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UN: International Community Should Work to Stop Africa's Conflicts - 2002-01-29

The United Nations Security Council is meeting in open session Tuesday to discuss conflict resolution in Africa and what can be done to end the violence that is devastating so many countries there. Speakers from a diverse group of nations at the Security Council session agreed on one central theme, the international community must play a larger role if it wants to stop the many armed conflicts that continue to simmer in Africa.

The debate was called by the representative for Mauritius, the current holder of the rotating chair of President of the Security Council. He has proposed establishing a working group that would find new ways of strengthening ties between the OAU, the Organization of African Unity, and the developed world, as represented by the U.N.

The suggestion has been widely lauded.

During Tuesday's debate, the Zambian Foreign Minister, Katile Columba, explained why conflict resolution in Africa must be addressed by a body such as the United Nations.

"The nature of conflicts in Africa and the diversity of actors involved in these conflicts requires a fundamental rethinking of African unity or African security, rather. To work effectively towards peace, African countries, the international community have to work together as partners, before, during and after conflicts," he said.

Despite years of diplomacy, conflicts continue to ravage the continent. The civil wars in Sudan and Angola for example, have gone on for more than a quarter century, costing hundreds of thousands of lives and displacing millions of people.

There are also wider implications for the rest of the world if armed conflict in Africa is not addressed, as made clear by the British representative, Valerie Amos.

"Violent conflict in Africa is bad for Africa and it's bad for the world. Not only is it one of the main obstacles to reducing poverty, upholding human rights and achieving sustainable development in Africa, it is also a threat to global security. Why? Because armed conflict in Africa has led to large-scale displacement of people environmental degradation and provides opportunities for international criminal and terrorist activities," Ms. Amos said.

Other speakers drew parallels between ongoing conflict and poverty. The Mexican representative noted that of the 53 African countries, only 15 have a human development level which is roughly equal to the rest of the world. None of the countries have above-average development, and two-thirds are at the bottom of the list.