MONROVIA – With the changing global power shift, questions are emerging on just how Africa’s quest for a new international system will unfold. Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who co-chairs the High-Level Board on effective multilateralism at the United Nations has been sharing her thoughts on an array of issues affecting Africa, from governance and financial architectures, peace and security, the environment, as well as gender equity.
Speaking on CNBC Africa Friday, April 28, 2023, Madam Sirleaf provided a synopsis of the UN High-Level Advisory Board’s most recent report titled “A Breakthrough of People and Planet”.
“The mandate given to the High-Level Advisory Board by the United Nations Secretary General was to do a report taking into account the need for global change. That group brought together a diversity of talents and experience from all continents to be able to look at the systems of governance and make recommendations for reforms.
“The report presented to the Secretary General just the 18th of April, consists of six shifts which in effect represent basic recommendations for changes in a global governance architecture. The first part of this is to make sure that people have a say, and this would lead to much more effective multilateralism and a stronger voice or civil society in all matters relating to global activities and global decision-making.
“Another has to do with the global financial architecture that aims to have more equity that would lead to changes in management of institutions of governance, procedures of governance, a scaling of resources, better accountability of resources. The details of those are there, but in effect bringing in the private sector in blending finance and giving more voice to regional financial institutions, both the allocation and use of resources. That’s all part of the changes. And then, of course, in the area of security, ensuring that the member states of the United Nations would look at the Charter and see how there might be a look at the composition of the Security Council and how that might be reformed to bring in more equity in the decision making of that Council, and how we might see a shifting for the protection of security and stability in the world to preventing conflict, rather than trying to resolve conflict,” Madam Sirleaf averred.
Addressing further the issue of conflict, especially the ongoing Sudan war, former President Sirleaf who is also a recipient of the revered Nobel Peace Prize said Africa has always established the South as an effective intervening force in conflicts, until very recently when the entire global system of partnership fractured.
“Within the last five years or so, Africa today now faces coup d’états; partnerships that are being challenged and new partnerships; and different forms of geopolitical interventions, thereby weakening the role that the African Union and its subsidiary political organizations have played in the prevention and resolution of conflicts.
“The situation in Sudan is unfortunate. Global cooperation as we knew it a decade ago, whether through security council or otherwise, is no longer there for the kinds of response that are needed. So, the African Union has to of course now to do what it can. And I believe the African Union is rising to that challenge in Sudan. I think they’re having meetings amongst the relevant African countries to deal with the Sudan situation. But beyond that, the African Union will have again to look at where our African countries have slipped in terms of performance; in terms of promoting Pan-Africanism; in terms of maintaining peace, security and stability within our counties, individually, and collectively.
“I believe the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and their forum that is ongoing right now in Nairobi provides a good opportunity for Africa’s partners to meet on issues relating to the global environment and its changes and multilateralism which has lost the effectiveness it’s always had through global cooperation. They will be having meetings here, in which I think much of those issues will be addressed. And I dare say, Mo Ibrahim himself as you know, will bring to these meetings what he always does in his leadership of ensuring that Africa has a stronger say, that Africa has the unity to address its own problems, and to be able to find all the measures to control its own destiny,” Madam Sirleaf stated emphatically.
Further elaborating on how Africa can control its own destiny and have a stronger voice, against the stark reality that the peace and security budget for the African Union which totals US$279 million is largely funded by donors, and that most of the funding for the continent comes from donors, Madam Sirleaf called on African nations to contribute to the work of the African Union.
“We need to do more about it in terms of contribution by each member state, to the work of the Union, no question about it. But bear in mind that those that are funding or supporting our African Union initiatives owe Africa something. After all, their own development is based upon African resources that they expropriated. So, it’s just that the coins have flipped, and now they’re supporting. But we must not look at it that way; Africa must become self-sufficient on the basis of its own endowment, on its own resources; but at the same time, African partners, having reached the level of development with support through African resources must now give back; must now provide the means and the scale of support to able Africa on the basis of its own endowment to become self-sufficient. And so, that partnership must also have equity and equality, and equal voice, equal rights, equal respect to carry this on, recognizing that the primary responsibility for the development of Africa lies in Africa’s own leadership and Africa’s own people. We accept that responsibility, but we also say that we must have a partnership that respects us, and gives us the equity they deserve, given the fact that they’ve reached the stage on the basis of our endowment.
Addressing the issue of gender equality and how women can be in a better position with their male counterparts when it comes to assuming leadership roles in Africa, former President Sirleaf confidently stated that the world would be a better place if women were placed in leadership.
“We world would be better if women ruled the world, because it will be a better world. But we’re not there; we’re a long way from that. And so, the commitment that I have, joining similar commitments from women leaders all over the world, is to make sure that we challenge the obstacles, the stereotyping that has prevented women from achieving full gender equality in all societies. It’s going to take time. If you look at the record, it will take us 130 years to achieve full gender equality. It’s been 30 years since we went to Beijing, and we had a global commitment to women equality, but we’re working at it. It has to come through changes in constitutions, in laws, in policies, and perhaps more importantly, in attitudes. I have committed the rest of my life to promoting the ascendancy of women to high positions of leadership in all areas of national endeavor. I have established a center for that purpose, supported with partnership arrangements, with foundations in the United States, more importantly, with the African Women Leaders’ Network that is supported by the African Union and the United Nations.
“We have programs that will challenge the victimization of women, the violence that women face; programs that support women to develop their strategies and their visions for leadership. We do everything we can to enable women to seek these higher positions through competition,” Madam Sirleaf averred.