As participants at this week’s Third Aswan Forum for Sustainable Development pinpointed the various challenges facing the continent, they all agreed that greater global efforts were needed to strengthen its resilience and help it face these challenges better.
In his address to the inaugural session, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri said the event was an opportunity for the continent and world leaders to promote collaboration on initiatives that reinforce peace and sustainability.
He added that climate change was a growing source of pressure on stability and security in Africa. “Globally, we need urgent action to implement climate commitments and pledges to support Africa. The COP27 meeting is well positioned to bring the needs of climate response in Africa to centre stage,” he said.
In his speech to the forum delivered by video, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi highlighted that it was being held at a critical time when the international community was facing political and economic challenges affecting food and energy security.
“This sheds light on the food crisis Africa is facing, which requires measures and procedures to address these growing risks,” he said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke during the forum on the unprecedented and multi-dimensional crises facing the African continent, starting from the Covid-19 pandemic and developing into the war in Ukraine and its impacts on food security.
He pointed to the challenges of climate change and said that six out of 10 people in Africa do not have access to early warning of climate disasters. He called for bold action on the climate and expressed his wish that over the next five years all Africans would have access to early warnings in case of climatic disasters.
The forum was held in a hybrid format this year and hosted some 900 representatives from 50 countries, including foreign ministers from various African countries, senior officials, and representatives from think tanks, NGOs, and the private sector.
The opening session chaired by Shoukri focused on the challenges facing the continent in an era of cascading risks.
The first day saw the presentation of the results of a study of Nigeria’s experiences in facing up to terrorism by the staff of the Cairo International Centre for Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping, and Peace building (CCCPA) in a session entitled “Advancing Holistic Efforts to Confront Africa’s Terrorism Challenge: a Nigerian Case Study”.
As the UN COP27 summit on climate change approaches, discussions focused on this event to be held in Sharm El-Sheikh in November. Ahmed Abdel-Latif, executive director of the forum and director-general of the CCCPA, said the Third Aswan Forum was special because it was a “stop on the way to COP27”.
“It places special emphasis on the interface between climate change and sustaining peace in Africa and focuses on issues like displacement and the role of women and youth in developing solutions for the challenges of the continent,” he said.
A session entitled “Strengthening the Climate Adaptation and Peace-building Nexus: the Way Forward” tackled that issue in detail.
The forum, held this year under the theme of “Africa in an Era of Cascading Risks and Climate Vulnerability: Pathways for a Peaceful, Resilient, and Sustainable Continent”, opened up various dialogues, including one on empowering youth-led climate responses for sustainable peace and development.
Another dialogue was about the UN-African Union partnership in peace operations. This session was held in partnership with the Swedish Challenges Forum International Secretariat and aimed to enhance the role of peace operations on the continent.
There was special emphasis on particular regions of Africa that are facing major security challenges. Two dialogues were opened on climate and security in Africa with a focus on the Sahel area and on advancing peace and development in the Red Sea area.
By the end of the forum, the participants had produced a list of action-oriented recommendations and had followed up on the recommendations produced by the second edition of the forum held virtually in March 2021.
The first edition of the forum was held in December 2019 in the Upper Egyptian city of Aswan.
The Aswan forum is a platform initiated by Egypt during its presidency of the African Union in 2019 to allow African governments, research centres, and other parties to meet. It is a tool aiming to assist the African continent, as each forum is part of an ongoing process that begins before it convenes and continues after it ends.
The CCCPA currently acts as the executive secretariat of the Aswan Forum. The CCCPA is an African Union Centre of Excellence and the only civilian training centre on issues of peace and security in the Arab world.
A version of this article appears in print in the 23 June, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.