Remarks at a UN Security Council Debate on Peace and Security in Africa

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
October 7, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President. I appreciate the Secretary General’s engagement and the briefings from our three guests. I’d like to start by reading a passage that caught my attention this past weekend:

“There is broad consensus that conflict prevention, management, or resolution in Africa requires that Africans themselves act as a rudder, guiding peace processes forward and working with local disputants to bring about conciliation. Outside parties such as the U.S. can contribute by providing support to propel the search for peace forward, but peace cannot be imposed from abroad. Yet conflicts in Africa have international ramifications, evident in refugee flows and environmental damage, for example, but also in purely humanitarian terms. Broad consensus also exists that the old adage of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is especially applicable to conflicts in Africa.”

These words weren’t written recently. They weren’t written this year, or even this decade. They are from a 1994 United States Institute of Peace report on conflict prevention in Africa. Twenty five years on, and we are still talking about this? Are we going to keep having this same conversation? Are we content with this?

This Council meets practically every week to discuss areas of the world affected by conflict and instability. But far too often, we issue statements, impose sanctions, create commissions, and establish peacekeeping missions to address conflicts after they break out.

It seems to me that we’ve got this just a little bit backwards. So, if there is one message I want to communicate, it is that there is more this Council can – and should – do to address conflict before it erupts.

There are four actions we can take get out ahead of conflict. First, we should use resolutions and statements to target the drivers of conflict. Our resolutions need to organize specific actions directed at root causes – not merely assemble pleasant words on paper.

Second, we should utilize early warning systems and the analytical tools at our disposal to inform our debates and regional visits. Doing so we will ensure we are focused on areas where conflict could emerge, not just where it already has.

As fellow Kentuckian George Clooney stated last month in comments on South Sudan, “if you don’t care” about the problems in the country, “its problems will end up on your doorstep.” He’s absolutely right. And so, third, because neighboring countries often bear the burdens of spillover from conflict, we should increase coordination with regional and sub-regional bodies.

Finally, the Security Council must continue to integrate Women, Peace, and Security in all of its work. As President Trump reminded us in his remarks to the General Assembly, nations that empower women are wealthier, safer, and more politically stable. Women’s meaningful participation in peace processes will translate into more sustainable peace agreements. And as Mrs. Liberata Mulamula noted, “you want something done, give it to a woman”.

The United States is encouraged to see countries like Niger working proactively to prevent violent conflict. Using domestic resources and international assistance, Niger has made progress in preventing violent extremists from moving freely along its border with Mali. It has also deftly managed ethno-regional tensions to deny terrorist groups new pools of potential recruits inside its borders. We look forward to working closely with Niger to highlight these best practices when they join the Council in January.

Additionally, this council should focus on more countries like Burundi and Cameroon where societal divisions and weak governments threaten stability. Upcoming elections could also exacerbate political tensions and security risks. We should visit and publicly focus on potential hot spots to proactively shine a light on areas that could descend into conflict. We have already done this, to great effect, in DRC.

For our part, the United States is deeply committed to long-term stability and security in Africa. These are not just words to us. They are the fundamental reality of our financial and political choices.

Much of our bilateral engagement on the continent focuses on preventive diplomacy. In Burkina Faso, the United States is piloting a $13.5 million program to prevent conflict. Later this month, a US delegation will travel to Burkina Faso to develop programming alongside the government, civil society and other local and international partners.

The United States also invests millions of dollars in development aid each year to complement our diplomatic efforts. In dozens of African countries, we provide funding and technical assistance to cultivate accountable governance; encourage inclusive economic growth; and support local efforts to seek peaceful alternatives to conflict.

We have provided similar technical assistance to the AU, ECOWAS, and several member states as part of our support of the Continental Early Warning System.

Mr. President, we have had the same conversation about this issue for so long because our approach to problem solving is often too reactive. That may be the case simply because the work of conflict prevention is demanding, and even burdensome. I do not deny that. But it is the right work to do. It is the smart work to do. And it is the work the Council is called to do – not merely talk about it.

Thank you.