Chairperson, Your Excellences, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen. With warm greetings from The Gambia, I thank you for inviting me to participate in the 5th Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security.
This event is quite timely and important, noting that Africa has come a long way over the years. Fortunately, the incidence of civil wars, large-scale conflicts and violent overthrows of democratic governments has decreased, which represents an important step towards sustaining stability within the region. After much struggle also, elections are now accepted as the sole credible means of transferring power.
Unfortunately, however, deep rooted threats to peace and stability, such as terrorism, radical extremism, the spread of small arms and dangerous drugs, cross border crimes; maritime piracy and human trafficking have increased with serious consequences. Worsened by poverty and youth unemployment, such social ills make the youth vulnerable to terrorist and criminal groups.
There are emerging threats to deal with as well. These include election-related violence, unregulated migration and abuse of new information technology, to name a few. This state of affairs has particularly made the West African sub-region highly vulnerable to terrorist violence.
The institutional and structural limitations to handle these vices require urgent attention and durable solutions. To this end, priority needs to be put on providing adequate resources, training and operational capabilities for law enforcement agents to effectively address all security threats.
Through peaceful coexistence, good governance and the creation of multiple avenues and opportunities for employment, we can similarly enhance peace and cohesion in our member countries. Besides these, our economic policies need to absorb the influx of the youth, open up new sources of income for them and harness their potential to contribute to peace and stability.
At the national level, it is essential to refocus growth strategies on the labor-intensive sectors, and encourage the development of the informal sector through value-added production and international trade. Looking ahead, this is viewed as a window of hope for unskilled and low-skilled labor. Nonetheless, further research is needed into how public investment can be more labor-intensive, and the extent to which small businesses can be supported to flourish.
In Africa, we have committed ourselves to silencing the guns on the continent by 2020. Certainly, it is only by working together that we can achieve this difficult challenge. Thus, deliberations should continue to focus broadly on sustained peace and security, nationally, regionally and globally.
For us in The Gambia, the priorities of our National Development Plan (2018-2021) center on economic growth, transformation and development, with emphasis on peacebuilding and sustaining peace and security. In this regard, as civil society plays a crucial role in peacebuilding, institutional reforms and people-centered approaches will continue to inform our peacebuilding efforts.
To revive our economy, we have successfully adopted efficient fiscal and macroeconomic policies and strategies. These are encouraging local businesses to borrow and invest without any fears.
The budget support agreements concluded with our development partners have accorded my government renewed optimism for economic growth and development. To cite an example, we have launched a joint youth empowerment project with the European Union. This project targets skills development and job creation for the youth, in addition to providing opportunities for start-ups in business. All these signify our commitment to democracy, good governance and economic growth and development as major priorities.
In our endeavor to administer justice and unify the nation, the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission established recently has commenced work. Also, the first phase of a major security sector reform program has been undertaken, and we are fully committed to scaling it up in the next phase.
I am happy to state further that a Constitution Review Commission has begun national consultations, as part of the process to draft a new national Constitution. Alongside all these endeavors, residents of The Gambia now enjoy their legal freedoms, liberties and independence as they had never done for more than two decades!
Chairperson, the Gambian experience underscores the importance of regional and international solidarity and cooperation, with sustained preventive diplomacy as important elements in peacebuilding and sustaining peace.
I am convinced that the revival of our national economies and the implementation of appropriate reforms are vital elements for development and peace in Africa. Importantly too, national and regional strategies are necessary to uproot organized crime, especially the key threats to peace and security.
I must admit that it is through partnerships and support that we have realized increased stability in our country. Therefore, while reiterating my appreciation to our partners, I call on them to steadfastly continue to render us their material and moral support. I reaffirm my confidence in our ability to achieve our collective goal of establishing and sustaining peace and security, but through more effective coordination arrangements.
To conclude, I congratulate the organizers of this forum and my brother, President Macky Sall, on the success of the event. In particular, I commend President Sall for his commitment to the Wollof adages on neighborliness and unity: “Deka ndorr jamma sigen. Teh bolo moi doleh!”
In effect, if we all commit ourselves to peaceful co-existence and good neighborliness, we shall enjoy the dividends of peace, security and stability throughout the world.
I thank you for your attention.