Remarks at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Addressing Root Causes of Conflict While Promoting Post-Pandemic Recovery in Africa
Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
May 19, 2021
Foreign Minister Wang, thank you for organizing today’s discussion. Let me start by thanking the Secretary-General for his briefing, welcome AU Chair Faki and UNDP Administrator Steiner, for your briefings, as well.
I’m really thrilled we’re having a conversation today focused on peace, security, and supporting post-pandemic recovery in Africa. Today, like the rest of the world, Africa is confronted with several global crises – including COVID-19 and climate change – which have demonstrated how interconnected we are. The United States believes that it’s not only our challenges that are connecting us – it’s our opportunities that are interconnected, too. Take our recovery from COVID-19. This path will be a long and very challenging one. But this moment also demonstrates why the best, strongest partnerships are built on a foundation of trust, transparency, accountability, and shared interests
The decisive actions many African leaders took to confront COVID-19 pandemic have saved countless lives. If it were not for their leadership, as well as the Africa CDC and the health infrastructure and expertise built over the past decades, the effects of the pandemic could have been a lot worse. We’re proud of the role that we played in supporting those efforts. The United States has worked hand-in-hand with the Africa CDC since it was established in 2016. Together, we’ve dedicated significant resources to prevent, detect, and respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases on the continent, create an Emergency Operations Center, and train epidemiologists and incident managers. This partnership follows over 20 years of U.S. investment and capacity-building in African health security.
Today, the African continent is polio-free. Control of HIV/AIDS pandemic is, for some countries, within sight. Mortality rates for children under five are down. And Ebola outbreaks have been contained. We are proud that our work together has saved the lives of millions, and helped build the infrastructure for Africans to tackle future health threats like COVID-19.
In response to this current pandemic, the United States has delivered over $570 million in economic support, humanitarian, and health assistance. And on Monday, President Biden announced that we will be donating 80 million COVID-19 vaccines by the end of June. We will work with COVAX and other partners to ensure their delivery and distribution is equitable and follows the science. They will go where they are needed most. And, by the way, there won’t be any strings attached.
In addition to COVID-19, climate change has continued to grow as a destabilizing force, disproportionately impacting countries and communities across Africa. The United States is doing our part to set aggressive goals to combat climate change, which is a source of conflict and food insecurity in countless places across the continent. We can and must work together to reduce environmentally driven conflicts, including local conflicts between farmers and herders, and transboundary disputes over water.
Economic recovery will be a key piece of Africa’s broader recovery from the pandemic. Before COVID-19 hit, African economies were some of the fastest growing in the world. Together, let’s build them back better – with more equitable growth, more diversity, more market-based, transparent practices, with a focus on a climate-smart future. To that end, the United States supports the Paris Club-G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative and the Common Framework for Debt Treatment – both of which include debt transparency requirements. We commend financing efforts from the World Bank and the IMF, and we will be directly supporting the development of a plan for a $650 billion IMF special drawing rights allocation. These investments will reenergize so many of Africa’s economies – which we know are primed for progress.
Finally, the United States continues to believe that democracy is the most powerful way to prevent all forms of conflict. If people have a voice and a vote, they’re less likely to turn to violence. That’s why, across Africa, we are supporting democracy and democratic values, holding governments accountable, empowering people – economically, educationally, and politically – especially women and girls. Time and again, we see that gender equality reduces poverty, increases access to education, improves health access, fosters democracy, and boosts economic growth.
More broadly, we’ve worked to expand partnerships across Africa that are built on a foundation of trust, transparency, accountability, and areas of mutual opportunity. From people programs like Peace Corps, started in the 1960s, to YALI, started in 2010, we continue as a nation to focus on people-to-people relations. The extraordinary success of the African diaspora community here contributes to and enhances those relations. And programs like the President’s Malaria Initiative, PEPFAR, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation build on those partnerships. Together, we collaborated on programs across the continent that empower Africans and strengthen societies – through good governance, strong democratic institutions, and transparency.
That last point is important. With all of our aid, we believe our partners should know where it goes, what it delivers, and who it benefits. That’s our approach. I want to conclude by saying: The challenges Africa faces are great. But Africa’s promise is far greater. And we are committed to working together, as partners, to propel that promise forward.
Thank you, Mr. President.