Remarks by Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, U.S. Alternate Representative to the United Nations for Special Political Affairs, During the UN Security Council Meeting on Root Causes of Conflict in Africa

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
U.S. Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
April 15, 2013




AS DELIVERED

I would like to thank you, Madame President, for calling this meeting on peace and security in Africa, preventing conflicts, and addressing its root causes.  On behalf of the United States, I would also like to congratulate Rwanda on its presidency during this month.  And thank you, to the Secretary General for his briefing and recommendations to address the root causes of conflict, as well as to Ambassador Tekeda Alemu on behalf of the chairperson of the African Union.

Madame President, violent conflict has been a destructive scourge in Africa to which this Council has rightly devoted significant attention. The good news is that after a peak in the 1990s, armed conflict has significantly declined in sub-Saharan Africa-both in the number of conflicts and their intensity.  This Council and the UN system, together with the African Union, sub-regional organizations, and other partners, helped drive that positive trend significantly.  The less good news is that many risk factors and drivers of conflict remain.

While every violent conflict is unique and has its own history, several factors fuel or intensify risk, including poverty, real or perceived inequality, lack of good governance and rule of law, proximity to instability, and cycles of previous conflict.  The disenfranchisement of youth, minorities, and other groups or their deliberate manipulation by non-democratic leaders are explosive potential drivers of conflict. Alternately, capable and legitimate governance institutions create security, predictability, and mutual confidence that allows individuals and communities to resolve disputes and practice politics peacefully. Free media and a vibrant civil society also play crucial roles in building citizens' confidence by increasing transparency and providing communities with tools to speak up and articulate their concerns and interests.  A key common factor in preventing or overcoming conflict is credible, capable, and widely legitimate governing institutions able to deal with their citizens' most pressing needs: economic growth and jobs, basic services, and access to justice.

Madame President, to the United States, that means we need to energize efforts on a few key fronts.

First, we need to get much more serious about poverty eradication. Poverty alone does not cause conflict, but in combination with other factors, it dramatically increases the risk.  That is why the United States is mobilizing a wide variety of tools from the Millennium Challenge Corporation to the African Growth and Opportunity Act to the Administration's global health and food security initiatives, to help grow Africa's economies and invest in Africa's people.  All of these bilateral initiatives should complement multilateral efforts to address poverty and inequality, not just in Africa but globally.  The wider UN system has a critical role here as does the private sector.

Second, we need to strengthen our focus on governance and institutional challenges, including the security environment needed for good governance to take hold.  UN peacekeeping operations, when appropriate, can bring critical security and political stability that give national actors the space to build their own institutions and carry out peaceful power transitions as well as provide a foundation for economic growth. These operations can also create space for the work of the UN and other international partners in key areas like justice and security sector reform, rule of law, and anticorruption.  We also need to look at innovative ways to nurture the next generations of leadership. In this regard, President Obama's Young African Leaders Initiative is working to put younger generations at the center of economic and political development.

Third, we need to continue to strengthen peacebuilding.  Ninety percent of the civil wars that started since 2000 occurred in a country that had a civil war in the previous thirty years.  We must do better than that.  We need to listen to countries who have gone through war-to-peace transitions as in the g7+ and focus international efforts around what they tell us they need.  The UN's peacebuilding instruments also have potential to provide a platform for mobilizing national and international partners around common priorities for transition as we have seen in places like Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burundi, and elsewhere.

Fourth, we must continue to hone our national and international structures and capacities to anticipate, prevent, and respond to conflicts.  The Atrocities Prevention Board, for example, helps the United States identify, mobilize action by the U.S. Government, and further develop tools and institutional changes to enable more nimble and effective responses in the future.

Fifth, we need to be able to speak candidly and act credibly to address another kind of "root cause:" when leaders are willing to take their populations to war or wage war against their own people for their own purposes.

Finally, we need to build stronger and more dynamic partnerships among all actors engaged in conflict prevention and response based on comparative advantage and the unique capability each can bring.  The United Nations, African Union, Africa's sub-regional organizations, along with the African Development Bank, World Bank, and major development partners must all continue deepening collaboration and strengthening their capacities for addressing conflict drivers in Africa.  We have much greater knowledge today about what causes conflict; we have a much wider range of potential tools at our disposal. Let us use them with focus, dedication, and results.

I thank you.

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PRN: 2012/052