The magical city of Aswan formed the backdrop to the launch of a regional and continental forum that brought together political leaders, leading scholars and opinion makers, peace makers and partners in development on Wednesday and Thursday, 11 and 12 December, to operationalise mechanisms for addressing a variety of longstanding and entrenched African problems that African policymakers increasingly realise demand fundamental change from within.
The Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development presented a new model for venues of this sort. It offered a unique political platform that sought to reinforce the linkage between sustainable peace and sustainable development, inspired by the conviction that there can be no development without peace and no peace without development.
The forum was also conceived as an integral part of an ongoing multifaceted multilateral process. This week’s event was only the first edition. It will be held annually with the purpose of stimulating sustained and serious dialogue on new and innovative programmes, projects and financial mechanisms that will bring on board and activate the private sector. The business community is not only vital to boosting sustainable development and poverty alleviation, it is also essential to bolstering peace and stability across the continent which, despite great hopes pinned on the future, continues to face major challenges that threaten peace, security and development.
Africa remains the world’s most conflict-plagued continent. The human, social, material and economic losses due to conflict are incalculable. Yet, instead of abating, the plights of migration and forced displacement have increased. The continent also faces the mounting threat of terrorism, which exploits the weakness and fragility created by conflict zones in order to seize control of territory to use as bases for operations. This relatively new evolution in the terrorist threat is aggravated by the relationship between terrorist organisations and organised crime, creating insidious networks that present new types of transnational threats.
The Cairo Centre for Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding (CCCPA) had assumed the secretariat of the forum. In collaboration with 18 regional and international partners, the CCCPA organised five workshops, held in Cairo and Addis Ababa, attended by more than 300 prominent experts from across Africa and elsewhere in the world. The organisers also produced and disseminated the first “Aswan for Peace and Development Report” in advance of the forum in order to stimulate brainstorming and discussion on how to bridge the gap between policy and practice.
The Aswan Forum’s organisational structure includes an international advisory board made up of eminent international and African figures and tasked with steering and supervising the forum’s activities. These are designed to offer regional and international participants the opportunity to attain certain goals, such as assessing current challenges and opportunities for peace, security and development in Africa; devising recommendations and proposing practical tools for advancing the implementation of the “Sustainable Development” and “Sustainable Peace” agendas in Africa; and exploring new and innovative avenues for future cooperation.
President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, whose keynote speech kicked off the first edition of the Aswan Forum on Wednesday, presented participating states and organisations with a roadmap of ideas for promoting and preserving peace and sustainable development in Africa. The concluding recommendations fleshed out the conceptual groundwork for post-conflict reconstruction and development in the continent.
A month before it is due to hand over chairmanship of the African Union, Egypt gave a powerful boost to collaborative thinking on how to unify African energies against the multi-headed beasts that devour opportunities for peace and development, leaving this continent’s peoples in perpetual misery and despair. Egypt is forever on the lookout for opportunities to offer platforms for ongoing dialogue on how to resolve disputes in order to give people hope for a better future.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 12 December, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.