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Words into deeds on governance for peace and prosperity

African leaders at the 70th UN General Assembly

05-11-2015

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An edited, modified and shortened version of this article was originally published on the blog of the United Nations ‘Africa Renewal’ programme

At the 70th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), dubbed the “greatest geopolitical spectacle on earth”, the notion of governance and its relationship to global peace and prosperity was a recurrent topic.

During the UNGA a number of African Heads of State explicitly acknowledged the need to build peaceful, inclusive and well-governed societies with responsive institutions as the basis for shared and sustainable prosperity.

In his opening speech for the General Debate, UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft reminded delegates from around the world that poor governance counts as one of the main causes of global conflict today. While the Millennium Development Goals did not specifically address governance, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) consider promoting governance related targets as a vital aspect, enshrined in the 16th Goal on ‘peaceful and inclusive societies’.

The momentum created by the 70th UNGA should yield a resolute move beyond declarations and a constant spinning in diplomatic circles. The UNGA will prove a success for those advocating for peace and security if it results in leaders ultimately implementing meaningful reform for greater human rights, better governance and the rule of law in their respective countries.

What’s needed are strategies and partnerships that strengthen institutions and those who promote the principles and the building blocks of good governance.


Governance: Where Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063 meet


The UN targets on peaceful and inclusive societies are difficult to implement and to measure, but as African leaders agreed to them the question is how to integrate such ambitions into African continental development frameworks. How will African countries align the SDGs with their own transformative Agenda 2063, which was endorsed by African Heads of State at the African Union’s summit in January 2015? How can the new development agendas in the area of governance be taken up by all nations?

The 2015 UN Africa Week (12-16 October) for instance, looks precisely at how to create synergies between the UN Agenda 2030 and the African Union’s Agenda 2063. Besides popularising and mobilising international support for the Agenda 2063, and specifically its first 10-year implementation plan, there is also a need to identify how African regional organisations, particularly the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), could be strengthened in order to help achieve the global goals within Africa.

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From Africa to New York and back again


Good governance is a highly sensitive area that is defined and understood differently by Member States of the African Union. The African regional economic communities are in no easy position to try and implement Goal 16 and the AU’s goals on governance. One of the seven aspirations of the Agenda 2063 is dedicated to “An Africa of Good Governance, Democracy, and Respect for Human Rights, Justice and the Rule of Law”. These aspirations formed the basis for the Common African Position and support for the UN Global Goals.

In light of the international support for governance as a central pillar to global development, which came from Africa itself, there is a realistic chance of integrating the UN’s Goal 16 into existing African programs.

The AU’s African Governance Architecture (AGA) and the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) for instance offer opportunities to help advance Goal 16 by implementing policies and frameworks around the “clusters” of the governance architecture (see our infographic) in individual countries but also across African regions. In that context, regional economic communities could help align governance targets and results with national development plans (also visualised in our infographic).

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Sewing the African and the global together


Considering the interconnected nature of policy at the global-regional-national level, it is vital that the global goals are both ambitious and practical. For African leaders, the challenge is to find ways to create synergies between the global and the national.

The declarations made by African Heads of State during the 70th UNGA demonstrate a recognition of this. Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria, called for meeting the core objective of the UN Global Goals within the framework of a revitalised global partnership supported by policies and actions in financing for development, that were agreed to in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. Uganda is already somewhat ahead of the curve as its national strategy is already in line with the targets of the UN Global Goals.

H.E. Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria (70th UN General Assembly)

 Courtesy of the United Nations

Effective implementation at country level requires structured planning in terms of policy, financing, stability and effective, responsible and capable institutions. This also applies to the African regional economic communities, who might assist the relatively weaker member states in making progress on the governance front – just as it does with powerful countries. This would be in recognition of the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) that affirms the principle that different countries have different capabilities, starting points and scope of action for progress.

Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa, committed to continued efforts in the UN human rights system to combat the scourges of racism, xenophobia, racial discrimination and intolerance. He hoped that the discussions on violent extremism and terrorism would look to the root causes of the problems and not only address the symptoms. The discussion on “root causes” again brings us back to the question of good governance at different levels of society.

H.E. Mr. Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa (70th UN General Assembly)

Courtesy of the United Nations

Macky Sall, President of Senegal, emphasised that sustainable development cannot be realised without peace and security. Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta referred to the efforts of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and its IGAD‑PLUS peace initiative to resolve the South Sudan crisis.

H.E. Mr. Macky Sall, President of Senegal (70th UN General Assembly)

Courtesy of the United Nations

Such alliances among RECs, the African Union and other African countries as well international partners can play an important role in promoting peace, security and better governance.

H.E. Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya (70th UN General Assembly)

Courtesy of the United Nations


A significant moment for good (and global) governance


With this link between the national, regional and global in mind, the international community should get its act together when it comes to intergovernmental good governance. African Heads of State regretted the missed opportunity of addressing reforms of the UN Security Council at the 70th UNGA.

Revamping of the Security Council is an important aspect of global governance, and whether there will be progress still awaits clarification. However, the adoption of the UN Agenda 2030 represents a significant moment for the collective effort of promoting good governance.

The importance attributed to governance by African leaders and civil society alludes to a realistic chance of integrating SDG Goal 16 into existing African development frameworks. International and regional alliances as well as Africa’s regional economic communities can play an important role in advancing peace, security and good governance.

The promotion of just, peaceful and inclusive societies is a challenge which the international community can only confront and push forward collectively – and for that policy needs to be put into practice at the international, regional and national level.


The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of ECDPM

An edited, modified and shortened version of this article was originally published on the blog of the United Nations ‘Africa Renewal’ programme

Image courtesy of the United Nations

Videos courtesy of the United Nations

This blog is partly based on ECDPM’s recent Discussion Paper – The Regional Economic Communities and implementation of the African Governance Architecture (AGA): The case of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) 


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