Paul Samasumo – Vatican City
Concerned about the risk of a future partnership marked by top-down approaches, Caritas Africa and Caritas Europa urge European and African leaders to be inspired by this year’s International Day of Peace theme, “Shaping Peace Together,” and commit to practical ways of building peace through genuinely inclusive processes.
Initially scheduled for 28 and 29 October in Brussels, the sixth Africa Union (AU) – European Union (EU) Summit has been postponed to 2021 because of COVID-19.
Day to observe and strengthen ideals of peace
Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The United Nations (UN) General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, through observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire.
According to the United Nations, “This year, it has been clearer than ever that we are not each other’s enemies. Rather, our common enemy is a tireless virus that threatens our health, security and very way of life. COVID-19 has thrown our world into turmoil and forcibly reminded us that what happens in one part of the planet can impact people everywhere,” reads a UN statement.
Put people first in the discussions
For Caritas Africa and Caritas Europa, “Putting people at the heart of peace and security efforts would entail going beyond a state-centric approach, acknowledging peoples’ capacities, and formulating ambitious strategies for inclusivity in peace and resilience building,” said Albert Mashika, Regional Executive Secretary of Caritas Africa.
The now postponed sixth AU-EU Summit was expected to lead to a joint declaration laying down the priorities and concrete actions of the EU-Africa relations in the next few years, including in the fields of peace and security.
Beyond state security, towards holistic peacebuilding
Both Caritas Africa and Caritas Europe believe that time has come to move the EU -AU talks beyond just discussing security issues at state level.
According to the two continental Caritas organisations: Despite the EU’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda principles and to creating a people-centred partnership, previous statements by EU institutions on their vision for this future partnership – such as the proposal made by the European Commission (EC) and the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Council Conclusions on Africa – have consistently focused more on state security. EU - Africa relations should, however, be based on multi-stakeholder partnerships, involving civil society and other actors, not only governments or intergovernmental institutions. This is particularly relevant given that peacebuilding is a holistic process that requires addressing the root causes of conflict and investing in community-level conflict prevention and social cohesion. Peacebuilding also requires important efforts towards the elimination of extreme poverty and the preservation of the rule of law.
African and European leaders need to take bold decisions
“Only with a bold commitment to shaping peace together will actions under the future EU-Africa partnership succeed in addressing security issues, such as limited social cohesion, and ultimately reduce conflict and instability that severely undermine development efforts in better rebuilding a post Covid-19 reality,” said Maria Nyman, Secretary-General of Caritas Europa.
Honour this Day with the cessation of hostilities
The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by the United Nations General Assembly. Two decades later, in 2001, the General Assembly unanimously voted to designate the Day as a period of non-violence and cease-fire.
The United Nations invites all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities during the Day, and to otherwise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace.