THE UNITED NATIONS - Peace is the key to unlocking Africa’s future and for strengthening the continent’s voice and influence in building peace globally, UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council on Thursday.

“Now is the time to unleash Africa’s peace power,” he said, opening a debate on its critical role in addressing global security and development challenges, convened by Mozambique, the Council president for May.

Calling Africa “an important voice for the global good”, he cited examples of how the continent has shown “unity and solidarity in a fractured world”, which include focusing on ending poverty and hunger, supporting refugees, achieving sustainable development, and pushing for reform of the decades-old global financial system.

Ceasefire for Sudan

Mr. Guterres said that although efforts like these require peace in Africa and beyond, “too many Africans are caught up in the hell of conflicts or living with the relentless danger of terrorism and violent extremism in their communities.”

Addressing the war and “deepening humanitarian nightmare” in Sudan, he warned that increased hostilities in El Fasher are “opening an alarming new chapter” in the conflict, now in its second year.

“We need a concerted global push for a ceasefire, followed by a comprehensive peace process to end the bloodshed,” he said.

Silence the guns

Mr. Guterres outlined three steps to strengthen Africa’s peace leadership, both on the continent and on the global stage.

“First – we need peace in Africa itself,” he said, highlighting the UN’s partnership with the African Union (AU) and support for its ‘Silencing the Guns’ initiative.

He also commended the Security Council’s adoption of resolution 2719 last year which allows AU-led peace support operations that receive their mandates from the Council to access UN assessed contributions.

The two organizations “will continue working together to defuse conflicts before they escalate, manage them effectively when they occur, and build sustainable peace when they are resolved,” he said.

Reform outdated institutions

Secondly, African participation and leadership must be embedded across “the global peace and security architecture”.

He stressed the need to reform the UN Security Council and other global institutions that were established following the Second World War, which are now outdated.

Structural inequalities have resulted in African states suffering disproportionately from the effects of conflicts, an unjust global financial system, and the climate crisis.

Praise for Kenya

Yet at the same time, they are also stepping up and contributing to global peace efforts, he added.

He commended Kenya for spearheading the upcoming Multilateral Security Support Mission that will be deployed to Haiti to bolster national efforts to quell rampant gang violence. He also extended praise to other African countries that have offered to send troops.

The Secretary-General insisted that Africa deserves a voice in the global peace and security architecture.

A voice among equals

“But strengthening Africa’s voice can only happen if African countries can participate in global governance structures as equals,” he said. “This must include correcting the lack of permanent African representation at this Council.”

The Secretary-General pointed to the Summit of the Future at UN Headquarters in September as an opportunity to push forward on this and other issues, such as reform of the global financial system.