OPENING STATEMENT BY THE SECRETARY GENERAL, H E CHILESHE MPUNDU KAPWEPWE AT THE OPENING OF THE EIGHTEENTH MEETING OF THE MINISTERS OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
YOUR HONOUR, THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF ZAMBIA, MRS. MUTALE W.K NALUMANGO
HONOURABLE MINISTERS OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS FROM COMESA,
OTHER MINISTERS PRESENT HERE TODAY,
YOUR EXCELLENCIES, AMBASSADORS ACCREDITED TO THE REPUBLIC OF ZAMBIA AND TO COMESA,
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
I am honoured to welcome you to the 18th Meeting of the COMESA Ministers of Foreign Affairs. From the onset, I wish to extend our most sincere gratitude to you, Your Honour, the Vice President of the Republic of Zambia, for taking time out of your busy schedule to officiate at the opening of this important Policy Organ of COMESA. I also wish to extend our appreciation to you, Honourable Ministers of Foreign Affairs that are here today for your continued commitment towards the attainment of peace, security, and stability in our region. We truly appreciate your support and wise guidance that you have continued to provide over the years. Also, on behalf of the Ministers here today and indeed on my own behalf, I wish, through you, Your Honour, to express our deepest appreciation to His Excellency President Hakainde Hichilema, the Government and People of Zambia for hosting this meeting here in Lusaka, home of the COMESA Secretariat and for the wonderful facilitation availed to us.
Your Honour, Honourable Ministers, excellencies
A recent report of the Africa Development Bank has projected stable economic growth for Africa in 2023 and 2024, in spite of the multiple shocks experienced globally in the years past. While the Bank’s report concludes that the continent is more resilient than originally believed, it also highlights some of the factors that could constrain our efforts at attaining higher levels of resilience. These include political instability around elections and the impact of climate change among others. The study brings to focus the recent tropical cyclone that made a landfall in Madagascar, Mozambique and Malawi in February and March of this year and which was described as the worst cyclone in decades. The Horn of Africa as well, faced the longest and most severe drought in many years and it is projected that the impact of climate change will progressively get worse. This therefore gives us more incentive to revigorate our collective determination to address the issues of conflicts and insecurity in our region because these inevitably accentuates the effects of such global threats.
It is therefore encouraging that since your last meeting we have witnessed encouraging developments around some of the issues that were considered. The progress made in the resolution of the conflict that was witnessed in the Tigray region of Ethiopia and the commitment by the leaders to implement the November 2022 Agreement is very encouraging. There is also renewed hope that Libya is getting back on track towards implementing the provisions of the Ceasefire Agreement that will move Libya from the transition phase after more than a decade of instability.
Your Honour, Honourable Ministers, excellencies
Despite these encouraging developments, our region recently witnessed the deadly escalation of fighting in Sudan whose effects were felt in many parts of the world, and which has resulted in loss of life, displacement of populations and damage of infrastructure. As a regional body we are also concerned over any renewed escalation that could result in spill-over effects and thus have a devastating impact on the whole region. Sudan is one of the founding members of COMESA and home of the COMESA Court of Justice. It has an invaluable role to play in the COMESA Regional Integration Agenda and whose social and economic potential and its strategic geographic location make it a very strategic and important country both in the region and beyond.
Your Honour, Honourable Ministers of Foreign Affairs
Our region also witnessed the resurgence and escalation of activities of the M23 Movement. You shall be invited to consider their activities alongside the activities of the other negative forces that operate in the Great Lakes Region and the tremendous efforts being undertaken towards the resolution of the prevailing situation.
Turning to other matters for your consideration, you are once again invited to review the programmes of the Secretariat that relate to peace and security and provide the much-needed guidance.
- Through your guidance, Honourable Ministers, we have been implementing a robust early warning system COMWARN, that is designed to provide forecast of structural vulnerability drivers with an overall objective of building resilience in member states and in our region. The last output of the model identifies education and the advancement in technology as among the most prominent resilience factors in many of the member states. Yet we know that the education sector was one of the worst affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic with schooling highly disrupted and made worse by the relatively low internet access in most of our region. Fortunately, the effects of changes in structural factors on peace and prosperity take longer to materialize. It therefore gives us more time to develop response strategies and to ensure their implementation before the effects become more visible, and before it becomes more difficult to reverse the trends. I therefore urge more of the COMESA Member States to embrace the COMWARN model so that we can immediately prioritise those factors that have an impact on the peace and prosperity index of our respective states.
- Secondly, COMESA has continued to support Member States to strengthen the anti-money laundering regimes though capacity building programmes that target the key institutions such as Financial Intelligence Units and Law Enforcement agencies. In response to the guidance, you have given to us over the years, we have now mobilised extra-budgetary resources to extend the programme to the whole region. We believe that by tightening the ability of criminal enterprises to launder money, crime can be prevented and thus we can enhance security in the region.
- Thirdly, it is important for me to single out the programmes we are implementing to enhance the participation of the youth in the quest for peace, security, and stability. Honourable Ministers are aware that the 36th Ordinary Summit of the African Union elevated issues around youth involvement in peace and security when it appointed an AU Champion for Youth Peace and Security, E. President Evariste Ndayishimiye of the Republic of Burundi. The youth are a very important and vulnerable group, especially because it is the fastest growing demographic in our region. The region stands to benefit by channelling their energy, skills, and competences to support their involvement in silencing the guns agenda. In that regard, we have been involved in various capacity building efforts for example a recent Inter-Ministerial Conference for East Africa which was designed to enhance the partnership between the youth and policy makers towards finalising the National Action Plans on Youth Peace and Security. The Conference, which was held in Bujumbura, and was graced by H.E. President Ndayishimiye, African Union’s Youth Champion. I would, at this stage wish to express our sincere appreciation to His Excellency the President of Burundi for providing the much-needed impetus to advance the Youth Peace and Security Agenda in the continent.
Your Honour, Honourable Ministers,
I wish to end here by reiterating my appreciation to you for the role that you have continued to play to support the objectives of peace, security, and stability; and thus foster the kind of environment that will facilitate regional integration and economic development. Indeed, without Peace and Security, there would be no meaningful economic, social and sustainable development.
I thank you for your attention.