pandemic continues to buffet the African Union Member States economically, socially, and politically, eroding hard-won development gains and the area UNOAU focuses on the most, namelypeace and security on the continent. We have seen threats to the stability of already vulnerable regions, such as the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, compounding the challenges faced by countries going through transitions, slowing progress on cross-border issues and affecting timelines and preparations for elections. Yet, throughout these unprecedented times, UNOAU has continued to work closely with the African Union Commission in supporting capacity building and the implementation of AU priority projects in line with the Joint Framework on Peace and Security.

In October 2020, for instance,  the UN celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of its landmark Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. To mark this anniversary, UNOAU and the AU jointly organized a series of commemorative virtual events, including a high-level dialogue entitled: Advancing the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda: Political Leadership, Partnerships and Concrete Action Beyond 2020” and two Intergenerational dialogues under the theme “Africa Young Women’s Fellowship on Silencing the Guns”. The two Intergenerational dialogues were intended to support young women in positioning themselves to be more proactively involved in peacebuilding activities and creating a network of young women in peace and security that allows members to support one other. The events also provided a platform for young women to draw lessons from the experiences shared by senior women in the field of mediation and peacebuilding processes, peace and security and women’s rights.  UNOAU also partnered with ECOWAS to organize a virtual event: “Looking Backward, Re-strategizing for the Future” in December 2020. The UNOAU-ECOWAS event provided the opportunity to not only take stock of the progress the West African region has made in implementing the WPS Agenda, but also to critically review and identify gaps in the implementation, challenges and chart concrete actions building on lessons learnt.

There are two other initiatives UNOAU spearheaded in 2020-2021 that I am particularly proud of, as they also contributed to promoting the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, namely the “She Stands for Peace” projects.  In March 2021, UNOAU partnered with the Swedish Permanent Mission to the African Union in Addis Ababa to launch a new podcast series ‘She Stands for Peace’  which was a  sequel to the flagship publication “She Stands For Peace” which UNOAU and the AU jointly produced and launched in the presence of UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Deputy AUC Chairperson Kwesi Quartey on the margins of the AU Summit in February 2020. While the book shines a light on 20 often unsung women leaders that have contributed to peace and security on the continent, the podcast series explores the state of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda (UNSCR 1325) in Africa through a series of dialogues with key actors.

The month of February marked a milestone in the pursuit of gender parity and equality at the African Union. When the 55 African Heads of State virtually convened for the Thirty-Fourth Ordinary Session of the Assembly on 8-9 February under the chairmanship of  H.E. Felix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo to elect a new Commission, the stayed true to their commitments and vision. For the first time in the AU’s history, the Assembly elected a gender-balanced Commission, in line with the decisions on the new structure, portfolios, and voting of the Commission adopted at the Eleventh Extraordinary Session of Assembly of Heads of State and Government (Ext/Assembly/AU/Dec.1-4(XI)), which took place in Addis Ababa on 17-18 November 2018.  They also re-elected the incumbent Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, for a new four-year term and elected Ambassador Bankole Adeoye of Nigeria, as the pioneering Commissioner of the newly combined Department of Political Affairs, Peace and Security. Both elections were groundbreaking. While the Chairperson was the first incumbent in the AU’s 21 year-history to have been re-elected, the new Commissioner for Political Affairs and Peace and Security garnered an unprecedented unanimous vote of all member states. Both men are self-professed “He for Shes”. I congratulated them both. 

Earlier in the month, we marked International Women’s Day (IWD) under the theme “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”. While this year’s theme was particularly apt in highlighting and celebrating the tremendous efforts women and girls around the world have made in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the pandemic, the mere fact that one particular day continues to be designated to celebrate women and their achievements shows that we still have a long way to go before full gender parity and equality is achieved in all spheres of lives, including the African peace and security sphere. The Covid-19 pandemic created setbacks in the effort to achieve gender equality and more inclusive peacebuilding efforts. Building back better should not be a mere cliché but an opportunity to look at the areas where radical changes must be made and effective policy responses developed and implemented to ensure that the needs of women and girls are prioritized to achieve peace, stability and progress.  

The significant amount of work that we have done on the Women, Peace and Security Agenda does not in any way detract from our main activities of joint analysis and operational support planning with the AUC on the political and peacebuilding challenges of the continent; and our support in capacity building for Peace Support Operations, working with colleagues in UNSOM and UNSOS to support the operations of AMISOM, and facilitating engagement between other UN missions on the African Continent and the African Union Commission on matters of political affairs, peace and security in line with the provisions of the April 2017 Joint Framework Agreement on Peace and Security. We are committed to continue strengthening the partnership in line with the priorities of the new Political Affairs, Peace and Security Department led by Commissioner Bankole Adeoye, and look forward to working with the Department to achieve the priorities that have been defined.

While 2020 and indeed the first quarter of 2021 has made it difficult to operate in person, and have limited our opportunities for engagement and some activities we had previously planned to undertake which we were unable to execute, I am proud of the work UNOAU has been able to accomplish despite all the challenges.  Many of these accomplishments would not have been possible without your support. Here the Norwegian and Swedish Embassies in Addis Ababa deserve particular mention for their unwavering friendship and financial support, especially in promoting the Women Peace and Security Agenda.  These and other partnerships make me remain hopeful for the remainder of 2021.

We look forward to continuing to work with you in our efforts to strengthen the UN-AU partnership and build a peaceful, prosperous continent.