, 21 September, 2020 / 11:18 PM
The leaderships of Caritas Africa and Caritas Europe have, on the occasion of the International Day of Peace marked Monday, September 21, encouraged leaders on the two continents of Africa and Europe to adopt a new framework for European Union (EU)-Africa relations that is people-centered rather than “state-centric.”
“Putting people at the heart of peace and security efforts would entail going beyond a state-centric approach, acknowledging peoples’ capacities, and formulating ambitious strategies for inclusivity in peace and resilience building,” state the officials of Caritas Africa and Caritas Europe in their collective statement issued Monday, September 21.
They call on leaders of the EU and Africa to “recognize the importance of local community engagement and the contribution of faith actors in peacebuilding efforts; to establish practical entry-points for grassroots and civil society actors, including women and youth, so they can participate meaningfully in peace initiatives; and to scale-up locally-led funding, programming, and partnership opportunities.”
“We envision and encourage the future EU-Africa partnership to benefit from the opportunity to put people at the centre of peace efforts by investing in community-driven initiatives,” the Caritas officials say in the statement signed by the Executive Secretary of Caritas Africa, Albert Mashika and the Secretary General of Caritas Europe, Maria Nyman.
Established in 1981 by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, the International Day of Peace is observed each year on September 21 as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, through observing 24 hours of non-violence and ceasefire.
In their Monday, September 21 collective statement, the leadership of the two continental Caritas organizations urge leaders in Africa and Europe “to be inspired by this year’s International Day of Peace theme “Shaping Peace Together”, and to make the sixth AU-EU Summit an opportunity to commit to practical ways of building peace through genuinely inclusive processes.”
Initially scheduled to take place from October 28-29 in Brussels, Belgium the sixth AU-EU Summit has been postponed to 2021 because of COVID-19 restrictions.
The postponed AU-EU Summit was expected to lead to a joint declaration laying down the priorities and concrete actions of the EU-Africa relations in the next few years, including the fields of peace and security.
According to the leadership of Caritas Africa and Caritas Europe, “EU-Africa relations should, however, be based on multi-stakeholder partnerships, involving civil society and other actors, not only governments or intergovernmental institutions.”
“This is particularly relevant given that peacebuilding is a holistic process that requires addressing the root causes of conflict and investing in community-level conflict prevention and social cohesion. Peace building also requires important efforts towards the elimination of extreme poverty and the preservation of the rule of law,” the Caritas Officials add.
They underscore the need for collective efforts and “bold commitment” in the initiatives toward peace after COVID-19 pandemic.
“Inly with a bold commitment to shaping peace together will actions under the future EU-Africa partnership succeed in addressing security issues, such as limited social cohesion, and ultimately reduce conflict and instability that severely undermine development efforts in better rebuilding a post-COVID-19 reality,” the officials of Caritas in Africa and Europe say.
They emphasize the need to engage people in local contexts saying, “As Caritas, we advocate for grassroots participation not only because it is indispensable for the effectiveness of peace building strategies, but foremost because it is a clear option for recognizing each person’s dignity, for solidarity, for co-responsibility, and for the choice to work for the common good.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa