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With Africa in spotlight at G7 summit, Secretary-General Guterres urges investment in youth

INTERNATIONAL, 27 May 2017 – At the Group of Seven (G7) summit in Italy, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres today called world leaders to invest in young people, with stronger investment in technology and relevant education and capacity building in Africa.

Speaking at a session on reinforcing the partnership between the G7 and Africa, the Secretary-General noted that the international community has a role in helping the continent adapt as it heads for a new wave of industrialization.

Failing to do so might have dramatic consequences for the well-being of the people of Africa; increase fragility, causing massive displacement and risking to boost unemployment, especially for young people,” Mr. Guterres told leaders at the two-day meeting in Taormina, Italy.

Noting that a majority of African countries have improved their competitiveness and business environments, the UN chief stressed: “Our shared challenge is to build on these gains and to change the narrative about Africa – from crisis-based narrative to an opportunities-based narrative. We know that the full and true story of Africa is that of a continent with enormous potential for success.”

Africa has the fastest growing youth population in the world, he added, who must be supported with education and training in tomorrow's jobs.

“High levels of youth unemployment are not only a tragedy for young people themselves, but can also undermine development and generate frustration and alienation that, in turn, can become a threat to global peace and security,” Mr. Guterres cautioned in his statements to leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Investment in youth must include education and training for girls and women. Gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa $95 billion a year, which at six per cent of the region's gross domestic product is “a needless loss of inclusive human development and economic growth,” the UN chief said.

He also called for moving manufacturing and traditional activities, such as agriculture, higher up the global value chain, as well as investing in infrastructure that links regions, countries and communities.

“Smart digital platforms, smart grids, smart logistics infrastructure can link urban and rural, and better connect the people of Africa to each other and the world,” Mr. Guterres stated, adding: “More than just the transfer of technology, we need to maximize the power of innovation for the people of Africa.”

Such support and innovation will help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Africa's framework for socio-economic transformation, known as Agenda 2063.

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UN envoy warns of dire crisis as Gaza faces power cuts, gallons of raw sewage pouring into the sea

INTERNATIONAL, 26 May 2017 – The United Nations Middle East envoy today cautioned that unless urgent measures are taken to de-escalate the crisis now spiralling out of control in the Gaza Strip, there will be devastating consequences for Palestinians and Israelis alike.

“In Gaza, we are walking into another crisis with our eyes wide open,” the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, told the Security Council in New York.

The senior UN official noted that the humanitarian situation has worsened since March, when Hamas set up a parallel government institution to run affairs in the enclave resulting in an “intra-Palestinian political tug-of-war.” He called for compromise, the implementation of intra-Palestinian agreements and the end of closures.

Of particular concern is the “unprecedented” energy crisis after the lone power plant was shut over a taxation dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, which took over the Gaza Strip in 2007.

Combined with downed power lines from Egypt and possible restrictions on purchase of Israeli electricity, most Palestinians in Gaza receive only about four hours of electricity per day.

If the Palestinian Government implements its decision to cap purchase of energy from Israel, “this decision will further reduce electricity supply by some 30 per cent, plunging its population into a spiral of a humanitarian catastrophe,” Mr. Mladenov said.

He noted that the UN has been warning of this potential crisis for months, and that it is now becoming a reality – with hospitals postponing elective surgeries, limited drinking water, and soaring food prices.

The lack of power is also preventing sewage from being treated. The equivalent of 40 Olympic-size swimming pools of raw sewage is being dumped into the Mediterranean Sea on a daily basis.

“An environmental disaster for Israel, for Egypt and Gaza is in the making,” Mr. Mladenov said.

The Special Coordinator also expressed concern for the ongoing hunger strike by Palestinian detainees protesting against their conditions in Israeli jails, which, on the eve of Ramadan, has now entered its 40th day.

“I call for a re-doubling of efforts to end the strike as soon as possible. The crisis must be resolved in line with International Humanitarian Law and Israel’s human rights obligations,” he said, calling for maximum restraint and taking any steps to avoid further escalation.

Among other issues raised, Mr. Mladenov noted that while the Lebanese Parliament has not yet reconvened after adjourning in April, he hoped it would agree to an electoral law before the tenure ends on 20 June.

Noting that the deteriorating conditions in Gaza and the West Bank only fuel anger and instability, Mr. Mladenov urged all sides to forge a genuine reconciliation.

“If Israelis and Palestinians hope to extract themselves from the immeasurable burden this conflict has wrought, they must be willing to take the painful steps that will ultimately lead to peace,” he said. “Neither side can afford another missed opportunity.”

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Some 10,000 people fleeing west Mosul every day, UN migration agency warns

INTERNATIONAL, 26 May 2017 – Citing Iraqi Government figures, the United Nations migration agency today warned that the number of people fleeing West Mosul is soaring – on 18 May, hitting a peak when some 16,100 transited through the Hamam al-Alil screening site – the largest official daily movement of people since the October 2016 military offence began.

“The fact that huge numbers of Iraqis continue to flee West Mosul, despite the dangers involved, is a testament of both the the dire situation inside, and the enormous task ahead of us to alleviate the suffering of IDPs [internally displaced persons],” said the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Iraq Chief of Mission, Thomas Lothar Weiss.

According to the military and camp management at Hamam al-Alil, an average of 10,000 individuals fleeing West Mosul arrives at the transit zone on a daily basis.

With gruelling high temperatures during the day, most leave at night, walking several hours before reaching the nearest military checkpoints. From there, they are transported to Hamam al-Alil, south of Mosul, on the western banks of the Euphrates, which has become the transit hub for the tens of thousands of families fleeing the West Mosul conflict.

The camp adjacent to the site is at full capacity, and many families are being moved to other camps, with large numbers opting to go to areas east of Mosul where they stay with families, friends or in rental accommodations, says IOM.

According to the Iraqi Government, cumulatively, more than 742,000 people have been displaced from Mosul and its surrounding areas since 2016, when the military offense to oust extremists began, including 566,000 individuals from Western Mosul since mid-February. More than 73,000 Iraqis were displaced last week alone.

IOM pointed out that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh) terrorist group have entrapped an estimated 200,000 people in Mosul's Old City.

As of 23 May, IOM's Displacement Tracking Matrix has tracked and located more than 377,000 individuals – some 63,000 families – currently sheltering in camps and emergency sites, including people living in host communities, informal sites and rented homes.

Nearly 85,000 children are still trapped as a result of the offensive to retake Mosul, and water supplies in the camps for the displaced are “stretched to the limits,” according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as of 20 May, some 12,500 people have been transferred from frontline areas to hospitals for trauma injuries treatment, including 6,369 people from West Mosul alone.

The IOM Iraq Chief of Mission said that in cooperation with its humanitarian partners and the Government of Iraq, IOM will “continue to provide comprehensive humanitarian assistance and lifesaving support to IDPs to the full extent of our resources.”

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‘All refugees want to go home someday’ – UNHCR spokesperson and author Melissa Fleming

INTERNATIONAL, 26 May 2017 – “I envy the mountains and the trees and the rocks because they will be able to breathe Daraa’s air and I won’t.” Those were the thoughts going through Doaa Al Zamel, when she and her family reached the Jordanian border. It was November 2012, one year and eight months since the violence in Syria first began.

Doaa is a refugee from Syria who now lives in Sweden. She survived one of the worst refugee shipwrecks on the Mediterranean Sea. In August 2014, aboard an overloaded ship carrying more than 500 refugees, Doaa became an unlikely hero.

As Head of Communications and Chief Spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Melissa Fleming listens to stories of people fleeing for their lives every day. Although she has met many refugees and gotten to know several stories of resilience, when she came across Doaa’s story, she couldn’t sleep at night.

“Doaa’s story is particularly remarkable; the resilience and the strength of the human spirit is so evident through her story that it is one that people are really not just moved by but also inspired by,” Ms. Fleming told UN News following a recent event at the UN Bookshop in New York.

War and persecution have driven more people from their homes than at any time since records began, with over 65 million men, women and children now displaced worldwide. According to the latest Global Trends report issued by the UN refugee agency, known as UNHCR, one in every 113 people on earth is either an asylum-seeker, internally displaced or a refugee.

In order to get away from the idea of refugees as statistics, Ms. Fleming believes in a communication strategy of telling individual human stories. That is why she would “love to tell all 65 million stories of all the forced displaced people in the world.”

But it was the powerful story of Doaa that inspired her to write “A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea,” which gives a human face to the sheer number of human beings trying to escape to seek better lives.

“Refugees are becoming statistics and throughout the world they are being used to fuel xenophobia because of the large numbers and because of their desperation,” Ms. Fleming said.

With the book, she hopes to build “a bridge of empathy” to people, “so they’ll start caring and understanding why refugees like Doaa take this kind of risk to come to their countries, why refugees like Doaa deserve our compassion and our help.”

Doaa comes from Daraa, in Syria. After war engulfed her city, tanks rolled in and bombs started falling, she and her family became terrified for their lives and left to Jordan and then to Egypt. Through her story, Ms. Fleming also describes the situation in the neighboring countries which are hosting the majority of refugees, some five million.

“Egypt was one of these countries; when Doaa first arrived with her family, Egypt was a very welcoming place, but then the government changed and it became less so. Like in all the countries that host so many refugees, the refugees struggle because those countries themselves are having their own difficulties. UNHCR is always underfunded and can only provide pretty much the basics. So all the dreams of studying and making a good living, they are not just completely destroyed by the war, but also by the fact of being a refugee in a situation like that,” Ms. Fleming explained.

Without a work permit in Egypt, Doaa struggled through day shifts for low wages. The war in Syria that drove her family away was in its fourth year. And the people who once welcomed them in Egypt had become weary of them.

It is also in Egypt that Doaa meets and falls in love with Bassem, a fellow Syrian refugee who convinces her to leave and make the perilous journey across the sea to Europe. “They’d heard from their friends who had already made the journey to Europe that there they could not just be safe, but also she could study and he could find a job,” said Ms. Fleming.

“And so he convinced her – even thought she was terrified of the water, because she had a near drowning experience when she was a young girl – to take this journey. They sold everything and paid the smugglers $2,500 each, which was a fortune for them, and ended up boarding not a luxury liner as the smugglers promised but a really decrepit, rusty, rundown boat packed with 500 refugees, among them 100 children.”

After two days at sea she started to get worried, and on the third day she told Bassem: “We will never reach the shore. We will all sink.” The boat sank near Greece; only 11 people survived, enduring four horrible days floating in the sea. One of them was Doaa.

When Ms. Fleming first read about Doaa and baby Masa – who survived four days and nights on a child’s floating ring in the middle of the sea with no food and no water and everyone dying around her – she flew to Crete, Greece, to meet her. At the time Doaa was deeply traumatized.

“She lived a nightmare beyond what anyone could possibly imagine. She witnessed the drowning of 500 people, just one after the other before her eyes, including Bassem, who after two days of treading water next to her, slipped from her hands and gave up his struggle.” The fact that 19-year-old Doaa and 18-month-old Masa survived is actually “almost miraculous.”

Through UNHCR’s resettlement programme, which helps resettle refugees in a third country, Doaa was reunited with her family. “We were able to connect them with the Swedish Government and facilitate the move,” said Ms. Fleming. “The Swedish Government settled them in a small snowy village where they are now learning Swedish, she is healing from her trauma and now again thinking of her brighter future.”

As she says in the book, Doaa still feels the same longing she felt in 2012. “One day, I hope to return to Syria so I can breathe again. Even if just for one day. That would be enough.”

Ms. Fleming said she never met a single refugee who does not want to go back. “All refugees want to go home someday. Some of them may never go home and live there again… they were forced to flee. It’s one of the worst things that can happen to you, everything that you treasure and it’s not just things, it’s community, it’s friends, it’s atmosphere, it’s the type of food, it’s memories, it’s all been forcibly left behind.

“All refugees long for the chance to be able to go home. I hope one day Doaa will be able to go home and not just go home, but go home to a peaceful Syria, the Syria that has been reconstructed and a Syria that is reconciled with the evils that have happened in the past six years.”

The book is set to reach an even wider audience given that Hollywood directors Steven Spielberg and J. J. Abrams plan to turn it into a film. “That means that the telling of this single human story, a remarkable human story… it’s something that resonates,” Ms. Fleming noted.

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Fresh violence empties city in Central African Republic; senior UN official urges more aid

INTERNATIONAL, 26 May 2017 – A senior United Nations official is calling for additional humanitarian aid in the Central African Republic, where nearly the entire population of the city Bria was forcibly displaced last week.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that more than 41,000 people were forced out of their homes in “unprecedented violence between rival armed groups” between 15 and 18 May.

In those days, people searching for protection flooded seven sites for internally displaced camps, among them one near a base for the UN peacekeeping force in the country (MINUSCA).

“With the emergence of an ethnic dimension to the conflict, hundreds of houses were burned, property looted and ransacked,” said OCHA.

The resurgence of the last outbreaks of tension in the past two weeks has caused the displacement of about 100,000 people, 200 wounded and 300 dead, according to the Ministry of Social Health in the country.

Echoing the Government's concerns, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, Najat Rochdi, expressed concern at “this new outbreak of violence where civilian people are paying the highest cost.”

A lack of sufficient shelters is the main concern, as CAR is now in a rainy season, following by the need for food and clean water.

OCHA said that shelters and food rations have been convoyed from Bangui and Bambari to Bria, but insecurity and the poor conditions of roads have delayed their arrival. The humanitarian community is also working to meet the needs in terms of supply of drinking water and sanitation.

Diseases are also increasing, spread by “promiscuity and poor hygiene,” OCHA said.

The senior UN official has called for additional resources. Halfway through the year, funding for the 399.5 million dollars Humanitarian Response Plan is only at 64.8 million.

CAR is emerging from civil conflict which began in 2013, with clashes between the mainly Muslim Séléka rebel coalition and anti-Balaka militia, which are mostly Christian.

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Civilians in Syria must be spared from anti-ISIL airstrikes – UN rights chief

INTERNATIONAL, 26 May 2017 – The United Nations human rights chief today urged all warring parties in Syria to take every feasible measure to spare the civilian population from the effects of the armed conflict, noting that civilians are increasing caught in fighting between the Government forces and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh) terrorist group.

In particular, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein urged the air forces of the Government and other States fighting ISIL in Syria to take much greater care to distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilians.

“The rising toll of civilian deaths and injuries already caused by airstrikes in Deir-ez-Zor and Al-Raqqa suggests that insufficient precautions may have been taken in the attacks,” Mr. Zeid said in a news release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

“Just because ISIL holds an area does not mean less care can be taken. Civilians should always be protected, whether they are in areas controlled by ISIL or by any other party,” he added.

Places such as the border city of Albo Kamal – where retreating ISIL fighters and their families are mixed in with some 100,000 people, including displaced Syrians and Iraqis – are of particular concern, Mr. Zeid said.

The same civilians who are suffering indiscriminate shelling and summary executions by ISIL, are also falling victim to the escalating airstrikes, particularly in the northeastern governorates of Al-Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor, according to numerous credible reports of such incidents, he said, citing an airstrike of 14 May that reportedly killed 23 farm workers, including 17 women, in a rural village of eastern Al-Raqqa Governorate.

Airstrikes on two residential areas of the ISIL-controlled city of Albo Kamal in eastern Deir-ez-Zor Governorate on 15 May reportedly killed at least 59 civilians, including 16 children and 12 women and injured another 70.

The day after that, ISIL fighters are said to have cut the throats of eight men at the sites of the airstrikes, after accusing them of providing coordinates for the strikes. On 18 May, an ISIL attack on the Government-controlled village of Aqareb in rural eastern Hama Governorate allegedly resulted in the deaths of 36 civilians including women and children.

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UNICEF urges G7 leaders to adopt six-point action plan to keep refugee children safe

INTERNATIONAL, 25 May 2017 – Ahead of the Group of Seven summit in Italy, the United Nations children’s agency has urged the leaders of G7 industrialized countries to adopt its six-point action plan for the protection of refugee and migrant children.

At least 36,000 of the refugees and migrants rescued since January have been taken to Sicily, the site of this year’s summit, and the Italian G7 presidency has made migration a priority for this year’s talks.

“Sicily stands as a symbol of hope for uprooted children seeking a better life, but it is also the endpoint of an extremely dangerous journey that has claimed the lives of many children along the way,” said Justin Forsyth, Deputy Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

UNICEF’s call comes at a time when the dangerous Central Mediterranean migration journey from North Africa to Italy draws renewed attention.

At least 200 children have died while crossing the Central Mediterranean from North Africa to Italy so far this year, a rate of more than one child per day, according to the latest estimates from UNICEF.

Between 1 January and 23 May, more than 45,000 refugees and migrants arrived to Italy by sea, up 44 per cent over the same period last year. This includes some 5,500 unaccompanied and separated children, an increase of 22 per cent from 2016, who account for approximately 92 per cent of all children arriving to Italy via the Central Mediterranean route.

A record high 26,000 unaccompanied and separated children arrived to Italy last year, but if current trends hold, that record will be smashed in 2017.

“That is not a record to be proud of, but a reminder of our collective failure to ensure the safety and wellbeing of refugee and migrant children,” Mr. Forsyth said.

Earlier today, on the eve of the G7 summit, children, volunteers, the Italian coastguard, Italian and UNICEF officials took part in a symbolic rescue of paper boats to commemorate the thousands of children who have risked their lives crossing the Central Mediterranean and send a message to the G7 to take action to safeguard children on the move.

The action plan’s six points are:

  • Protect child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence;
  • End the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating, by introducing a range of practical alternatives;
  • Keep families together as the best way to protect children and give children legal status;
  • Keep all refugee and migrant children learning and give them access to health and other quality services;
  • Press for action on the underlying causes of large scale movements of refugees and migrants;
  • Promote measures to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalization in countries of transit and destination.

In addition, UNICEF has also launched the “#AChildIsAChild” campaign, which has so far been supported on social media by more than 2 million people.

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Attacks on hospitals and medical staff ‘symptoms of grave disregard’ for international law – UN chief

INTERNATIONAL, 25 May 2017 – Attacks on hospitals and medical staff ‘symptoms of grave disregard’ for international law – UN chief Parties to conflict are treating hospitals and clinics as targets, rather than respecting them as sanctuaries, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned today during a Security Council debate on the protection of civilians in armed violence.

“Despite our efforts, civilians continue to bear the brunt of conflict around the world,” Mr. Guterres told the 15-member body, stressing that attacks on medical staff and facilities continue in conflict zones. Alongside him were Christine Beerli, Vice-President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Bruno Stagno Ugarte, Deputy Executive Director for Advocacy of Human Rights Watch.

The UN chief recalled that last year, the Council took specific action to improve the protection of medical care during conflict, by adopting which, among others, urged ‘States and all parties to armed conflict to develop effective measures to prevent and address acts of violence, attacks and threats against medical personnel and humanitarian personnel exclusively engaged in medical duties.

In August, his predecessor submitted recommendations for the swift implementation of this resolution.

“But on the ground, little has changed,” Mr. Guterres warned, citing statistics from the World Health Organization showing that attacks on medical care took place in at least 20 countries affected by conflict in 2016.

Attacks on hospitals and medical staff, and the removal of medical supplies from humanitarian convoys, are symptoms of a continued grave disregard for international law and the protection of civilians

In Syria, Physicians for Human Rights has documented more than 400 attacks on medical facilities since the conflict began. More than 800 medical staff have been killed, and more than half of all medical facilities are closed or are only partially functioning, with two-thirds of specialized medical personnel having fled the country.

In Yemen, just a few months after the adoption of resolution 2286, 15 people including three medical staff were reported killed when a hospital was hit in an airstrike.

In Afghanistan, the number of reported attacks against health facilities and personnel almost doubled in 2016 compared with 2015.

In South Sudan, after years of attacks, less than 50 per cent of medical facilities are functional in areas affected by conflict.

“These attacks are evidence of a broader trend: parties to conflict are treating hospitals and health clinics as targets, rather than respecting them as sanctuaries,” Mr. Guterres said.

He went on to highlight the three main protection priorities; ensure greater respect for international humanitarian and human rights law; stepping up the protection of humanitarian and medical missions, by implementing his predecessor’s recommendations on Security Council resolution 2286 (2016); and preventing forced displacement and finding durable solutions for refugees and internally displaced people.

On the third point, he stressed the need to address the root causes of conflicts that are driving displacement, by investing in inclusive and sustainable development, promoting all human rights and the rule of law, strengthening governance and institutions, and enhancing mediation capacity, from communities to national governments.

“Preventing and ending conflict is my first priority,” he declared. “I call on you all to make it yours, for the sake of the millions of civilians who are suffering around the world.”

According to a concept note circulated by Uruguay, which holds the Council presidency for May, Member States are invited to place the issue of the protection of healthcare in a broader context, connecting it to overarching ‘protection of civilian’ issues.

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Formal trade in Africa can improve region, prospects for women – UN agency reports

INTERNATIONAL, 25 May 2017 – Simplifying the requirements for a business license, offering incentives to tax payers, and tackling official corruption are among the recommendations by the United Nations agricultural organization to cut informal trade among African countries and boost economic prosperity, particularly for women.

“Informal cross-border trading, in which transactions are not compliant with local tax and other rules, accounts for a large share – between 20 and a hefty 70 per cent

– of employment in sub-Saharan Africa,” according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

“Putting it on a regular footing can lift sustainable prosperity and markedly improve prospects for women,” FAO said in a new publication, Formalization of informal trade in Africa.

Informal cross-border trade, often agricultural, is the result of poor access to government offices, a lack of administrative skills and improper understanding of import and custom-tax laws.

One of the main groups that would be affected by formalization is women, who constitute the largest share of informal traders – about 70 per cent in Southern Africa and more than half in other parts, according to the report.

“Facilitating formalization is the only viable policy option for Africa's transformation agenda to realize its objectives,” said Suffyan Koroma, FAO senior economist and lead author of the report.

The publication was presented today at a conference in Kigali, Rwanda. The event is part of ongoing FAO-supported work in the country, along with UN Women and other development partners, aimed at enabling women to benefit more from agri-food chains, a project geared to allowing women small traders access useful information as well as start-up capital.

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On Africa Day, UN chief says world must move from ‘managing crises to preventing them’

INTERNATIONAL, 25 May 2017 – ‘Africa Day’ 2017 comes at an important moment in the continent’s endeavours towards peace, inclusive economic growth and sustainable development United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said, urging humanity to listen and learn with the people of Africa.

“All of humanity will benefit by listening, learning and working with the people of Africa. It starts with prevention. Our world needs to move from managing crises to preventing them in the first place. We need to break the cycle of responding too late and too little,” said Mr. Guterres in his message commemorating Africa Day.

The UN chief pointed out that most of today’s conflicts are internal, triggered by competition for power and resources, inequality, marginalization, disrespect for human rights and sectarian divides. Often, they are inflamed by violent extremism or provide the fuel for it.

But prevention goes far beyond focusing solely on conflict.

“The best means of prevention and the surest path to durable peace is inclusive and sustainable development. It is critical to continue building more effective and accountable institutions to address governance challenges, advance the rule of law and promote civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights,” he stressed.

As the international community has entered the second year of implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to tackle global poverty, inequality, instability and injustice, Mr. Guterres highlighted that Africa has adopted its own complementary and ambitious plan: Agenda 2063.

“For the people of Africa to fully benefit from these important efforts, these two agendas need to be strategically aligned,” he said.

We can speed progress by doing more to provide opportunities and hope to young people

Mr. Guterres referred to last month’s first-ever UN–African Union annual conference as “a unique opportunity to strengthen our partnership and establish a higher platform of cooperation,” saying: “Our work is based on four driving principles: mutual respect, solidarity, complementarity and interdependence.

Mr. Guterres said that the UN partnership with Africa is also rooted in a deep sense of gratitude.

“Africa provides the majority of United Nations peacekeepers around the world. African nations are among the world’s largest and most generous hosts of refugees. Africa includes some of the world’s fastest-growing economies,” he elaborated.

Turning to youth, he noted “We can speed progress by doing more to provide opportunities and hope to young people. More than three out of five Africans are under 35 years of age. Making the most of this tremendous asset means more investment in education, training, decent work and engaging young people in shaping their future.”

The UN chief also stressed: “We must also do our utmost to empower women so they can play a full role in sustainable development and sustainable peace. I am pleased that the African Union has consistently placed a special focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment.”

He also reaffirmed his commitment as a partner, friend and committed advocate for changing the narrative about this diverse and vital continent.

“Crises represent at best a partial view. But, from a higher platform of cooperation, we can see the whole picture – one that recognizes the enormous potential and remarkable success stories throughout the African continent,” concluded the Secretary-General.

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