Security in the African continent is France’s primary goal [fr]
Ministerial debate on peacebuilding in Africa - Statement by Mr André Vallini, Minister of State for Development and Francophonie - Security Council - 28 July 2016
I thank the Japanese presidency for organizing this open debate on peacebuilding in Africa and for its initiative on behalf of presidential statement S/PRST/2016/12, which we have just adopted.
Given its historical ties with the continent, France cannot remain indifferent towards anything taking place in Africa. Each time it is needed, France has assumed its responsibilities in Africa. When Bamako ran the risk of falling into the hands of terrorists, we shouldered our responsibility. When the threat of genocide arose in the Central African Republic, we assumed our responsibilities. Faced with the ongoing conflicts in Somalia, the Sudan, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we are also assuming our responsibilities.
For France, engagement in Africa does not mean acting on its own or as it alone sees fit. For France, being engaged in Africa does not mean acting unilaterally; it means acting first at the request of and with our African partners, and, of course, acting in accordance with international law. All of the military interventions undertaken by President François Hollande were authorized by, and have included the participation of, the African Union and the United Nations. Moreover, engaging in Africa does not mean intervening militarily and then leaving the country and its people to take care of themselves. It means standing beside them and supporting them along the path to security, democracy and human development.
Security in the African continent is our primary goal. I would mention Operation Barkhane in the Sahel, particularly in Mali, where the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali is also deployed. I am also thinking about our continuing presence in the Central African Republic, alongside the African Union’s African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).We also support the African peacekeeping operations, and I would refer in particular of the joint multinational force in the Lake Chad region, which was agreed upon at the Paris summit on security in Nigeria, in connection with the fight against Boko Haram. France has devoted significant human and logistical resources to the African countries that have been targeted by that terrorist group.
The primary responsibility of every State is to guarantee the safety of its citizens and protect its population. That requires sufficient numbers of well-trained and well-equipped police and military forces. That is why France has been cooperating on security issues, especially in the Sahel countries, in order to enable Africans to ensure their own safety to the greatest extent possible on their own. We have been training more than 20,000 African soldiers each year in France and Africa and have also been playing an active role in deploying European security missions in Africa — for example, in the Central African Republic.
After security comes democracy. Security should never be pursued at the expense of respect for the rule of law. The protecting human rights, strengthening democratic institutions, combating impunity and establishing good governance are imperative. In that context, the holding of fair and transparent elections is highly important, and France strongly supports the African Union regulations that oppose late and non-consensual changes to a country’s Constitution, especially when the purpose of such changes is to prevent a democratic change.
France has always mobilized in defence of human rights. We have just renewed and strengthened the mandate of MINUSCA, which is deployed in the Central African Republic and which we consider multidimensional. In fact, our goal is not only the physical protection of civilians, but also the rule of law, the fight against impunity, good governance and strengthening the State’s authority throughout the territory as it seeks to address the threat of armed groups. In that context, on 26 and 27 October in Paris, France will organize a ministerial conference on peacekeeping in the Francophone community.
Finally, after security and democracy, which act to support peacebuilding, I would like to discuss human development. In that regard, I would like to focus some comments on education. Education, as we all know, is the foundation of development, whether the issue involves health, the environment, women’s rights, the fight against extremism or democratic governance. Everything depends on education, everything starts with education. No country has truly taken off until 80 per cent of its population has completed primary school. The progress made over the past 15 years is considerable.
Let us measure it: the number of children not attending school worldwide has been halved. However, major challenges remain owing to the crises, the chronic under-funding and, of course, the population explosion. Today, 60 million children around the world are totally deprived of education. By 2030, we will have to enroll more than 600 million additional children, including 450 million in Africa, and the investment needs are huge. They amount to $40 billion per year. We must therefore shift the balance, and the international community must reinvest substantially and urgently in quality education, especially in Africa, as it was able to do in health.
That is why I welcome the work of the commission led by Gordon Brown, upon the initiative in Ban Ki-moon, particularly with respect to education in emergency situations, which is key to maintaining peace in Africa. Crises disrupt social cohesion and undermine the ability of States to rebuild. They are preventing 75 million children today from attending school normally. The Education Cannot Wait fund, set up at the Global Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, provides a first response.
In conclusion, conflicts are not inevitable in Africa. Let us see the continent as a whole, bearing in mind not only the failures but also the successes of Africans and the international community in many areas, which offer the promise that Africa will one day be a continent of peace.