On 28 November 2023, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and the African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat convened the seventh African Union-United Nations Annual Conference in New York. They stressed their deep concern regarding the current international situation and expressed their regrets on the dangers and risks that challenge the common and shared values of both organizations.
The Secretary-General and the Chairperson reviewed progress in the implementation of the “UN-AU Joint Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security” and the “AU-UN Framework for the Implementation of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” and signed the AU-UN Joint Framework on Human Rights.
A High-Level Strategic Dialogue on Sustainable Development was established. The Dialogue will convene twice per year, chaired by the Deputy Secretary-General and the Deputy Chairperson. It will consider and address priority issues of strategic importance in the joint partnership of the United Nations and the African Union on sustainable development, providing recommendations for consideration at the African Union-United Nations Annual Conference. The High-Level Strategic Dialogue will oversee, and be advised by, College-to-College Fora where Commissioners from the African Union Commission and relevant principals from the United Nations will engage regularly on shared priorities and policies.
The Annual Conference underlined the importance of effective conflict prevention, peacemaking, peace operations, peacebuilding and sustainable development efforts to support objectives of Member States to achieve peace and stability on the continent and to attain the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Agenda 2063.
The two organizations agreed to further engage in joint analysis and knowledge exchange to strengthen the capacities of both organizations for preventive diplomacy, mediation and conflict resolution as well as development policy in Africa. The meeting underscored the importance to continue to promote women’s participation and youth engagement in peace processes, decision-making and policymaking.
Moreover, the Secretary-General and the Chairperson reiterated their call for predictable, adequate and sustainable financing of African Union-led peace support operations authorized by the Security Council through United Nations-assessed contributions, and looked forward to the Security Council reaching an agreement on this long-standing matter.
The Annual Conference condemned the resurgence of unconstitutional changes of government in Africa and stressed the need for a timely and peaceful return to constitutional order in Burkina Faso, Gabon, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Sudan which are undergoing complex political transitions to sustain peace, development and human rights in the long term. It also called for the release of President Bazoum and other arrested government officials.
The Annual Conference agreed to enhance their joint efforts to promote inclusive political transitions in these countries in support of the efforts of the respective transitional authorities and regional bodies, particularly the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD).
The Annual Conference also pledged to continue seeking practical strategies to better address the evolving conflict dynamics in the Sahel and reinforce the appropriate governance, development, security and humanitarian responses.
The meeting called for continued efforts towards a timely completion of all ongoing political transitions through peaceful, inclusive, transparent and credible elections. It also welcomed the recent confidence-building measures carried out by the transitional authorities in Chad.
On the Great Lakes region, the meeting expressed concern over the deterioration of the security situation in North Kivu and Ituri provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The meeting condemned violence perpetrated by armed groups against civilians, mostly women and children, and urged all armed groups to cease hostilities. The meeting took note of the recent undertakings made by the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda to de-escalate tensions and encourage the two countries to continue to pursue these efforts, in line with existing commitments. The principals reiterated their readiness to continue supporting regional peace initiatives and ensure that these efforts are complementary and mutually reinforcing, in line with the decisions of the Quadripartite Summit of 27 June in Luanda.
On Somalia, the meeting emphasized the significance of continued UN-AU cooperation in support of the state-building process of the Federal Government of Somalia, and reaffirmed the need for concerted efforts to ensure predictable, sustainable, and adequate funding for the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) during the crucial security transition period.
On South Sudan, the meeting called on the parties to the revitalised peace agreement in South Sudan to work together and achieve the full implementation of the remaining provisions of the agreement and to ensure the peaceful conduct of free, fair and credible elections at the end of the transition period in December 2024.
On the Sudan, the meeting deplored the escalating conflict, including the ethnicization of the fighting in Darfur and continued reports of widespread human rights violations. The Secretary-General and the Chairperson discussed the efforts of the African Union and IGAD towards strong and well-coordinated international support for a sustainable resolution to the conflict. They stressed the importance of the warring parties reaching a lasting ceasefire and path to a negotiated settlement of the conflict.
The two parties commend the efforts of the United Nations in Libya regarding the organization of the elections. They commend the efforts of the African Union to promote a process to hold the inclusive national reconciliation conference. They stressed the need for synergy and to coordinate more efficiently these two tracks.
The Chairperson and the Secretary General recalled their previous commitments to strengthening the coordination among their representatives and Special Envoys in their efforts on the ground.
The Chairperson and the Secretary-General highlighted the dramatic worsening of the socio-economic situation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent global food, energy and financial crises, and the ongoing climate emergency. These challenges are currently exacerbated by serious humanitarian concerns, particularly in countries affected by conflict.
Against this backdrop, they expressed concern over the challenges African countries continue to face towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063. They underlined the potential offered by the human, financial and natural resources and assets available on the continent, including renewable and traditional energy sources, critical minerals, pension funds and trade flows. They underscored the importance of education – the priority of the African Union in 2024 – and the need to continue to advance commitments made under the United Nations Transforming Education Summit in 2022.
The Chairperson and the Secretary-General noted the potential of the recent General Assembly resolution led by Africa to strengthen international tax cooperation. They also highlighted the potential of the continent to become a global-solutions powerhouse for decarbonizing production systems, reaching net-zero targets, and promoting inclusive and sustainable development, and called for activating the enablers of transformative change, in particular institutional development, education and technology transfer. The need to invest in key transitions that will accelerate development progress was highlighted as a top priority, including the advancement of finance and sustainable energy and food systems across the continent.
The Chairperson and the Secretary-General acknowledged and endorsed the recommendation from the Deputy Chairperson and the Deputy Secretary-General that finance be a priority of African Union and United Nations collaboration on sustainable development in 2024. In this regard, the Chairperson and the Secretary-General reiterated their call to reform the international financial architecture so as to increase Africa’s ability to effectively address the challenges of the 21st century. They emphasized the need for Africa to have a strong voice and representation in the reform discussions. They also reiterated their call for Special Drawing Rights rechannelling as recommended by the Secretary-General in his proposal for a Sustainable Development Goal Stimulus and by the African Development Bank. They called for the Summit of the Future in 2024, the 4th International Conference on Financing for Development and the World Social Summit in 2025 to be leveraged to reach consensus on ambitious reforms to the international financial institutions, including increases to Multilateral Development Banks capitalization-related governance reforms, and establishing an effective debt resolution mechanism. The Chairperson and the Secretary-General further noted that strengthening Africa’s global voice and agency is connected to the pursuit of greater country ownership, enhancing their policy space and ensuring control over their economic and financial flows. They highlighted the criticality of effective institutions, in particular domestic resource mobilisation systems, to reduce African countries’ dependency and to improve country risk profiles. The Chairperson and the Secretary-General underscored the role that the AU-UN partnership can play in supporting the fulfilment of these objectives and encouraged the High-Level Strategic Dialogue to assess the most efficient way to leverage the United Nations footprint in the continent in support of African countries.
On the Human Rights 75 Initiative, the Chairperson and the Secretary General noted that the initiative presents an enormous opportunity to return to the consensus envisaged by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to reset, strengthen and further develop the remarkable human rights infrastructure that has been constructed. The Human Rights 75 Initiative will help to rekindle the spirit, impulse and vitality that led to the creation of the UDHR, and to forge a new worldwide consensus on human rights.
The Secretary-General and the Chairperson agreed to convene the Eighth AU-UN Annual Conference in 2024 in Addis Ababa at a date to be mutually agreed.