“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a promise to all people in all places at all times,” Mr. told African leaders gathered in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, for the annual Summit of the African Union (AU).
He cited discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity as one of the injustices that has been ignored or even sanctioned by many States for too long.
“This has prompted some governments 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,” Mr. Ban told the Summit, held in
a new conference centre funded and built by China.
“I salute your efforts to
build African prosperity and grow intra-African trade. Our challenge is to
transform Africa’s potential into progress for all,” he said.
The Secretary-General noted that 25 African countries will hold elections at
either the presidential, legislative or local levels this year and urged them to
ensure that the polls are well-managed, transparent and inclusive.
“The transition in Tunisia has been a model for other States. In Libya, our
political mission is helping the new transitional authorities to organize
elections and improve public security, rule of law and transitional justice,”
said Mr. Ban.
He once again encouraged the transitional authorities in Egypt to guarantee the
peaceful and early handover of power to a civilian government, uphold human
rights, release political prisoners and accelerate the pace of reform.
Mr. Ban pointed out that the the so-called Arab Spring — popular protests for
civil rights — took the world by surprise because traditional indicators were
ing that the affected countries were “stable.”
“Yet below the surface, there was deprivation, exclusion, abuse. Events have
proved that repression is a dead-end. Police power is no match for people power
seeking dignity and justice,” he said.
Mr. Ban said he was committed to deepening ties between the UN and AU, noting
that the fruits of the two organizations’ partnership had manifested itself in
the search for peace in Darfur, in common diplomatic efforts in Guinea and
cooperation on Somalia.
“Where there are differences, let us continue to find common ground for the
future. For example; let us review how effectively and how quickly we are able
to respond to crises,” he said.
He called for joint efforts betweeen the UN and AU to improve the lot of women
and youth in Africa, who account for 80 per cent of the continent’s population,
pointing out that the presence of Liberian President President Ellen Johnson
Sirleaf, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, was an indication that
women are not only victims of war. “They are also champions of peace,” said the
He called for greater representation of women in parliaments across Africa,
which he said currently stands 20 per cent on average.
“We must ensure that women are fully represented in decision-making bodies,
including in Egypt and Tunisia, where they played a role” in the recent
“And we must restore hope and a better future for youth in Africa. Unemployment
and poverty feed chronic instability and create tensions. I intend to appoint a
special representative for youth, who will open dialogue with young people and
lead our efforts,” he added.