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Silencing the Guns in Africa

Updated: Mar 21, 2023

The information below on relevant human rights dimensions is provided ahead of an open debate on 30 March 2023, focusing on peace and security in Africa: The impact of development policies in the implementation of the Silencing the Guns agenda. Silencing the Guns in Africa is a flagship initiative of the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063 that aspires to end all wars, conflict and gender-based violence, and to prevent genocide.

Key topics below

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  • UNDP's 2022 report on "Silencing the Guns: A Development Approach", referring to key priorities, women's leadership, treaty ratification and need for participatory approach (23 February 2022).

  • Statement by EDVAW Platform, including the Special Rapporteur on the rights of women in Africa, referring to root causes of gender-based violence (4 February 2020).

  • Briefing by AU Commissioner, referring to capacity challenges and priorities (8 August 2022).

  • Recent briefing at open debate on WPS by AU Commission Special Envoy on WPS and Liberian Nobel Laureate (7 March 2023).

  • Event organized by Chatham House, the AU and UNDP (17 February 2023): Mozambique and Switzerland.

  1. Presidential statement (S/PRST/2022/6) referring to capacity needs, women's participation and youth inclusion (31 August 2022).

  2. Presidential statement (S/PRST/2021/10) which was the most substantive on human rights (19 May 2021).

  3. Presidential statement (S/PRST/2019/15) focusing on youth (12 December 2019).


Relevant information for the Security Council to consider [434 words]

UNDP's 2022 report

  1. On 23 February 2022, UNDP published its report, titled "Silencing the Guns: A Developmental Approach". It stated that in December 2020, the African Union extended the initiative until 2030, noting that certain gains were hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic and stressing the importance and inter-connectedness of consolidating peace, preventing violent extremism, building social cohesion, fostering democracy and enhancing economic development. UNDP's Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa, Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, stated in the report: “Women’s further involvement in conflict prevention and peace initiatives across the region is a key condition for sustainable peace, stability and development. Women’s leadership and their participation in post-COVID-19 recovery, crises transitions, and governance reforms are critical to building peaceful, inclusive and resilient societies.” An AU-UNDP initiative encouraged AU Member States to ratify and domesticate AU treaties, as they provide the normative and legal mechanism to foster greater political and economic integration, reduce poverty and improve peace and security (page 16). Perhaps UNDP could provide observations on the impact of ratifications and important outcomes of domestication. Besides those regional treaties, OHCHR provides a global map showing the ratifications of UN human rights treaties by each country (click on the country to view the specific treaties ratified). As part of the lessons learned, UNDP highlighted that a key challenge to sustaining peace in Africa has been limited coordination among actors involved in conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Moreover, securing and sustaining peace requires more inclusive and participatory local and community-based platforms for dialogue and engagement on sustaining peace.

Statement by EDVAW Platform

  1. On 4 February 2020 in Addis Ababa, a joint statement was released by the Platform for EDVAW (Platform of UN and regional independent expert mechanisms on the elimination of discrimination and violence against women), including the Special Rapporteur on the rights of women in Africa. They called to address the root causes of gender-based violence against women and girls before, during, and after conflict. Meaningful participation of women in all peacebuilding processes will only become a reality when the elimination of discrimination and violence against women is fully integrated into the WPS agenda. The Platform argued that a gendered approach to conflict prevention and resolution must include measures to silence the guns by controlling and regulating the arms trade and circulation, including of small arms, which can be used for committing gender-based violence. Gender-related killings of women during conflict are connected to those that take place during peace; in order to prevent and eradicate femicides, States must collect and disseminate data on such crimes, including information about the relationship between perpetrator and victim.


Information previously considered by the Security Council [486 words]

Briefing by AU Commissioner

  • On 8 August 2022, the African Union Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, H.E. Mr. Bankole Adeoye, briefed the Security Council. Among his recommendations to address capacity challenges with reference to the Silencing the Guns initiative, he stated that the African Union was ready to recommit to the implementation of SDG 16, on building peace, justice and strong institutions, which is of the utmost importance in the quest for inclusive, effective and accountable institutions in the peace sector. He also stressed the importance of a capacity for political transitions that is inclusive and fully participatory, as part of strengthening democracies.

Women, peace and security

  • On 7 March 2023, the Security Council held an open debate on women and peace and security. The Special Envoy on WPS of the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Ms. Bineta Diop, noted that her Office focused on two strategies to accelerate the implementation of the WPS agenda: One, advocating for the adoption and implementation of national action plans by all States (while 61% adopted a national action plan so far); and second, building the African Women’s Leaders Network — to ensure that women’s leadership is mainstreamed in governance, the peace and development process, and ultimately, in all sectors of life. She also noted that the AU was developing a convention on violence against women and girls. Ms. Diop called for the Security Council to: > Convene more regular and frequent WPS open debates; > Invite women civil society briefers; > Mainstream WPS language in other Security Council resolutions; > Ensure accountability; and > Make resources available. Ms. Leymah Gbowee received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her work in leading a women’s peace movement that helped end the Liberian civil war in 2003. She said: "We should bring women to the peace table both as negotiators and mediators. It is amazing to see how it is only the men with guns who are consistently invited to the table to find solutions, while women, who bear the greater brunt, are often invited merely as observers." Ms. Gbowee also said: "The greatest threats to women and peace and security in nations across the world are no longer the barrel of a gun. Economic hardship, health and food insecurity and climate crisis are all part of it. When social budgets for our nations surpass our military budgets, we will begin to see more peaceful communities." In 2019 she wrote in further detail: "If we are to Silence the Guns by 2020 as the African Union directs, African leaders must govern with integrity, foster development and tackle corruption. They must address injustices and impunity, particularly regarding sexual violence. The bodies of women, children and the vulnerable must not be exploited. Laws and traditions and cultural practices that devalue women and make them second-class citizens need to be expunged from the statute books. Women are not objects, they are persons."


Comments by Members of the Security Council [161 words]

  • On 17 February 2023, a hybrid event in Addis Ababa was organized by Chatham House, the African Union and UNDP, focusing on the topic "Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2030: Lessons from Mozambique", reflecting on Mozambique's 2019 peace agreement. H.E. Mr. Filipe Nyusi, President of the Republic of Mozambique, said: “In Mozambique we realized that one of the stumbling blocks to Silencing the Guns was limited national ownership of the peace processes... We look back at more than 3 years of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) with delight and appreciation that so far, we have covered 4,800 men and women. It is the collective will of Mozambicans that the process should be sustainable and demobilized combatants find their livelihood and sustain them.” H.E. Mr. Alain Berset, President of Switzerland, said: “I have spoken with women and men who have been part of the inclusive peace process in Mozambique. People involved and affected by conflict need to be central to efforts.


References in Security Council outcomes (not verbatim) [627 words]

  1. On 31 August 2022, a Presidential Statement of the Security Council was released (S/PRST/2022/6), reiterating the Council's support for the Silencing the Guns initiative (para 6), though it would be better to refer to the more substantive reference in 2011 (see below S/PRST/2021/10, para 11). The Security Council emphasized the importance of providing capacity support, at the request of and in close consultation with the country in question and with full respect for international law, to improve the rule of law, strengthen national institutions, extend legitimate State authority, build governance, promote and protect human rights, enhance social cohesion and inclusiveness, and promote sustainable development so as to ensure that no one is left behind [S/PRST/2022/6, para 4]. The Security Council also reaffirmed its commitment to women's participation and the inclusion of youth [S/PRST/2022/6, para 5], though concisely compared to its previous references to WPS, gender mainstreaming and Beijing, as well as youth's active engagement and right to education [see below, S/PRST/2021/10, paras 20-21].

  2. On 19 May 2021, a Presidential Statement of the Security Council was released (S/PRST/2021/10). Following its reference to the Silencing the Guns initiative, the Security Council reiterated that, in order to support a country to emerge sustainably from armed conflict, there is a need for a comprehensive and integrated approach, that incorporates and strengthens coherence between political, security, development, human rights and rule of law activities, and addresses the root causes of conflicts, including through strengthening the rule of law at national and international levels, promoting sustainable economic growth and development, poverty eradication, political, religious and cultural tolerance, freedom of opinion and expression, social cohesion and inclusiveness, national reconciliation, good governance, democracy, gender equality, respect for, and protection of, human rights, and facilitating reintegration and rehabilitation [para 9]. The Security Council recalled the need for inclusive and effective disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes (DDR), including those relating to the release and reintegration of children formerly associated with armed forces or armed groups, with the involvement of affected individuals and local communities, while respecting the need to fight against impunity, and encouraged greater efforts at national and local levels to make such reintegration sustainable, timely, appropriate and gender-responsive [para 11]. The Security Council welcomed continued commitment from African countries to fully implement the WPS agenda and its priorities, by ensuring and promoting the full, equal and meaningful participation of women at all stages of peace, security and development decision making processes, including through mainstreaming a gender perspective, and remaining committed to increasing the number of civilian and uniformed women in peacekeeping at all levels and in all positions, including senior leadership positions. The Security Council further called on the full, effective and accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action [Para 20]. The Security Council recognized that youth should be actively engaged in shaping lasting peace and contributing to justice and reconciliation, and reaffirmed their right to education and its contribution to the achievement of peace and security [para 21]. The Council recognized the crucial role civil society organizations can play in advancing peace and security in Africa [para 22].

  3. On 12 December 2019, a Presidential Statement of the Security Council was released (S/PRST/2019/15), focusing on youth. This followed up on a meeting on the topic on 2 October 2019. The PRST included detailed recommendations on inclusive representation, including young women; integrating youth-led civil society; supporting survivors of armed conflict and sexual violence in conflict, including those with disabilities; complying with human rights obligations; and ensuring equal access to justice and integrity of rule of law institutions. It also called upon Member States to comply with their respective obligations to end impunity and to investigate and prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other egregious crimes perpetrated against civilians.


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