African Union headquarters
African Union headquarter

African experts and policymakers on Monday stressed the crucial need to ensure continental peace and stability as a crucial imperative towards effectively harnessing Africa’s demographic dividend to drive the momentum in Africa’s sustainable development endeavor.

The experts and policymakers, who are drawn from African gender ministers, high-level officials of the African Union (AU) and UN agencies, as well as more than 200 civil society representatives across Africa, made the urgent call on Monday during a gender equality-themed high-level continental meeting, which is underway from Feb. 3 to 4 under the theme

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“Recognizing and Amplifying Women and Girls Agency to Silence the Guns in Africa”.

Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the UN-ECA, told the continental meeting that ensuring peace and stability is, in particular, an urgent task among African countries that are presently in active conflicts, mainly Somalia, Central African Republic (CAR), Libya, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burundi.

“Every time guns go off in Africa it is the girl child who suffers and stops going to school. Women die in their numbers and conflict-related sexual abuses go up,” Songwe said, adding “with these numbers we seriously can never deliver on the global Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and Africa’s 50-year development Agenda 2063, the Africa We Want. We know that and our leaders know that too.”

The ECA chief further stressed that African countries that are presently in active conflicts have “alarming figures of rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, enforced sterilization, forced marriages and other forms of sexual violence.”

According to Songwe, winning the battle requires “bold actions to end gender discrimination, providing voice and agency to those who still remain in the margins of decision-making on critical issues of development and on peace and human security.”

Songwe also stressed that the ECA, together with the UN Office for the AU Commission, and the UN Trust Fund for Human Security, is supporting the AU Commission to develop the African Human Security Index, a tool for identifying vulnerability and development of integrated frameworks that could contribute to silencing the guns.

“The tool will help monitor progress in the implementation of Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” Songwe said.

“We also need to engage the private sector in this campaign. Private sector makes and sells the guns, so we need to make sure that we bring them into this conversation,” she added.

Vasu Chergui, Executive Director of the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), also echoed Songwe’s remarks, as he stressed that “Africa is in the race against time.”

“The continent, with no industries, jobs, rapid urbanization, the global economic slowdown, commodity crisis, climate change, disruptive technologies, end of neo-liberal democracy, rise of populism, nationalism and authoritarianism, is at a very dangerous crossroads,” Chergui stressed.

“Significant parts of Africa are reaching a dangerous tipping point,” said Chergui, adding that the transformation to address root causes of conflict on the continent would take between 20-40 years.

ACCORD’s Executive Director further stressed that armed, complex and protracted conflict “will sadly characterize large parts of the African landscape in the coming decades if the drivers of conflict were not urgently addressed.” Enditem

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