Excellencies, colleagues, friends,
My thanks to the chair, Ambassador Molekane, and all of you for holding this event.
We meet today under very different circumstances from our first meeting at the end of February.
COVID-19 has compelled us to move our celebration online. But together virtually and in spirit, we can still honour Africa Day and reaffirm our commitment to Africa’s development and bright future.
Our struggle against the virus is far from over. The recovery will be painful, and will require solidarity. COVID is not just a health crisis, but a human crisis with huge and unprecedented socio-economic impact.
But the wisdom of the 2020 African Union theme calling for “Silencing the Guns” and “Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development” is ever more relevant as we deal with the consequences of this global pandemic.
We all know that there can be no development in Africa without peace. No justice without stopping armed conflict, extremism, gender-based violence and other violations. No safety without ending the flow of illegal weapons that perpetrates crime, brings needless death and hinders development efforts.
Silencing the guns to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals is more urgent than ever as COVID-19 threatens fragile societies and leaves the vulnerable at further risk of exploitation.
Economic growth in Africa was projected to rise to 3.2 per cent in 2020 and to 3.5 per cent next year. Now COVID has stopped this expansion in its tracks, with a contraction of up to 2.7 per cent of African GDP this year in the worst case scenario.
Jobs have been lost, and African businesses are estimated to be operating at at less than half of their capacity.
Unequal recovery can exacerbate instability and violence, and be instrumentalized by terrorists. Crimes such as human trafficking prey upon desperation.
To overcome COVID-19 and leave no one behind, we need to protect Africa’s resources and safeguard its hard-won development gains.
We urge the international community to provide essential assistance in this time of greatest need.
Our Office joins Secretary-General Guterres in calling for a global response package with more than 200 billion dollars of additional support for Africa, to support COVID response and recovery, including by reinforcing health systems and food supplies, enabling education, protecting jobs and avoiding a financial crisis.
We need to empower African youth, spark new investment and unleash entrepreneurship - including by fostering stability through countering organized crime, financial crime and corruption.
We need to encourage Africa’s partners to honour their commitments to help curb illicit financial flows, estimated at 50 billion dollars annually.
UNODC, in our contributions to the Secretary-General’s policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 in Africa, highlighted these urgent challenges.
And we are proud to be Africa’s close partner in addressing them and seeking sustainable solutions.
Through more than 40 projects based in Africa, UNODC is working across the UN pillars of peace and security, human rights and development to achieve the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063.
Increasing social protection, and enabling women and young people to contribute, are fundamental to these efforts.
UNODC is playing its part to address needs during the pandemic, including by providing protective equipment to shelters for women who have escaped violence and human trafficking; supporting protective measures in prison settings; and partnering with frontline health workers and drug counsellors to provide over-the-phone support.
We are also adapting our technical assistance to pilot new approaches to working digitally that can be maintained after the crisis, including, for example, virtual court proceedings.
In this way, we are committed to continuing and expanding our support for Africa, even as COVID-19 imposes restrictions on how we can work.
We will continue to take these challenges and turn them into opportunities.
Together we will innovate to strengthen law enforcement and justice systems, and step up the fight against drugs, crime, corruption and terrorism.
UNODC will further elevate its support to the continent through our 2030 Strategic Vision for Africa.
I announced my intention to launch this new strategy when we met at the start of my tenure as UNODC Executive Director, and I look forward to presenting it to you in detail this summer.
Africa is the future, Africa deserves better and can build back better. Together, we can stop the pandemic from threatening progress towards the SDGs in this Decade of Action.
UNODC, working with each and every one of you, can help silence the guns for a prosperous future for Africa.
Thank you, and see you soon.