Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message for Africa Day, observed on 25 May:
Earlier this year, during a visit to Ethiopia, I spent time with schoolgirls from 34 African countries who were learning to code. They were not only developing their skills, they were challenging gender stereotypes and embracing the inclusive digital technology that will be critical to take the continent towards a low-carbon, climate-resilient future.
The boundless energy and optimism of Africa’s young people are propelling the continent into a new era of sustainable development through implementation of the African Union’s visionary Agenda 2063 in alignment with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. On Africa Day, we mark the fifty-sixth anniversary of the founding of the African Union and celebrate its role in creating African solutions to African challenges.
Since I assumed office in 2017, I have prioritized the strategic partnership between the United Nations and the African Union. I am proud to say there has been a quantum leap in our cooperation, from the institutionalization of the annual United Nations-African Union conferences, to the new joint African Union‑United Nations frameworks on peace and security and sustainable development, and the Joint Declaration on cooperation for African Union-led peace support operations. We are providing strong support to African Union initiatives on prevention and mediation, including Silencing the Guns by 2020 and the African Women Leaders Network.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 are aligned around the importance of a people-centred and planet‑sensitive transformation. Eradicating poverty is the overriding priority of both agendas. We are working closely together on mainstreaming the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063 into national development plans and cooperating on unlocking new opportunities from the African Continental Free Trade Area.
I particularly commend the African Union on choosing the theme “Refugees, returnees and IDPs: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa” for 2019. Africa’s commitment to the safety and dignity of refugees is an example to the world. Together, we must make preventing and responding to forced displacement a core element of the sustainable development agenda, not only in Africa, but around the world.
We are also working closely with the African Union and African Member States to combat climate change, the defining issue of our time. The African continent makes a negligible contribution to climate change, but is suffering some of its most dramatic and devastating consequences. Unless we reduce emissions rapidly, climate change will have serious consequences that will undermine both sustainable development and security across Africa.
The renewed emphasis on the strategic partnership between the United Nations and the African Union is already producing results. Let us build on these strong foundations to make our cooperation more effective, efficient and mutually reinforcing, based on the principles of African ownership, mutual respect, complementarity and interdependence.