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NEW YORK, April 26, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's remarks at the General Assembly thematic debate on the peaceful resolution of conflicts in Africa, in New York on 25 April:

Africa is one of the top priorities of the United Nations. From development to preventive diplomacy, from peacekeeping to capacity-building and much else, we work day in and day out alongside our African counterparts towards long-term peace, prosperity and human rights.

Next month, Africa's leaders will meet in Addis Ababa to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Organization of African Unity and its successor organization, the African Union. It will be a time for reflection and pride in considerable achievement.

The path from colonization to emancipation has been rocky, but that has not stopped the people of Africa from resolutely marching forward. Africa has made great strides. This is not always an easy message to get across. But, the facts speak for themselves.

Africa, today, is home to 7 of the world's 10 fastest growing economies. More Africans live under democratic systems than ever before. The African Peer Review Mechanism, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, has become a powerful tool for promoting good governance. Steady gains are also being made in consolidating peace and security.

Insecurity in the Central African Republic, Mali, the broader Sahel region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the unconstitutional transfer of power in Guinea-Bissau, cannot disguise the fact that the number of conflicts in Africa continues to decline.

And the AU [African Union] peace and security architecture, the Continental Early Warning System and the African Standby Force are increasingly effective. The AU, with its Panel of the Wise, and the sub-regional organizations, are taking the lead in mediation and conflict resolution. The AU Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council are working ever more closely together.

The United Nations is committed to supporting the peaceful prevention and resolution of conflicts in Africa. To build on the momentum generated by the February signing of the Framework for Peace, Security and Cooperation for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region, I will continue to work closely with the signatories and neighbouring countries. My Special Envoy for the Great Lakes, Mrs. Mary Robinson, will visit the region later this month.

Last month, in Burundi, the United Nations organized an important workshop on “Electoral Lessons Learned” that saw the return of many political leaders from exile and the first formal encounter between the Government and members of all political groups since the boycott of the presidential elections in 2010. I am pleased that the participants adopted a road map for the 2015 presidential elections. I also welcome the ongoing collaboration between my Special Representative and the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission in accompanying Burundi on this path.

In Kenya, the peaceful elections and smooth transition of power were made possible by Kenyans themselves, beginning with a constitutional review process and subsequent judicial, electoral and other reforms in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 post election violence. The country's political leaders, media and people should be commended for this victory for democracy.

Sudan and South Sudan should also be commended on moving ahead to resolve outstanding matters in a constructive manner. The role of the African Union High-level Implementation Panel, led by President Thabo Mbeki, has been indispensable.

In Somalia, the AU-UN cooperation has created the necessary security environment for political progress as the Federal Government seeks to build the State and consolidate peace.

In Mali, strengthening State capacity and building the legitimacy of the State and the political system are essential for resolving the current crisis. As we speak, the Security Council is deliberating on the establishment of a United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali with a political and humanitarian mandate.

In West Africa, the UN Office for West Africa continues to work closely with national, regional and international actors to address electoral crises and unconstitutional changes in Government. I am encouraged by the signing, two days ago, of a joint declaration between the Government, the opposition and the presidential camp confirming their determination to resolve outstanding issues through peaceful and negotiated solutions.

Finally, the crisis in the Central African Republic has created a grave humanitarian and human rights situation, with appalling violence that has included the targeting of civilians and of UN personnel. The prompt reaction of the Economic Community of Central African States shows, once again, Africa's increased willingness to formulate joint responses to common problems.

But, it has also highlighted the perils of leaving grievances unaddressed, and the importance of adequate institutional capacities. I know Member States are engaged through the Peacebuilding Commission, which is particularly active in Western and Central Africa. The Peacebuilding Fund also continues to channel important support.

The resolution of conflicts in Africa, or anywhere else, cannot just be a matter for elites to decide. Communities must feel they have ownership of these initiatives and processes. The AU and the UN can and must work to find inclusive and durable solutions and strengthen the capacity of all actors to engage in the peaceful resolution of conflicts, especially women.

The United Nations looks forward to continuing to work closely with the African Union, Africa's regional bodies, its Governments and people to build on a half-century of progress.

I wish you a productive meeting.

Thank you very much.