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Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, the 21st day of September, is International Peace Day. It presents us not only with a day of reflection regarding the imperative of living in a world devoid of threats to peace and security but also one in which we consider the realities of our societies with a view to highlight real challenges that threaten our peaceful co-existence. The shifting nature of threats to peace and security are reflective of the rise in intra-national conflicts over and above international conflicts with adverse impacts for nation-building and sustainable development. Both research and our wholesome realities as a continent has revealed that young women and men – the largest demographic in Africa – are impacted by these conflicts. However, empirical studies – backed by contemporary data – reflects the resilience and dedication of young African women and men to advance the course of peace, security, good governance and development towards the Africa we Want. Thus, it is with great pleasure that I, in recognition of the inherent value of African youth, am honored to provide opening remarks at this event to launch the ‘No Room for Hate Speech’ campaign.

However, before I do so, permit me to recognise the collaboration of two of our foremost multilateral institutions – the UN and AU – that are dedicated to the similar purpose of advocating for peace within and between Member States. In this instance, the UN-Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights -East Africa Regional Office (OHCHR-EARO) has been engaged in partnerships with the AU PAPS Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) Program. In this regard, I recognise amongst others, the support and collaboration that these entities have had to advance YPS in Africa including but not limited to the conduct of the study on the ‘Roles and Contributions of Youth to Peace and Security in Africa’; collaborative training on human rights-related topics; as well as dedicated resource support.

Today, as we celebrate International Day of Peace, the theme of this event enables us to reflect on hate speech which is one of the biggest challenges we are facing as a community – whether within our countries, regions and/or continent. Hate Speech and the dangers this trend poses, especially to young people regarding their human rights and safety cannot be overstated. The ever-growing reliance on the internet as a contemporary mode of communication and source of information has great benefits as it has attendant risks especially to young people. Particularly now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of young people are using the internet to exchange ideas, interact, receive information, learn from each other and amplify their messages. While the vulnerability of young people makes it important that initiatives such as this are targeted at them, their ability to effectively mobilise – especially using the internet – makes it imperative to garner their efforts towards preventing, mitigating and countering hate speech and its consequences.

 

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I emphasize the essential role of young people in this campaign, let me restate that the issue of YPS remains a priority for us at the AU Commission. Through the Youth for Peace (Y4P) Africa Program, the African Union has recognised and is actively engaged - alongside regional institutions and other partners - in enhancing the capacities of youth to actively participate in the peace and security arena in line with AU policy decision. This, of course, includes the appointment of five African Youth Ambassadors for Peace (AYAP) – one representing each of the continent’s five regions – that are part of this campaign and an integral part of the AU YPS structure. Let me seize this opportunity to appreciate each and every one of them for their effort, dedication and sacrifice towards enhancing the YPS agenda in Africa. Emma, Hassan, Karabo, Moctar and Mohamed, let me assure you that I am personally aware of your numerous efforts including through your pet projects as well as your involvement in other PAPS activities geared towards ensuring enhanced active youth participation in Africa’s governance, peace and security. Indeed, youth roles in peace and security was aptly captured in the PSC-mandated Study Report on the Roles and Contribution of Youth to Peace and Security in Africa as ‘partners for peace’ and not simply as victims or perpetrators of violence.

To further establish the role of youth in peace and security, the PSC adopted the Continental Framework on Youth Peace and Security (CFYPS) to recognize the needs, power and potential of young people.  The CFYPS is based on the idea that African youths are important innovators and change agents who can effectively contribute to good governance, peace and security. The overall objective of the CFYPS is to facilitate the meaningful engagement and participation of African youth in all spectrums of peace and security at national, regional and continental levels, and facilitate the recognition and appreciation of efforts of young Africans in peace and security. It refers to conscious actions and processes to protect young people from violent conflicts and insecurity as well as to promote and support their contributions to peace efforts in conflict and post-conflict situations, some of which are underpinned by hate speech.

 

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we launch this ‘No Room for Hate Speech’ campaign, it is important to note that including young people at all levels of peace processes as partners and stakeholders, is an integral component of sustainable peace and security. To the young people who have been identified to carry the torch of awareness across the continent using your respective social media platforms, it is imperative that you recognize the power and influence you wield and the responsibility attached thereto. As we count on you to use your platforms to promote this ‘No Room for Hate Speech’ campaign, remain assured that we have unwavering trust in your capacity to advance the broader campaign to Silence the Guns in Africa.

I hereby launch this ‘No Room for Hate Speech’ campaign.

 

Posted by Limi Mohammed

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