UN Secretary-General's Press Conference at the African Union Summit

18 Feb 2023

UN Secretary-General's Press Conference at the African Union Summit


Ladies and gentlemen of the media, thank you very much for your presence.

I am here at the African Union summit with a very clear message of solidarity. Solidarity with the African Union, and solidarity with the African continent and the African people in this trying period, in which the many crises we are witnessing in the world are having a very dramatic impact in Africa.

And so, my message to African leaders today was simple.

The United Nations stands with the people of Africa at this moment that is a moment of risk, but that is also a moment of enormous promise and potential.

From the AU’s ambitious development roadmap — Agenda 2063.

To the transformational potential of the African Continental Free Trade Area to create new, sustainable sources of jobs and prosperity.

To the launch of the Decade of Women’s Financial and Economic Inclusion.

To the energy, ideas and innovation of Africa’s growing population of young people.

To the AU’s Silence the Guns initiative to deliver peace and stability.

The 21st century could be – it must be- Africa’s century.

We must draw on the continent’s natural, human, cultural and entrepreneurial richness to make this a reality.

But first, we must overcome a series of massive tests.

A dysfunctional and unfair global financial system that denies many African countries the debt relief and the concessional financing they need.

Systems and structures — from health and education, to social protections, job-creation and gender equality — are starved of investment, for lack of support.  

A cost-of-living crisis — with rising food and energy costs made worse by the consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

And Climate chaos that is causing floods and deadly droughts.

On top of that, we have complex peace and security threats — including rampant terrorism — that are jeopardizing people’s lives and futures across the continent.

And facing all these challenges, Africa deserves much more massive international solidarity. When we saw the recovery from the COVID, many developed countries in the world were able to print money. And that money, to a certain extent, also contributed to the global inflation we have today.

African countries could not print money, because their currencies could then be in complete jeopardy. And so, Africa has had much less resources to come out of the COVID crisis than developed countries. And with the lack of effective financial support, the African continent is facing a very difficult situation.

And that is why I call for action for Africa, and starting by Africa’s economy.

Developing countries are being handed a raw deal.

I have called for a new Bretton Woods moment to give developing countries a greater voice in global institutions and create a new debt architecture that provides relief when countries need it most.

I’ve also called for Multilateral Development Banks to transform their business models, accept new risks, and massively leverage their funds to attract more private capital to developing countries and multiply resources to invest in the Sustainable Development Goals.

I’ve called for the developed world to stand with emerging economies as they make tough transitions that will benefit the world through an ambitiously funded global SDG Stimulus Package that I have proposed to the G20.

And so often, longstanding development issues can combine with climate chaos, economic shocks and violent conflicts, and spin into a whirlwind of humanitarian disaster.

Around the world today, 339 million people are in need of humanitarian aid — an increase of more than 25 per cent since last year.

And so today, here in Addis, I’m announcing the largest-ever allocation from our United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund — 250 million dollars, to combat famine and to address underfunded emergencies.

I am talking about 18 countries in the world, of which 12 are on the African continent.

These resources will support some of the most vulnerable people in some of the most forgotten crises around the world — including those at risk of famine in Africa. 

Nous devons également agir pour le climat de l’Afrique.

Les pays africains montrent la voie, qu’il s’agisse de la stratégie d’économie verte du Kenya, du partenariat pour une transition énergétique juste de l’Afrique du Sud ou de l’ambitieux Plan d’action de l’Union Africaine pour la relance verte.

Des efforts aussi considérables requièrent un soutien tout aussi massif et le respect des engagements existants.

Cela inclut la promesse de mobiliser 100 milliards de dollars par an, par les pays développés, en faveur des pays en développement.

De mettre sur pied le fonds pour les pertes et dommages convenu à Charm el-Cheikh.

De doubler le financement pour l’adaptation et la résilience des populations face aux changements climatiques.

De réalimenter le Fonds vert pour le climat.

Il faut aussi mettre en place des systèmes d’alerte rapide de sorte que chaque personne sur terre soit protégée d’ici cinq ans.

Et enfin, il nous faut un pacte de solidarité climatique qui mobilise un soutien financier et technique en vue d’accélérer la transition des économies émergentes vers les énergies renouvelables et de maintenir l’objectif de 1,5 °C en vie.

And ultimately, we need to act for peace in Africa.

The UN is a proud partner for peace — from our joint missions, to our peacebuilding and peacekeeping efforts.

And we share Africans’ optimism springing from the AU-led peace agreement here in Ethiopia, the ceasefire in Libya, the peace agreements in South Sudan and the Central African Republic, and the forward momentum in Somalia.

But our work is becoming more complex every day.

Terrorism, violence, insecurity and conflict are rising across the continent, jeopardizing human lives and human rights.   

And in some countries, hard-won democratic gains are disappearing.

Today, I outlined a proposed New Agenda for Peace — our plan to put prevention at the heart of our work to stop conflicts in their tracks,

I strongly support the creation of a new generation of robust peace-enforcement missions and counter-terrorist operations, led by the African Union with a Security Council mandate under Chapter VII and guaranteed, predictable funding, including through assessed contributions.

Throughout, the UN and the AU will remain steadfast partners on key peace initiatives — like the Independent High Level Panel on Security and Development in the Sahel established under the leadership of the former President of the Republic of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou.

And we will continue working together to advance democratic, accountable and responsive governance structures across the continent.

In all of these efforts, Africa can count on our offices here in Africa and around the world.

I look forward to continued partnership as we make the 21st century a century of true African progress, peace and prosperity for the 1.4 billion people who call it home.

Thank you and I am at your disposal for a few questions.   

Moderator: I would like to start to give the first question to the Ethiopian News agency. Please go ahead.

Question: Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General. How did you find the peace implementation of the peace agreement of Pretoria.

Secretary-General: Of Ethiopia.

Question: Yes, of Ethiopia. And my second question is probably that [inaudible] destruction has already been observed in the conflict-affected regions of Amhara, Tigray and Afar. And what do you think the international community and international donors should be doing in rebuilding it, and reconstructing it first?

Secretary-General: First of all, the peace agreement in Ethiopia was the best news we have had recently, and I was encouraged by the progress that is being made.

I have committed in my meeting with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to fully support and for the UN to fully support the peace process. And one of the aspects of that support is to increase massive assistance, humanitarian and development assistance, to Tigray to Amhara and to Afar. And my appeal to the international community is to fully understand how much the people are suffering, and to express the solidarity that people need, through a massive economic support to Ethiopia, for these regions to benefit and to all humanitarian agencies, and development agencies to - with the cooperation with the Government of Ethiopia - be able to respond to the dramatic needs of the populations impacted by the conflict.

Moderator: BBC

Question: Thank you very much. My first question is regarding the security threats that Africa is currently facing, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and then the sub-region. What support is the UN, what support can it provide for the African Union to respond to these threats in an efficient manner? That's my first question.

And then we get to Ethiopia. You raise the humanitarian support and the support for infrastructure damage that the UN is providing for the war-impacted areas. But also in terms of ensuring accountability, what is the UN doing because the war is marked by accusations of massive and gross rights violations? Thank you.

Secretary-General: Well, first of all, in relation to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I would like to say that I fully subscribe to the communiqué, issued yesterday, by the Peace and Security Council of the African Union.

What we believe is necessary to do is exactly what the Peace and Security Council of the African Union has said is necessary to do, and the UN will be fully supportive. MONUSCO is fully committed to work very closely with the East African force and with the FARDC [Congolese armed forces] in order to be able to support the implementation of the conclusions of the Peace and Security Council.

And in relation to Ethiopia. As I said, we need massive financial support for reconstruction, rehabilitation, and necessarily, it would be very important that the Human Rights Commission will do its work in relation to the violations of human rights that have taken place.

Moderator: CGTN

Question: Mr. Secretary-General, thank you so much. You have been addressing the summit earlier, talking about multifaceted areas and making ideas at the same time, but observers say that there is a donor fatigue at the moment. What is really the agenda next you're thinking to implement some of the plans you have?

Second question. The return of unconstitutional changes of government in Africa is the unfortunate fact at the moment, coups d’etat, that is, is still a worrying factor for the continent. What is the UN going to do to help Africa perhaps come out of the woods? Thank you.

Secretary-General: First of all, if there is donor fatigue, it will be important to give donors some kind of medicine against fatigue.

But exactly because we know the resources are limited. That is the reason why I've been strongly advocating for the needs of the reform of the international financial system. Now, if multilateral development banks thatdo their operations, if they are able to change their business model and to provide, essentially, guarantees to be first risk takers in coalitions of financial institutions, it will be possible to multiply the volume of resources that at the present moment, multilateral development institutions are providing to developing countries and namely to Africa.

So, when the resources are scarce -and I admit resources are scarce - we
need to reform in order to be able to multiply the scarce resources that we have.

On the other hand, there is something that is crucial, it is debt relief. We have a large number of African countries - and not only African countries, but namely African countries - that are in a desperate situation in relation to debt. And we need a comprehensive approach to debt relief. And at the same time, we need to be able to provide, through different forms of support, the fiscal space that African countries need to respond to the pressing needs of their populations.

The second question, I mean, we have a number of transition processes that are taking place. And the UN is totally committed to support the African Union, to support ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] and other regional organizations in all the effort that is being made to guarantee the success of those transitions into full democratic institutions.

Moderator: Go ahead, please. I'm trying to reach a lot of journalists, so please try to limit yourselves to one question.

Question: Okay, I have two questions but…

Secretary-General: Ok, let’s have an exception.

Question: [inaudible] from EBS television. My first question is – thank you Mr. Secretary-General for the opportunity - My first question is, as you might have repeatedly, Africa is requesting a UN institutional reform in which Africa could have a permanent seat in the Security Council.

As you heard in today's opening ceremony, the Ethiopia Prime Minister was asking UN institutional reform in which Africa could have at least one permanent seat. Mr. Secretary General, is there any plan to make this happen?

Secretary-General: Well, this is a decision for Member States to take. So, the Secretary-General has not the power to implement such a program. But, it is my deep belief that the biggest injustice that exists today in the Security Council is the lack of at least one African permanent member of the Security Council. When the Security Council was formed, there were very few African countries that were independent. So, we have today a Security Council that corresponds to a reality that is no longer the reality of today's world.

And the continent that, to a certain extent, was a double victim of colonialism, in relation to the present institutions, is Africa.

First, it was a victim of colonialism because of what colonialism has meant in all its aspects, from slavery to all other aspects. But second, it was a victim of colonialism because countries only came to independence when the Bretton Woods institutions already existed, when the Security Council was already formed.

And that is why I believe that not only it is, it would be essential to have an African stronger presence in the Security Council, namely with one permanent member. But it would also be important that Africa have a stronger role a stronger weight in the Bretton Woods institutions and the other international, multilateral institutions that were formed before the African continent had moved into the drive of independence, the drive of liberation in relation to colonialism.

The second question.

Question: My second question is about the peace agreement.

Secretary-General: But by the way, several permanent members of the Security Council, including the United States, Russia, and China, and I believe also France and the UK, have expressed that they are in agreement with at least one African member, which means that there is hope that that might be implemented.

Question: So, when is the time to?...

Secretary-General: That you need to ask the Member States.


Question: My second question is about the peace agreement between the Ethiopian federal government and the TPLF. I'm asking what do you think the two parties should do to further consolidate this peace prevailing now in the northern region?

Secretary-General: There was a peace agreement. We are in the phase of implementation. The implementation of peace agreements always have its difficulties. But I am confident that the peace agreement will be fully implemented.

Moderator: Let me go to a woman, for a change. Please stand up.

Question: Thank you so much. My name is [inaudible] from VOA. My question is with regards to the comments that were made by the Deputy Prime Minister at the ministerial opening session. And in particular, the Deputy Prime Minister spoke on how the International Commission of Human Rights experts on Ethiopia could undermine the peace process in Ethiopia because its report was flawed and politically motivated.

So, my question is basically, do you think that the work of the UN commission that it has established undermines national conflict management institutions and if not, how that was considered particularly in the case of Ethiopia.

Secretary-General: Well, I do not comment the declarations by whoever. The only thing I can testify is that the human rights work of the UN system is a work that is always positive in relation to peace processes.

Moderator: Let me go to RFI.

Question: Merci beaucoup. Monsieur le Secrétaire général, vous avez appelé à la création d’une force d’imposition de la paix en Afrique, qui aurait le soutien de l’ONU et avec un financement, vous avez dit un financement garanti. Alors, il y a une polémique apparemment entre [inaudible] et l’Union européenne sur la manière de participer de l’Afrique. Qu'est ce que vous, vous en pensez ? Est-ce qu'il y a des conditions pour que cela puisse se mettre en place ? Quelle devrait être la participation financière de l’Afrique ?

Secretary-General : Je dois dire que l'expérience du G5 Sahel a démontré que le financement volontaire des opérations d'imposition de la paix ne fonctionne pas. Et c’est la raison pour laquelle j'ai toujours défendu que, dans le cadre africain, où il y a des situations qui imposent des opérations d'imposition de la paix et de lutte antiterroriste, il faut que ces opérations aient un mandat du Conseil de sécurité sous le Chapitre VII et des contributions prévisibles par le mécanisme des contributions obligatoires - il existe dans le système des Nations unies. Et, que je sache, je n'ai jamais entendu aucun pays européen qui s'oppose à cette position.

Notamment, au Conseil de sécurité, quand cette question a été discutée, tous les pays européens ont été d'accord. Une autre chose, c'est la contribution de l'Europe, comme la contribution d'autres donateurs, du point de vue des contributions volontaires des forces de paix. Et là, c'est évident que les contributions volontaires pour une force d’imposition de la paix ont prouvé qu’elles ne sont pas capables de garantir l'efficacité de ces forces.

Question : Est-ce que vous pouvez répondre en portugais à la même question ?

Secretary-General: Sempre defendi que opressões que são necessárias para impor a paz e para lutar contra o terrorismo devem ser feitas por forças africanas robustas, com um mandato claro do Conselho de Segurança das Nações Unidas com base no capítulo sétimo, e com um financiamento previsível com contribuições obrigatórias. Tanto quanto sei, os países europeus têm sempre apoiado este ponto de vista, que até agora não encontrou unanimidade no Conselho de Segurança. Agora, o que também é verdade, é que as contribuições voluntárias, como nós verificamos no G5 Sahel, não são normalmente suficientes para garantirem a eficácia de uma força de imposição da paz.

Moderator : We have time for one final question. Lusa.

Question: The political and security problems in Africa have worsened in recent years, as you mentioned in your speech earlier. But in other areas of the world, there are challenges to election results in [inaudible] related democracies such as Brazil, the United States. In other areas, there are open wars, as the invasion of Ukraine, in others there are attacks on religious or ethnic minorities. Everywhere, we see the increase of media disinformation. My question is, do you think that what is happening in Africa is also a regional manifestation of a global trend that attacked the rule of law of the states. And if possible, if you answered a part or some part in Portuguese

Secretary-General: It is obvious that what we are witnessing in Africa corresponds to a trend that is taking place in different parts of the world. I would say that the most violent conflicts in today's world are not even in the African continent. And if one looks at disinformation and manipulations of social media, of course, they exist in Africa, but they are much more intense in other parts, namely in the developed world.

And when one looks at the erosion of democratic values, that is a universal problem that we are facing. So, many of the problems that we see in Africa, they are not typical African problems. They are problems of a world that is divided, geopolitically. A world in which we see a regression in relation to human rights and democratic governance in many parts, and where we see, unfortunately, new forms of conflict spreading.

Os problemas de insegurança ou de conflito, bem como as dificuldades em relação a desinformação, nomeadamente nas médias sociais e a erosão das democracias em diferentes circunstancias não são um problema africano. São hoje um problema universal. E aquilo que assistimos em África é uma manifestação dessa tendência universal. Devo dizer alias que os conflitos mais violentos que neste momento existem no mundo não são em África, e que em outros continentes, nomeadamente no mundo desenvolvido, a manipulação da informação e desinformação através das redes sociais são porventura muito mais intensas que em África, e que a erosão dos valores democráticos hoje infelizmente se transformou num problema universal.