On 22 May 2020 the Founder and Executive Director of ACCORD, Dr Vasu Gounden, was invited to be a resource person in the 2020 Africa Dialogue Series (ADS). The theme for this year’s ADS was “COVID-19 and Silencing the guns in Africa: Challenges and opportunities”. The event was hosted over a three-day period, from 20-22 May 2020, by the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA), in collaboration with the AU, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, the UN Department of Peace Operations, the UN Department of Global Communications, and UN Women. The overall goal of the ADS is to enhance global advocacy in support of the AU Master Roadmap and the UN Security Council Resolution 2457 (2019) on Silencing the Guns in Africa, and the Secretary-General’s Appeal for a Global Ceasefire, particularly in light of the COVID-19 health crisis.
Dr Gounden was a discussant in Session 7 focusing on strengthening a culture of peace, tolerance and reconciliation, which discussed ways to promote human rights, traditional values, social cohesion, tolerance, education for peace, reconciliation, laws and with a view to addressing and preventing xenophobia, hate speech, intercommunal/inter-ethnic conflicts.
The session was moderated by Dr. Assefa Bequele, PHD, Distinguished Fellow, African Child Policy Forum – ACPF, with Mr. Adama Dieng, United Nations Under-Secretary-General (USG) and Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide as the lead presenter. Dr Gounden was joined by
Dr. Solomon Ayele Dersso, Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights; Mr. Firmin Edouard Matoko, Assistant Director-General for Priority Africa and External Relations, UNESCO; and Mr. Lual Mayen, CEO of JUNUB Games, as discussants.
The USG, Mr Adama Dieng expressed that Silencing the Guns is about human rights, promoting tolerance, justice, accountability and learning together.
In his response, Dr Gounden highlighted that to strengthen a culture of peace, tolerance and reconciliation, every country has to pursue national interest with global solidarity. In addition, social compacts need to be strengthened through building local ambassadors for peace across civil society, government and private sector spaces. He further expressed that multilateralism needed to be strengthened, especially between the AU and the RECs, and between the AU and the UN, noting that these institutions have proved to be robust in their response to the pandemic.
Mr. Matoko shared that the current situation is an opportunity to review the concept of peace itself, to reflect on the root causes of conflicts and to take advantage of the dynamic population on the continent. Dr Dersso used the opportunity to underscore the need to tap into materials of the AU’s transitional justice policy, highlighting that it is also an opportunity to redefine priorities; with the COVID-19 pandemic offering clarity to go back to basics and prioritise attention and support to socio-economic justice.