By Dr. Abdalla Hamdok, Deputy Executive Secretary, UNECA.
In the last few days there were media reports that Dr. Abdalla Hamdok, Deputy Executive Secretary, UNECA.
Ladies and Gentlemen
What lessons can we learn from these post-conflict African nations that have successfully transformed their fortunes?
Firstly good governance is paramount for peace to prevail. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa’s report on Governance in Africa, the continent has made significant strides in improving political, economic and corporate governance during the past decade. The report cites the holding of regular elections, improvement in the management of public resources, respect of the rule of law and adherence to the constitution in most countries as a sign of improved governance. Transparency and accountability at all levels of Government as well as equal participation provides the populace with a voice which provide checks and balances that are beneficial to the society.
Secondly the strategy for economic recovery in a post-conflict environment requires the laying of a solid vision for development, improving the business environment to facilitate private investment, and developing a plan for the use and equitable distribution of resources. The economic recovery plan should be supported by the promotion of a peaceful environment which can be sustained through developing programmes to reintegrate former combatants and promoting regional security cooperation. The large numbers of unemployed youths present a major challenge in post-conflict reconstruction. The youths require technical and vocational training adapted to the employment market (priority sectors) and creating an environment for the growth of small and medium scale enterprises
Thirdly, through post-conflict reconstruction programmes, decision makers must prioritize the management of natural resources and their equitable distribution to the population, particularly to local communities in a transparent manner and associating them in the process. Further, policies need to elaborate accountability mechanisms for better management of natural resources. Natural resources management strategy should target mapping the natural resources, the exploitation regulations, monitoring and evaluation. This will reduce the risks of conflicts, reinforce peace building, help fighting poverty, and ultimately enhance socio-economic development. Further, elaborating policies aiming at the protection of the ecosystem, preventing and managing natural disasters and climate change will contribute to environment damage mitigation.
Relapse into civil war is a real threat to development and hence the need for a holistic approach in addressing causes of instability. In order for the post-conflict strategy to be successful, it has to be regionally elaborated with the support of the international community. The commitment of continental and regional partners in mediating and ensuring peace prevails in Africa has been indispensable. The African Union Commission, the United Nations as well as regional economic commission such as ECOWAS, SADC and IGAD have played a critical role in fostering peace in various African countries.
We must also note that successful peace building efforts are expensive endeavours. While the prime responsibility for keeping Peace in the world rests with the Security Council (Public Good), meaning that the United Nations will continue to be a major player, Africa can finance its development, including funding peace building from its own domestic financial resources, if innovative instruments are deployed and supported by appropriate means of implementation. The resource potential exists and concrete results are within reach even within a short time horizon.
In this context there are major challenges to funding the long-term peace building processes in Africa, these can be summarised in the following:
* Peace-building is context specific and therefore requires tailored economic policies and instruments specific to the country in focus, for example, building or fostering peace in Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Somalia or Central African Republic may require similar instruments and comparable mechanisms, but the realities that determine success or failure are rooted in institutions at different levels of development and capacities to implement peace-building programmes.
* While it is possible to delimit peace-building to a small number of manageable programmes and activities, it is difficult to set priorities due to the enormity of needs in post-war states. It is even more difficult, almost impossible, to satisfy the aspiration and hopes of post-war societies. Questions which have often been asked include whether to give priority to long-term socio-economic reconstruction or short-term emergency relief to large numbers of the population whose sources of livelihood have been destroyed. Is the priority rebuilding the state institutions and what institutions should take priority over others: the machinery of the state, political parties, the legislature or the judiciary? Should priority be given to demobilizing combatants and offering them alternative employment opportunities or establishing a nationwide productive employment and safety net programme for poverty reduction and inclusive development? The difficulty to prioritize peace-building activities has often contributed to fragmented efforts and spreading scarce financial resources thinly.
* Peace-building takes place in conditions combining socio-economic complexities of developing economies and post-war fragility. The initial peace-building incidence can be described as volatile, messy and predicated in political instability often dominated by spoilers and some powerful elements of the very forces which benefited from the political economy of war. Taking peace-building as a precursor to the prevalence of justice, harmony and equality requires investing in and nurturing long-term programmes that should eventually deliver sustainable peace.
* Determining when conflict has ended and peace has commenced is not a straightforward matter. As experiences have shown, low-intensity conflicts tend to linger after ceasefire, leading in some cases to perpetual low intensity conflicts with different manifestations and magnitudes. Such situations contribute at least to two negative impacts on funding: directing resources away from developmental peace-building to prolonged peace-keeping activities, with huge financial implications; and undermining investor and donor confidence. This goes without saying that the national economy and civilians suffer from delayed ability to fast-track development.
* The international economic slowdown, donor fatigue and the reconfiguration of disaster/development trajectory has blurred the policy lines distinguishing peace-building and international development funding. As you are no doubt aware, the Peace-building Commission of the UN reports that: “Currently, peace-building related funding is often ad hoc and unable to maintain coherence between different stages of necessary engagement and separate funding streams. In this regard, there is a need to address the complexity of conflict and post-conflict settings by enhancing the speed, flexibility and risk tolerance of international support”. This requires peace-building funding trajectory to change and adapt to the long-term aspect of peacekeeping.
Nevertheless, the potential for Africa to raise substantially more domestic financial resources is huge. Domestic revenues mobilized in Africa today are in excess of US$520 billion compared with US$50 billion received in aid. African Central Banks hold more than US$400 billion in international reserves and Africa’s pension funds assets are growing at a staggering pace. Currently Africa’s Diaspora remittances soared to US$40 billion and in the next decade has the potential to grow to US$200 billion. Lessons emerging from country experiences is that, tax revenue can be increased by focusing on expanding the tax base. We must also address the challenges of Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs).
Africa needs to contribute to the global efforts by developing a Road Map that shows Africa’s commitment for funding peace relying on its Domestic Resource Mobilization There is a need for innovative ideas on funding peace from Africa and its partners. This would not only foster domestic ownership of bringing peace to our own nations but also strengthen our own resolve to maintain the hard-won gains of peace.
In conclusion, it is clear from the national experiences that peace, stability and security in Africa are critical to attaining the development objectives espoused in the African Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals 2030. The one-size-fits-all negative lens often used to depict fragility and conflict in Africa masks the complex manifestations of the extent and character of the challenges in the different countries. This generalized view is unfortunately employed to classify almost the entire African continent as fragile. Yet the situations of these countries differ markedly and ideally. These countries could be described more positively as awaking, emerging countries or capable States, in recognition of the efforts being made to address and overcome fragility in order to move the states on a sustained development path.