First African Regional Dialogue in the Road to the Nanjing Peace Forum

In Africa there will not be a quick “beyond” after climate change. Climate change will not be over even if all world economies achieved to reach the target of carbon net zero by 2050. These serious disruptions to the quality of life and of the human relationship with the environment as well as their consequences on social cohesion, governance, justice and peace were the focus of the UNESCO Harare and Nairobi Offices-led online African Regional Dialogue on “Positive Peace in Africa – The Environment We Need”, that was held on 22 October 2021.

The virtual event contributed to the 2021 Nanjing Peace Forum and to its theme; “Living in Harmony with Nature for Peace”, and was jointly hosted by the UNESCO Beijing Office, the Chinese National Commission for UNESCO, the Information Office of Jiangsu Provincial Government, and the Nanjing Municipal Government. It was first launched in 2020, as part of a three-year MOU between UNESCO and the Nanjing Municipal Government, to reiterate the significance of peace, and to formalize a partnership to promote peace and understanding among people.

This year’s Forum centered around the idea of “ecocivlisation” and its importance for peace invited discussions towards approaches and sharing of good practices to dissociate economic development from environmental deprivation, explored around five overlapping pillars; environment, economy, society, culture and governance, to build a theoretical framework promoting harmony between man and nature.

From the assumption that climate change, biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation, and environmental pollution have harmfully impacted the well-being of human society, often provoking social injustice and further escalating in violence and conflict, inducing serious threat to peace; this African Regional Dialogue strived to bring insights on two central issues: i) the environmental preconditions for Africa to build and consolidate a positive peace and ii) new approaches or paradigms needed to translate the “ecocivilisation” theory into practice.

The discussion involved scholars, experts, practitioners and activists, including Prof. Johan Hattingh, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Stellenbosch University; Chairperson of UNESCO Drafting Group of the 2017 Declaration of Ethical Principles in relation to Climate Change, Mr. Trust Mamombe, Director for Southern Africa, Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), Jesutimilehin O. Akamo, Researcher, Africa Peace and Security Program (APSP), Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS), Addis Ababa University, Ms. Ayeta Anne Wangusa, Member, UNESCO Reflection Group on Culture and Climate Change, Mr. Handaine Mohamed, Chairperson, Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC) and, Mr. Charles Lukania Oluchina, Regional Program Coordinator, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

In Africa, one of the big ironies is that growing numbers of people already pay for climate change in currencies hardly imaginable in affluent parts of the world: thirst, hunger, displacement from homes, loss of livelihoods, loss of security and health, loss of life.
The panelists articulated the idea of “ecocivilisation” through the multidimensional concept of “Positive Peace”, with several key messages which emerged from the discussion, notably:

The timeliness of this conversation prior to the COP 26 and its call for more fairness and justice between and within countries, in their much-needed transitions to achieve carbon net zero economies by 2050, while moving beyond just a political conditionality to a more strategized plan.
The need for a coasted transition to net carbon zero economies, and to know who will pay for it, while freeing at the same time Africa from the unethical use of such costs as a political conditionality to block this transition.
Deepening understanding of the linkages between ecological threats and key conditions for “Positive Peace” in Africa, by identifying and analyzing existing gaps and opportunities, peoples’ expectations and realities, so to inform policies and a systemic thinking at all levels of decision making and social dialogue.
Ensuring inclusion and local ownership as a precondition for a peaceful Africa where harmony is achieved between environmental preservation and economic, political and social development.
Building a more holistic approach to environmental management through respect and codification of customary and traditional principles and practices, while voicing up grassroots stories and efforts in fighting climate change and providing more tools and technology to the communities.
Develop and implement inclusive governance policies that drive citizen conservation agenda to safeguard biodiversity and ensure inclusive, sustainable, and ethical development.

This conversation really outlined in this context the importance of frameworks such as UNESCO Universal Declaration on the Ethical Principles in relation with Climate Change (2017), while leveraging on resources as the 2021 Ecological Threats Register (ETR) elaborated by The Institute of Economics and Peace and the key elements for its Positive Peace Index. It also integrated and positioned Traditional Knowledge (TK) and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) in developing climate adaption strategies and approaches in Africa, with a clear advocacy made for protecting biodiversity and cultural and natural heritage as points of reference as humanity.


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