It was widely believed that the authoritarian regimes in north Africa were stable, Ban said, “yet below the surface there was deprivation, exclusion abuse”.
In the end, “police power is no match for people power seeking dignity and justice”, he added. “The women and men protesting in streets and public squares across the region are both an inspiration and a reminder. A reminder that leaders must listen to their people”.
Trade and investment were certainly crucial for development, said the UN Chief, “but Africa’s future also depends on investments in civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights”.
Ban ki-Moon made it clear that this also covers a topic not often mentioned in such gatherings – gay rights. “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a promise to all people in all places at all times”, he stressed, adding that “discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity has been ignored or sanctioned by many states for far too long”.
Such attitudes had led certain governments, he said, without naming any of them, “to treat people as second class citizens, or even criminals. Confronting this discrimination is a challenge. But we must live up to the ideals of the Universal Declaration”.
Ban ki-Moon admitted that there had been “differences” over the conflicts in Ivory Coast and Libya. “These were not differences of objectives or goals”, he said. “These were differences in operational and strategic approaches. This is natural – even to be expected among organisations with varied mandates and memberships”.
“The question is how we manage those differences”, he said. “We do it through dialogue, engagement and collaboration. Ours is a vital strategic partnership”.
Another guest addressing the summit was Jia Qinglin, the chairperson of China’s People’s Political Consultative conference, and a senior figure in the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party. The summit is being held in a building donated to the African Union by China, which cost around 200 million US dollars.
Jia announced a further Chinese grant to the AU of 600 million yuan (about 95 million US dollars) to be disbursed over the next three years.
Jia declared that China “has always respected the sovereignty and development path of African countries and refrained from interfering in their internal affairs. We have always treated African countries on an equal footing and pursued mutually beneficial and win-win cooperation with them”.
“We have never attached political strings to our assistance to Africa”, he stressed. “China views its relations with Africa from a strategic and long term perspective. We will work harder with African countries to bring the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership to a higher level”.
“We maintain that all countries, big or small, are equal, and we are opposed to the big, strong or rich bullying the small, weak and poor”, he added.
“We will continue to pursue an independent foreign policy of peace, respect the right of people of all countries to independently choose their social systems and development paths and refrain from imposing our will on others”, he pledged.Post published in: Africa News