UNITED NATIONS -Church is contributing directly to Peace-Building in Africa


The Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, Archbishop Bernardito Auza,  addressed the UN Security Council during an open debate on Peacebuilding in Africa in  New York.

Here is the text of his speech:

My delegation wishes to thank Japan’s Presidency of the Security Council for convening this Open Debate on Peacebuilding in Africa.

The divergent results of peacebuilding efforts in African countries in post-conflict situations suggest that there is not a  single model of peacebuilding. Some countries have gained peace and stability and achieved sustained growth, while others continue to wallow in the mire of extreme poverty and unstable if not nonexistent institutions.

Quick-impact interventions like providing food security and basic health-care immediately after a conflict, medium-range initiatives like heavy investment in jobs creation, and long-term programs like institution-building are clearly important pillars to kick-start and sustain peacebuilding.

In addition to these, many other elements must come into play to achieve sustainable peace. My delegation would like to mention first of all the role that grassroots movements, faith-based organizations and local communities play in conflict prevention and peacebuilding. They enjoy concrete knowledge of local realities and immediate interactions  with the local population.

They empower individuals and societies at a local level, identify and nurture new leaders, and rally communities to work together for the  greater common good. They get results that local individuals and communities can easily relate to and identify with.

In this regard, the Catholic Church in Africa contributes directly to conflict prevention and peacebuilding through the capillary presence of its tens of thousands of institutions, like hospitals and dispensaries, schools and other centers of formation. Catholic humanitarian and charitable agencies work in all countries of Africa in various arenas, such as fostering village dialogues, providing emergency assistance and building small business capacities. The Holy See oversees this vast network of quick-impact, medium-term and long-term programs to foster the best possible levels of education and health-care, and to assure continuing efforts to prevent conflict and to build peace through dialogue and integral human development.

Indeed, the Holy See believes that to achieve sustainable peace, it is necessary to bring people together concretely in dialogue, so that opposing positions can be fairly and equally heard and agreed solutions can be found and implemented. It is only through dialogue and negotiation that peoples and nations feel that they are active protagonists of their own peace efforts. Without a collective sense of ownership and attachment to initiatives that concern them, such initiatives would always be considered as something imposed from outside.

The Holy See believes that all peace processes and peacebuilding efforts must go beyond formal negotiations, no matter how indispensable these may be. Formal diplomatic efforts must be accompanied by all forms of “informal diplomacies,” from dialogue among clans and tribes to collaboration among religions and other civil society stakeholders, from discussions between nomadic and settled communities to fair trade talks about Africa’s enormous natural resources at the level of Governments and multinational corporations. Some African countries have achieved sustained peace and development because they have been able to harness “informal and track II diplomacies” fruitfully in a way that complements the formal diplomacy of States and multilateral bodies, thus helping communities and peoples to accept and assimilate the efforts of formal negotiations.

Particularly important to peacebuilding, moreover, are the contributions of women and youth. The Holy See commends the efforts of this Council and of National Governments to arrive at a fuller recognition of the vital role of women in preventive diplomacy, mediation and the peacebuilding process. Similarly, the Holy See commends the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations for recognizing youth as active stakeholders, participants, leaders and partners in the peace process.

Conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts require, more often than not, considerably more resources than ending wars and civil strife. They demand perseverance, long-term vision and commitment. They are consolidated through thousands of daily actions that are the building blocks of just and peaceful societies. They are achieved when leaders and citizens transcend selfish interests for the common good, reject a spirit of vengeance and take the path of healing and reconciliation.

In this context, it is vital to press for greater progress in disarmament efforts and in checking the legal and illegal arms trade. The proliferation of weapons simply aggravates situations of conflict and results in a huge human and material cost, which profoundly undermines the search for peace. It is the responsibility of the entire international community to further incentivise concrete efforts in this area and to support the commitment of civil society and of religious institutions aimed at preventing conflict.

Peacebuilding can only be effective if human rights are promoted and fostered, if the human dignity of every human being is recognized and protected, and if we all stick together in mutual solidarity, leaving no one behind. In a visit to a favela in Rio de Janeiro three years ago, Pope Francis said: “No amount of  ‘peace-building’ will be able to last, nor will harmony and happiness be attained, in a society that ignores, pushes to the margins, or excludes a part of itself; it loses something essential. We must never, never allow the throwaway culture to enter our hearts! … No one is disposable!”

At the end of the day, no amount of conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts will succeed if the human person is not the heart of every consideration.

Thank you, Mr. President.

ACN Malta