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

Ambassador Jonathan R. Cohen
Deputy Permanent Representative
US Mission to the United Nations
New York City
September 26, 2019


I’d like to thank today’s briefers for their presentations and thank you Mr. President for the opportunity to engage on the critical topic of peace and security in Africa. Mr. President, the United States is deeply committed to realizing a better life for all the people of Africa and demonstrates that through our robust bilateral programs.

The United States has spent more than one-third of its worldwide bilateral development assistance in Sub-Saharan Africa since 2011. In 2017 alone, we spent $13.4 billion to support stability and prosperity on the continent.

There are strong economic incentives for investment. Africa is home to 6 of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies and over 1 billion consumers. But the United States understands that this is only part of the continent’s larger story – the millions of individuals with unique callings and limitless potential.

This is why our support does not burden African countries with unsustainable debts or unreasonable expectations.

This Council’s common wish should be for Africa to be strong and vibrant, free from the limiting obligations that some might place on it.

But strength and vibrancy require cooperation among regional actors. To that end, the United States applauds recent efforts by African governments and organizations to assume responsibility for achieving these goals.

Mr. President, we are grateful for the Economic Community of West African States, which has urged leaders to govern inclusively and abide by elections timelines in Guinea-Bissau. We commend ECOWAS’s peacekeeping deployment and support for the transition in The Gambia.

We are also appreciative of the work of the African Union and Ethiopia to help secure a civilian-led transitional government in Sudan.

These examples are encouraging. Regional actors should do even more to address challenges that threaten stability.

For instance, the Anglophone conflict in Cameroon has led to the deaths of thousands and the displacement of hundreds of thousands. And while we were also encouraged by the government holding of a national dialogue, the region could do more. We also note that flagging regional cooperation in South Sudan has slowed the full implementation of the Revitalized Agreement.

Mr. President, as many have highlighted here today, one of the challenges confronting regional cooperation is financing. This is certainly true in the case of African Union peacekeeping operations.

We recognize the sacrifices that AU and African troop-contributing countries are making, and we are aware of the challenges associated with taking on a greater role.

The United States supports the UN and AU’s efforts to establish systems that offer predictable, sustainable, and reliable financing for future operations. But any mechanism using UN-assessed contributions requires a deliberate approach with appropriate safeguards. Any resolution on this topic must address longstanding U.S. policy positions, including with respect to financial transparency and trade measures.

Such a resolution must also address concerns regarding adequate burden sharing, fiscal transparency, and adherence to UN standards for conduct in peacekeeping operations.

These principles will improve the integrity and fiscal health of AU operations. But more importantly, they will allow the AU to deliver real peace and security to vulnerable populations.

Mr. President, as we have heard throughout High Level Week from world leaders, activists, and countless others, our words are ultimately empty if they are not backed by concrete actions. We could not agree more.

We want to reiterate our commitment to do more than speak of peace and security in Africa. This is one reason why the U.S. has decided to co-lead, with South Africa, the upcoming Security Council trip to South Sudan. This trip will allow the council to see how our words and decisions are impacting lives on the ground, and to get a firsthand appreciation of how we can help deliver a measurably better life for every man, woman, and child in South Sudan and on the African continent more broadly.

I thank you for your attention.