Official visit to Ethiopia: Address to the PRC of the African Union
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am honoured to be here, for the first time, at these magnificent headquarters of the African Union. The way this organisation has developed since its inception as the Organisation of African Unity is truly impressive.
Former Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah’s words in 1961 encapsulated the vision African leaders had for the continent at the time – and I quote: ‘It is clear that we must find an African solution to our problems, and that this can only be found in African unity. Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world.’ End quote.
The transition from the Organisation of African Unity to the African Union in 2002 was a manifestation of how Africa has united since the 1960s.
The AU is without doubt one of the most dynamic regional organisations in the world today. Agenda 2063, the Continental Free Trade Area, the roadmap for silencing the guns by 2020, and the African passport are all part of the ambitious vision for Africa. The AU is leading the way as a normative actor, as an agent of change promoting sustainable development, peace and security, and as a unified African voice on the global stage.
Africa is an important global actor, and a key neighbour and partner to Europe.
As neighbours, our lives are intertwined. We face the same challenges, whether they relate to climate change or the fight against terror. At the same time, we have common opportunities and mutually beneficial partnerships.
Most major challenges today are global in nature; they affect us all. Poverty, conflict, violent extremism, migration, children being deprived of an education, youth unemployment and climate change, to mention just a few. These economic, social and environmental ills affect all of us, regardless of where we live – or how we make a living.
The Sustainable Development Goals unite us in a concerted effort to address our common challenges and lay the foundation for our common future. The SDGs highlight the fact that all countries have areas where they can and must improve. They recognise the importance of a healthy planet to our survival and success. Norway is therefore committed to being a champion for the global implementation of the SDGs.
It is indicative of this continent’s commitment and this organisation’s leadership that you did not wait for the SDGs to be in place before you took action. Instead, you developed your own sustainable development agenda, Agenda 2063, setting out a vision of what Africa should look like 100 years after the creation of the OAU. African states’ common position in the process reflect the continent’s political and moral power and the AU’s role as the focal point for African politics.
Our generation has a unique opportunity. The eradication of poverty is within our reach. Poverty is not a natural phenomenon that we simply have to accept. Poverty, inequality and marginalisation occur in all societies, but we can work to combat them. We must ensure that development creates opportunities for the most vulnerable. Only then will we be able to break the circle.
The AU is a cornerstone of the international order in a range of areas, including peace and security, good governance, human rights, and gender equality, trade, regional integration and the fight against climate change. The joint efforts of the 55 AU members, and Africa’s influence in multilateral organisations, are important to all of us.
Norway’s strategic partnership with the AU has its roots in history. It dates back to our support for the liberation struggles and the fight against apartheid. Norway was under foreign rule for centuries. My great-grandfather became the first King of a modern, independent Norway in 1905. Our own history motivated us to show solidarity with other countries that were deprived of their independence. Our support had deep roots in Norwegian society. People-to-people collaboration was just as important as state-to-state cooperation.
The UN/OAU Conference on Southern Africa was held in Oslo in April 1973. It was a pivotal event that marked an international breakthrough for the liberation movements, confirming their legitimacy. The OAU Summit and the United Nations General Assembly later endorsed the final report of the conference.
Norwegian development cooperation was also rooted in the broad support for the liberation movement and the fight against apartheid among Norwegians. The Norwegian Government provided substantial political and financial support to the Frontline States and the Southern African Development Community for the purposes of promoting regional cooperation.
Bilateral development assistance continues to be an important component of our cooperation with countries in Africa. However, trade, private investments, business cooperation and multilateral issues have now become an increasingly prominent part of our partnership.
Cooperation between Norway and the African Union is based on a Memorandum of Understanding that sets out our common agenda for cooperation. Our partnership is based on three important pillars: peace and security, governance and human rights, and sustainable development and job creation.
I am aware that we are now in the room where the meetings of the AU Peace and Security Council are normally held. I feel sure that all of us share the view that the essential starting point for development and progress is peace. Africa knows the devastating effects of war all too well. As a result, the AU has developed an ambitious and multidimensional roadmap for silencing the guns by 2020.
The AU has shown leadership in addressing peace and security, the first pillar of our partnership. A lot has already been achieved. I salute all those who are working to protect the innocent and to combat violent extremism, including the many brave African peacekeepers.
The pursuit of global peace has long been a priority for Norway, as has ensuring respect for human dignity. This is why we have been directly engaged in peace and reconciliation processes in a number of countries. However, more often than not, Norway seeks to promote peace by supporting other actors, such as the UN and regional and sub-regional organisations – including the AU and IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development), national governments and NGOs.
Your security and ours are closely intertwined. This is why the AU and Norway have an extensive partnership on peace and security issues. This includes cooperation to strengthen the AU´s civilian capacity for peace support operations and to enhance conflict prevention and mediation, and our joint efforts to implement UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.
Norway is a candidate for a seat on the UN Security Council for the period 2021-2022, and we hope this will provide an opportunity to further strengthen our relationship with the AU on peace and security issues. The relationship between the UN and the AU will be a key priority for us.
Although the world has made great progress in reducing poverty, civilian populations continue to suffer the consequences of conflict, humanitarian crises and climate change. Norway is therefore increasing its support for national and regional efforts to promote conflict prevention, stabilisation and recovery. Global challenges such as terrorism, climate change, migration, extreme poverty are too vast and complex for any one country to tackle alone.
The second pillar of our strategic partnership is good governance and human rights. We know that sustainable development and economic growth are dependent on governments that care about, and are accountable to, their people. Free and open exchanges of opinion and ideas help us to choose the best policy option. Inclusive democratic societies encourage innovation and a thriving business sector.
Gender equality is a key to every nation’s success. When women enjoy their economic and political rights and have access to health care and education, families are stronger, communities are more vibrant, children do better at school, and countries are more prosperous.
In 2016, we were able to join you in celebrating 30 years since the entry into force of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. As one of the key normative instruments in the African Governance Architecture, the impact of the charter has been significant.
However, significant challenges remain. Today, illicit financial flows have reached an alarming scale and are a huge threat to development. No country is immune to corruption. The AU has declared 2018 the ‘African anti-corruption year’. In order to fight corruption and illicit financial flows, African countries need the full cooperation of the rest of the world. And Norway will do its part.
The third pillar of our partnership is sustainable development and job creation. This year the AU’s focus is on harnessing the youth dividend. An important part of this is creating more jobs, and one of the keys to job creation is education. Giving all boys and girls in all countries a high-quality education is the best investment we can make for the future. This is a top priority in Norwegian development cooperation. I am encouraged by the AU’s emphasis on education and the tremendous potential young Africans represent.
Great progress has been made on this continent, which now has many of the fastest growing economies in the world. Africa is in many ways the continent with the biggest growth potential. This offers valuable opportunities for Norwegian companies. This is particularly the case in areas such as renewable energy and the petroleum and maritime sectors. Information technology, agriculture and forestry are other sectors in which we have important commercial partnerships.
Norway and African countries have shared interests in a number of areas that are important for sustainable development. When it comes to the oceans, our global commons, we are all neighbours. For Norway, sustainable use of the oceans and marine resources is the very foundation of our prosperity and well-being. With a rapidly growing global population, we will increasingly rely on the world’s oceans for food, employment opportunities, energy, minerals and transport routes. Africa's Integrated Maritime Strategy, ‘Harnessing the Blue Economy in Achieving the African Union Agenda 2063’, provides a good basis for further cooperation.
Central Africa is home to the world’s largest rainforest, which is immensely important in the fight against global climate change. This is why the Central African Forest Initiative is so vital. The initiative is a partnership between forest countries and a group of donors, including Norway, which seeks to preserve the Congo Basin forest and promote its sustainable use.
Our cooperation is not only about politics and economics. Cultural exchanges have strengthened the links between us. The African continent is a leading exporter in the field of culture, and many of the most famous Norwegian musicians are of African heritage. Sport is another area where there have been frequent Norwegian-African exchanges. Every year since 1972, teams from all over the world have come to Oslo to take part in Norway Cup, the world’s biggest football tournament for children and young people. Over the years, many African teams have competed and taken home trophies.
This year, almost 2000 teams participated, including teams from Ghana, Somalia, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Egypt, Kenya and Malawi.
The honourable Nelson Mandela once said: ‘As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality exist in our world, none of us can truly rest.’ Regrettably, peace and security are still out of reach for far too many people. And far too many still live in poverty.
This is why Norway wants to further develop and expand its already strong partnership with Africa. Norway is a great believer in and supporter of multilateralism and a rule-based global world order. Even if we disregard the moral imperative, a realist approach would undoubtedly recognise that we are too small to act alone. We need friends and good neighbours. We need international cooperation. We believe that we are stronger, and better, when we work together.
This is why we join alliances with African countries and find common positions on many crucial issues. And this is why we invest a great deal of effort and resources in our strategic partnership with the African Union.