New York (UNA-OIC) – Women and young people must be part of Africa’s plans to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, which is feeding factors driving conflict on the continent, UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council on Wednesday.
In his speech to ambassadors, who met virtually to examine how to address root causes of conflict while promoting post-pandemic recovery in Africa, Guterres said many communities and countries are already facing “a complex peace and security environment”.
He added that challenges such as long-standing inequalities, poverty, food insecurity and climate disruption, are raising risks of instability.
“One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, as we face the possibility of an uneven recovery, it is clear that the crisis is feeding many of these drivers of conflict and instability,” the UN chief said.
Since the pandemic began, he has repeatedly warned of the risks it poses to people and societies across the world, especially in countries affected by conflict.
“This was the backdrop to my appeal for a global ceasefire to enable us to focus on our common enemy: the virus,” the Secretary-General recalled.
With continued chronic violence in some countries, and the re-emergence of old conflicts in others, he said the appeal is more relevant than ever.
Guterres pointed out that violent extremist groups in Western and Central Africa and Mozambique, including those associated with Al-Qaeda and ISIL, have continued and even increased attacks on civilians, creating additional major challenges for societies and governments.
Listing some of the fallouts of the pandemic in Africa, the UN chief said economic growth has slowed, remittances are drying up, and debt is mounting. Meanwhile, some governments have also restricted civic space, while hate speech, divisive rhetoric, and misinformation have risen along with caseloads.
“The severe impact of the pandemic on young people – especially in Africa, the youngest continent – is contributing to increased risks. Loss of opportunities for education, employment and income drive a sense of alienation, marginalization and mental health stress that can be exploited by criminals and extremists,” he warned.
COVID-19 is also deepening existing gender inequalities, and threatening hard-won gains made in women’s participation in all areas of social, economic and political life, including peace processes.
“I urge Member States to make proactive efforts to include women and young people when shaping post-pandemic recovery,” the Secretary-General said.
Meanwhile, Africa has received less than two percent of COVID-19 vaccines administered globally, he reported, spelling out that “Out of 1.4 billion doses administered around the world today, only 24 million have reached Africa – less than two percent.”
Guterres emphasized that equitable and sustainable vaccine roll-out worldwide is the quickest path to fast, and fair, recovery from the pandemic. He said this requires countries to share doses, remove export restrictions, ramp up local production and fully fund global initiatives that promote equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics.