Africa: Peaceful Inclusive Societies Pre-requisites For Development
Chairperson of the AU Commission Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma sees peace and security as paramount
[Commentary On Development Issues]
The United Nations General Assembly created an Open Working Group (OWG) to prepare and submit to it for consideration and adoption proposals for sustainable development goals (SDGs) as an integral part of the post-2015 development agenda to 2030.
The working Group concluded its work in New York on July 19, 2014 after one and half years of hard work that brought together state and non-state representatives.
The review of implementation of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that are scheduled to end on December 31, 2015 revealed that countries in conflict or emerging out of conflict performed poorly especially in Africa South of Sahara.
Studies conducted earlier had also revealed that instability undermines development and improvement in the standard of living. For example, under relatively peaceful conditions Uganda recorded an economic growth rate averaging 6 percent per annum between 1963 and 1970. The health and education sectors among others provided quality services that contributed to improved social welfare. However, during the unstable period of the military administration between 1971 and 1979; the post-Amin political crisis of 1979-1980 and the subsequent guerrilla war of 1981-1985, Uganda’s real GDP declined by 20 percent between 1972 and 1985 (World Bank 1993).
Before the political crisis in Rwanda that culminated in the 1994 genocide, Rwanda’s economic model and its impact on social welfare were a success story and commended for emulation by other African countries. However, the civil war that resulted inter alia in massive population displacement to the tune of one million between 1990 and 1993 halted and then reversed the economic growth that had been achieved before 1990. In 1994 alone when the war intensified, Rwanda’s GDP contracted by 50 percent. Thus, by the end of the war that began in 1990, Rwanda’s economy was in ruins.
In El Salvador, one of the countries in Central America, the 12-year civil war that had been triggered in part by inequality claimed 75,000 lives and devastated the economy, infrastructure and the social fabric, demonstrating beyond doubt as in Rwanda and Uganda that peace is a condition for sustained development.
These research findings in Africa have concluded that rebuilding the continent politically, economically, socially and environmentally will require an understanding of the root causes of conflicts. It is noted that the current conflicts reflect the latest twist in a long and bloody history that is undermining development and social progress.
Thankfully, African leaders have recognized that instability is a major contributor to Africa’s slow economic growth and social development. In the Constitutive Act of 2000 that transformed the Organization of African Unity into the African Union, African leaders underscored that conflict is an economic and social development deterrent. They committed themselves to addressing the challenges of conflict and violence. To this effect, they stated “We as leaders simply cannot bequeath the burden of conflict to the next generation of Africans”. Accordingly, African leaders declared 2010 as the year of peace and security.
The chairperson of the African Union Commission emphasized that “of the many challenges facing the AU and Africa, the quest for peace and security is the most pressing”. He reaffirmed the AU’s commitment to peace building efforts in partnership with the international community (Curtis and Dzinesa 2012). In this collaborative effort two developments have already occurred.
First, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of the World Bank have begun joint programs on peace and development with the African Union. Their joint missions to the Great Lakes and Sahelian regions are a testimony that political and economic organs at the African and international levels are ready to work together to solve conflict as a prerequisite for sustained economic and social development. Arrangements are underway for a joint mission to the Horn of Africa region.
Second, in preparation for the post-2015 development agenda the African Union produced a Common African Position (CAP). One of the priority areas for inclusion in the post-2015 development agenda is peace and security. Upon receipt of CAP, African Ambassadors at the United Nations in New York organized a retreat and discussed inter alia how to address this priority area in the Open Working Group. Accordingly, African delegations in New York and from capitals played a crucial role in debating the inter-linkages among peace, inclusiveness and development that resulted in goal 16 to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
During the formal and informal debates it became clear that political exclusion based largely on the winner-take-all concept is the primary cause of conflict in many countries that has contributed to economic and social inequalities and conflict.
Thus, the targets in goal 16 of the report of the Open Working Group include the promotion of the rule of law and equal access to justice for all; reduction of corruption and bribery in all their forms; development of effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels; ensuring responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels; ensuring public access to information and protection of freedoms and promotion and enforcement of non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development and protection of fundamental freedoms.
That peaceful and inclusive societies have been recognized as constituting a condition for sustained and sustainable development is a move in the right direction.
Eric Kashambuzi is international consultant on development issues. He lives in New York.