Security Council Open Debate on
Peace and Security in Africa:
Addressing root causes of conflict
while promoting post-pandemic recovery in Africa
New York, 19 May 2021
The Holy See wishes to thank the People’s Republic of China for convening today’s Open Debate.
So much of the focus of this Security Council is on Africa, and with cause. Conflicts continue to rage, communities are divided, resources are plundered, all of which favor the few, exacerbate poverty and inequality, degrade the environment, increase food insecurity, rob children of education, forcing many of them into armed groups, and lead to so many deaths.
Last year, while the world focused on how to deal with the public health crisis, the goal of Silencing the Guns by 2020 was sadly not achieved, and perhaps even overlooked. Such a noble initiative, however, should certainly not be forgotten.
As Pope Francis recently noted, “the pandemic is still spreading, while the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for the poor. Nonetheless, armed conflicts have not ended, and military arsenals are being strengthened. That is today’s scandal.”
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it has shown that we can change our behavioural patterns. To silence the guns in a continent where too many people still live in extreme poverty, we must put an end to the illegal circulation of arms. Embargoes exist, as do mechanisms put in place by this Council to strengthen the rule of law and democracy in countries transitioning from protracted conflict into peace and greater stability. These solemn commitments, however, need to be translated into reality on the ground. There are still far too many acts of terrorism in Africa, resulting in loss of life, physical and psychological harm and forced displacements that further pressure territories and populations seeking to survive on limited resources.
Humanitarian appeals are many, and while assistance is necessary to help the poorest and those in vulnerable situations, unless such aid goes hand in hand with ambitious, far-sighted, and culturally sensitive integral development projects, those substantial investments will not lead to peace, stability and growth.
Too many African children are still prevented from realizing their potential by lack of access to quality education, including due to conflict. Schools have been destroyed; others have been taken over by armed groups. While many in the developed world have taken to e-learning during the pandemic, this was not an option for many children in Africa who find themselves on the other side of the digital divide. Poor education, or in some settings, no education at all, increases the risk of extreme poverty and manipulation by or enrollment into militias. Without firm commitments to ensure peace and provide quality education, we will likely be having discussions like today’s for many years to come.
The way beyond the pandemic has already been found, thanks to the development and distribution of vaccines. Yet this way is not available to all, particularly in developing countries. The refrigeration and other conditions required for storage and distribution are not available in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, where electricity still is a luxury for many, particularly in rural communities. Post-pandemic recovery in Africa requires ensuring that essential infrastructure is in place. We speak regularly about “African solutions for African problems” but for this laudable goal to become a reality, we need to support our African brothers and sisters to become dignified agents of their own destiny. Commitment is required not only at the local and regional level, but also on the part of the international community, States, financial institutions and other stakeholders, to ensure that even the remotest communities have the wherewithal for vaccination and those behind are not pushed even further back. We have frequently heard in debates in the Security Council, “No one is safe until all are safe,” and while safety most certainly involves security, it also requires, as we have noted, adequate health care, quality education and professional training opportunities for all boys and girls.
The Catholic Church is doing its part in various contexts to ensure that integral human development and peace comes to Africa, through peacebuilding efforts, education, health care and more. Consecrated women and men have taken an unsung, but very clear and determined lead in this. Their communities made up, as they are, of different cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds, testify that this is possible.
In this regard, Pope Francis, drawing on the wisdom of the bishops of South Africa, wrote recently that true reconciliation is achieved proactively, “by forming a new society, a society based on service to others, rather than the desire to dominate; a society based on sharing what one has with others, rather than the selfish scramble by each for as much wealth as possible; a society in which the value of being together as human beings is ultimately more important than any lesser group, whether it be family, nation, race or culture.”When such a model of reconciliation is fostered and grows, then communities can take an honest look at the root causes, seek to eliminate them, and move closer to achieving the sustainable future to which the family of nations has committed itself.
Thank you, Mr. President.
 Cf. Pope Francis, Urbi et Orbi, Easter, April 4, 2021.
 Cf. Pope Benedict XVI, Africæ Munus, 117.
 Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter, Fratelli Tutti, 229.