At the outset, the European Union would like to thank the distinguished Panel for its contribution to this debate on conflict prevention and post-conflict peacebuilding in Africa. We would also like to thank the Bureau for its important initiative to arrange NGO hearings on the themes discussed this week.
The European Union is in the process of enhancing its common foreign and security policy, and has recently adopted a new common position on conflict prevention, management and resolution in Africa. The common position will form the basis for EU activity in the period ahead, and for the EU´s dialogue with the UN, and African regional and sub-regional organisations in this field. As part of today´s debate we would like to take the opportunity to briefly outline the main features of this policy.
As a general point of departure, the EU believes that the primary responsibility to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts on the African continent lies with the Africans themselves. The EU is committed to play its part together with the OAU and the African sub-regional organisations, which constitute the central actors in the process. The EU will continue to support these organisations, in particular in building their capacities for early warning systems, mediation, peacekeeping and in strengthening their linkages with other members of the international community.
EU co-operation with the OAU in the field of conflict prevention will be pursued with a view to developing a long-term partnership, built on the plan of action adopted last year at the EU-OAU Summit in Cairo. The EU also supports OAU mediation efforts, as was the case in Algers when the EU and the US acted as facilitators of the OAU efforts to reach a settlement of the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Furthermore, the EU is involved in dialogues with and provides support to ECOWAS and SADC respectively. Under the Cotonou agreement, the EU also pursues bilateral dialogues with ACP countries on issues related to conflict prevention and democracy, human rights, the rule of law and good governance, where development co-operation has a strategic role to play in strengthening capacities to manage conflicts in peaceful ways.
There is a need to strengthen African capacity for peacekeeping. The EU will continue to support, over the long term, the enhancement of African peacekeeping capabilities, at regional, sub-regional, and bilateral levels. The EU will also seek to further its co-ordination with the UN on activities aimed at strengthening African peacekeeping capabilities. In addition, we will continue to provide direct contributions to UN peacekeeping missions in Africa. In analysing how to best co-ordinate its efforts in areas such as training, equipment, and exercises, the EU will take into consideration key areas of the Brahimi report.
As already indicated, the EU stresses the strategic role of development co-operation in conflict prevention and peacebuilding. The EU member states and the European Commission provide some of the largest assistance for development in Africa. The main objective of EU development co-operation is to reduce and eventually eradicate poverty, one of the main root causes of conflict. Our aim is to achieve the target set by the UN to reduce by half the number of people living in extreme poverty, and who suffer from hunger. Based on this objective, the European Commission is undertaking a major review of its activities with a view to improving co-operation with the UN on development and humanitarian matters and today the Council of Ministers in Brussels adopted a resolution based on this process. The outcome of the process is intended also to make more effective the EU´s development co-operation in Africa.
The EU underlines the need to maintain focus on a conflict throughout all stages, including those stages when there is no combat. The disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of ex-combatants is key in this process, and the EU stresses that there is at the moment an urgent need to provide funding to DDR programmes in Africa. In order to contribute to a more systematic and coherent approach to post-war situations in Africa, the EU also stands ready to inter alia support the strengthening of democratic institutions, reform of the security sector; as well as reconciliation and reconstruction efforts. In this context, the EU also welcomes the recommendation in the Brahimi report to allocate a small part of the budget of a peacekeeping mission to quick impact projects in order to facilitate the transition to post-war situations.
One of the main challenges in this process is the spread of small arms and light weapons. In recent years, the EU has adopted joint actions and positions to control arms exports to countries in conflict. However, there is a limit to what can be done by outside parties, and the EU therefore welcomes in particular initiatives by the parties concerned, such as the ECOWAS moratorium on small arms. The EU also underlines the need to continue to take concrete steps for the destruction of small arms and supports the Programme of Co-ordination and Assistance for Security and Development (PCASED). The EU anticipates that this year’s UN Conference on Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons In All its Aspects, will provide a new impetus for collective action in the combat against destabilising accumulations and uncontrolled spread of small arms and light weapons.
The EU stresses the need to target the specific conflicts in Africa with comprehensive and integrated strategies, involving elements of the kind outlined above. We welcome recent steps taken by the UN under the guidance of ASG Ibrahima Fall to develop such a comprehensive approach to West Africa. It is also important to underline that a comprehensive and long-term approach must not be a substitute, but a complement to measures addressing the immediate conflict situation. This week, a high level mission from the EU is visiting the sub-region to meet with key actors, including the presidents of the three Mano River Union countries, in order to make an assessment and seek ways of enhancing the EU´s approach to the situation. In this context, we would also be interested in Mr. Fall´s views on how the recommendations in his report will be translated into practical measures, and which role he foresees for other partners in that process.
Finally, let me underline that the EU looks forward to the issuing of the Secretary General´s report on conflict prevention. For its part, the EU expects to adopt a comprehensive action programme on conflict prevention at its summit in Gothenburg in June. Co-operation and close co-ordination between the EU, the UN and other actors will continue to be essential in the implementation of these activities.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.