The second edition of AFRI CONVERSE 2021, held on 25 February, called for a wide-ranging partnership to address the root causes of crises and promote peace and stability in Africa, particularly in the Sahel and Horn of Africa regions. Gathering over 250 participants, including six African Ambassadors to Japan, the initiative brought the most pressing development issues in Africa onto the agenda, ahead of the eight Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), which will be held in Tunisia in 2022.
Severe vulnerabilities are deepening in Africa due to the convergence of multiple factors: poverty, social exclusion, rapid population growth, food insecurity, internal displacement, weak governance, violent extremism and conflict. The Sahel, including the lake Chad basin, the Great Lakes and the Horn of Africa regions, are particularly affected and have become the epicentre of violent conflicts over the past decade. Unprecedented levels of insecurity and political, humanitarian and development crises are now exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which risk jeopardizing progress made towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2020 alone, over 10,000 civilians have been killed in the Central Sahel. Insecurity and forced displacement are tearing the social fabric apart in many communities and disrupting basic services delivery and affecting governance.
Speaking about the contribution of Japan to peace and stability in Africa, Mr. Naoki Takahashi, the Director of the First Africa Division at the African Affairs Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, indicated that conflicts in the Sahel and in the Horn of Africa regions put human security and dignity at risk and threatens millions of lives. He stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened an already precarious situation and stretched already weak systems. More than ever, it is important to address the root causes of conflicts by building stronger institutions with African countries in the driver’s seat, based on the New Approach for Peace and Stability in Africa (NAPSA).
Ms. Eri Komukai, Senior Advisor for peacebuilding at the Japan International Cooperation Agency, highlighted that the organization provides support to enable local governments to provide inclusive, fair, and functional services to their citizens. She emphasized that local governments play an important role in building social cohesion and that meeting the expectation from the community is key to reduce and avoid trust deficiency. She pointed out the importance of data-driven transparent planning processes, improved communication between governments and citizens, and the inclusion of vulnerable and marginalized groups. She shared best practices from a UNDP-JICA collaboration supporting capacity development of state and local governments affected by the conflict in north-east Nigeria.
Mr. Muhammad Amin Suleiman, Executive Secretary of the Adamawa State Emergency Management Agency in Nigeria, analysed the root causes of conflicts, including youth unemployment, lack of education, wrong interpretation of religious principles, shrinking local resources and livelihood opportunities. He emphasized that enhancing the capacities of local governments and communities, including youth, women, religious and traditional leaders would help fast-tracking recovery from conflicts and nurture understanding, cohesion, and trust within the communities.
The conference also focused on the African borderlands, home to more than 270 million people who face the triple threat of conflict, COVID-19 and climate change, and tend to be underserved by national institutions. Mr. Zeynu Ummer, the Chief Technical Advisor for the newly launched UNDP Africa Borderlands Centre reiterated that insufficient attention and resources were being given to addressing the specific needs of people in the borderlands. The Africa Borderlands Centre offers specialized, expert knowledge and technical advice that enable the better design, implementation, and adaptation of development programmes for border regions across Africa.
Ahead of TICAD 8, AFRI CONVERSE stakeholders agreed to develop broader partnerships to prevent conflict and stabilize the continent. They are mobilised to address the root causes of conflicts through institution building, strengthening governance and resilience of communities, building the capacity of local government institutions, providing economic opportunities and services to the vulnerable groups, and facilitating dialogues, mediations, and communications within communities.
AFRI CONVERSE will continue to be held bi-monthly to build momentum for TICAD 8 by mobilizing a wide range of stakeholders from Africa and Japan to engage on the most pressing development issues.