23 March 2021
[as prepared for delivery]
Your Excellency Ammo Aziza Baroud,
Chairperson of the African Group,
Let me begin by extending my deepest condolences to the people of the United Republic of Tanzania on the death of late President Joseph Magufuli.
I welcome this opportunity to meet with the African Group at a critical moment.
We have entered the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. I want to reiterate my full solidarity with the Governments and people of Africa.
I commend Africa’s leadership in coordinating a continental response.
Africa has reported more than four million cases. Sadly, more than 100,000 Africans have lost their lives.
The United Nations is fully committed to working closely with African countries on the vaccine roll-out.
As I have said again and again, a COVID-19 vaccine must be a global public good available to everyone, everywhere.
Vaccine equity is a moral test of global solidarity.
COVAX – the global vaccine equity mechanism – has started delivery around the world, including to some of the lowest-income countries.
As of 21 March, 26 African countries have received more than 15 million COVAX doses.
Yet I am deeply concerned that many low-income countries have not yet received a single dose, while wealthier countries are on track to vaccinating their entire population.
We see many examples of vaccine nationalism and vaccine hoarding in wealthier countries — as well as continued side deals with manufacturers that undermine access for all.
The world needs to unite to produce and distribute sufficient vaccines for all, which means at least doubling manufacturing capacity around the world.
We also need strengthened collaboration between COVAX and the African Vaccine Acquisition Team.
To ease the economic and social fallout of the crisis, the United Nations is calling for debt relief; more liquidity through a new allocation of Special Drawing Rights and a reallocation of unused SDRs; and an increase in resources from the international financial institutions to support developing countries, particularly in Africa.
We are also combatting the parallel plague of misinformation.
And in the broadest sense, we are pressing for a recovery that addresses the inequalities and fragilities that the pandemic has so starkly put on display, and that feed global instability, discontent and social unrest.
Let me also address the climate emergency as it pertains to Africa.
Despite its relatively limited contribution to global emissions, Africa continues to pay a high price for climate change.
As we strive to implement the Paris Agreement and mobilize a global coalition to reach net-zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century, we also need a breakthrough on adaptation.
By working at the nexus of adaptation and peacebuilding, we can strengthen the resilience of States and communities. Since 2017, the Peacebuilding Fund has invested in projects in 35 African countries on climate-related security issues.
I have called on all donors, and on national and multilateral development banks, to increase the share of adaptation and resilience to at least 50 per cent of climate finance. These funds must be easily accessible and channelled to the continent commensurate with needs and projected impacts.
I have called on members of the G7 to make this very concrete commitment at their Summit in June, including through a doubling of their public climate finance for the period from 2021 to 2025 through new pledges with a strong preference for grants.
All developed countries must honour and surpass the commitment to contribute $100 billion annually to developing countries, and we are not there yet.
I have also called on all multilateral developments banks to increase their adaptation and resilience portfolios so that they are aligned with the Paris Agreement goals by 2024 -- and to demonstrate by COP26 in November how they will increase financial and technical support for countries most vulnerable to climate change.
We must also adopt a climate-sensitive and environment-friendly approach to COVID-19 recovery efforts.
From day one, I have been determined to enhance the United Nations-African Union partnership.
We are working together to align the 2030 Agenda and Africa’s Agenda 2063.
We share the objectives of building a fair globalization that works for all, and ending poverty through a Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals. These plans and roadmaps have brought new impetus to the efforts of Governments, UN entities and development partners.
Africa’s development remains an absolute priority for the UN system.
The Office of the Special Adviser for Africa plays an important role in advocating for and coordinating the provision of effective and sustained support for Africa’s transformative efforts for inclusive sustainable development.
At the country level, we continue to work closely with the African Union as well as the Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms to advance peace and sustainable development.
Africa’s “Silencing the Guns” initiative remains a key part of the picture.
I again thank African governments for supporting my call for a global ceasefire.
I am also grateful for the continued provision of military personnel for our peacekeeping operations, and your strong support in the budget negotiations in the General Assembly.
Let’s remember that not only are most United Nations peacekeeping operations in Africa, but most blue helmets are themselves Africans.
They are playing brave and indispensable roles -- and often operate in places where there is no peace to keep, and where they themselves become targeted for attacks.
We must ensure that AU peace enforcement and counter-terrorism operations are mandated by the Security Council under Chapter VII of the Charter, and receive predictable and sustained financing, including through the use of assessed contributions.
Various initiatives are making peacekeeping more effective, and we are pressing ahead under “Action for Peacekeeping Plus” to address continuing challenges.
We are also engaged together in good offices efforts to prevent, mitigate and mediate conflicts and to create conducive environments for elections.
In Libya, the parties signed a ceasefire agreement under the auspices of the United Nations. A few days ago, I welcomed the endorsement by the House of Representatives of the interim Government of National Unity.
I am grateful for the close engagement of the African Union in support of the ongoing dialogue process in Libya, including as co-chair of the Security Working Group of the International Follow-up Committee.
I am equally grateful for the leadership demonstrated by the Contact Group of the AU High-Level Committee on Libya, under the leadership of President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo, which continues to play a critical role in supporting the resolution of the Libyan conflict.
The United Nations will continue to work closely with the African Union to facilitate a Libyan-led and Libyan-owned, inclusive strategy on national reconciliation.
The situation on the continent shows signs of progress in some places and worrying escalations in others. Terrorist and violent extremist groups are using the uncertainty and heightened needs created by the pandemic to press their advantage.
I remain very concerned about the situation in the Sahel region, with over 2 million people displaced and millions facing severe food insecurity, and the possibility of a crisis caused by higher food prices and declining income.
The experience of the G5 Sahel force is a clear example of the need for a clear mandate and adequate financial support.
I recently appointed a Special Coordinator for development in the Sahel, who will lead UN system-wide efforts to implement the Integrated Strategy, drawing on all United Nations assets in the region and working hand in hand with our regional partners.
I welcome the extension of the “Silencing the Guns” initiative to 2030 and reaffirm the steady support of the United Nations.
Let us work together for the greater involvement of women and youth in the peace and security agenda and to advance sustainable development. This is essential for resilient communities, societies and economies.
This is a pivotal moment, with pandemic recovery offering a chance to reengineer our future and accelerate our work to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
The past year has also been a test of the United Nations reform agenda – and I am grateful for your support in enabling us to meet these challenges.
I look forward to continued cooperation with the African Group across a broad agenda of common objectives.
Thank you, Madam Chair.