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HomeWorldUse Africa’s Rich Heritage As ‘Catalyst’ For Transformation, Urges Guterres

Use Africa’s Rich Heritage As ‘Catalyst’ For Transformation, Urges Guterres


A call to use Africa’s rich cultural and natural
heritage as a catalyst for growth and transformation is
“the right appeal at the right time”, the UN chief told
a three-day forum on the continent’s future held online on
Wednesday.

Opening the 2021 Africa Dialogue
Series
, Secretary-General António
Guterres
said
that the discussions highlight “the importance of arts,
culture and heritage in building the Africa we
want”.

“I welcome your focus on cultural
identity”, he added.

New social
contract

Against the backdrop of a global spread of
hate and intolerance, the UN chief stressed that “we must
not only defend diversity but invest in
it”.

“Societies today are multi-ethnic,
multi-religious and multi-cultural”, he reminded. “This
is a richness, not a threat”.

To ensure that every
community feels its culture and identity is being respected,
Mr. Guterres underscored that better ways must be found to
“redress the ills of he past that have bred mistrust and
division”.

He asserted that an emphasis on culture,
heritage and shared values can help “build unity and
common purpose”, which could also help overcome disruption
due to COVID, and foster peaceful, sustainable
development.

“We need to move towards sustainable
economic growth that protects the environment, promotes
human rights and strengthens the social contract…[and] a
stronger sense of solidarity and multilateral cooperation to
achieve the Sustainable
Development Goals
(SDGs)”, he said.

Pursue
‘solidarity’

As the impacts of the pandemic
continue, the Secretary-General called for “clear
solidarity” with the continent.

He said it was
“unacceptable” that vaccines are still not fully
available across Africa, citing it as the reason why Africa
is “dramatically lagging” in shot
distribution.

“I have been insisting
with the G20 countries to create a global vaccination plan
to reach everybody everywhere and…an emergency
taskforce…to make sure that we are able to double the
production of vaccines and at the same time to have a
network of distribution”, the UN chief
explained.

Mr. Guterres said he was also
concerned to see 6 per cent projected growth in the
international economy but only 3.2 per cent for
Africa.

“It is absolutely essential that African
countries receive the financial support they need at the
present moment to protect their citizens and to be able to
relaunch their economies”, calling for “effective debt
relief [to] be put at the disposal of African
countries”.

Transformative agenda

The Special Adviser on
Africa
, Cristina Duarte, urged participants to “seize
the opportunities” provided by COVID to “change our
mindset” and approach Africa’s development with
“forward-thinking”.

She saw it as an opportunity
for an African cultural renaissance, inculcating “the
spirit of Pan Africanism, tapping into Africa’s deep well
of rich heritage and culture to ensure that our destiny is
built and owned by us”.

Understanding that culture
goes beyond artistic demonstrations and entails a deep
feeling of belonging to a community ready to exercise
ownership of its own development, the UN official called it
“a trigger of sustainable development”.

Bridging
the gap

The Special Adviser drew attention to a
widening divide each time a global milestone or major
development is realized.

“The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines
is just a new example, that follows the digital divide, the
energy divide, and a long etcetera”, she said.

Ms.
Duarte concluded by saying: “This is our opportunity to
put an end to a vicious cycle by promoting far-reaching
transitions that, based on the spirit of global solidarity,
enable a transformation in all areas of
development”.

‘Key’ development
driver

General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir said
that the societal impact of culture “cannot be
overstated”.

“Culture shapes our
identities…gives meaning, purpose and a sense of
belonging…and is imperative for social cohesion”, he
elaborated.

During an Assembly meeting last week, the
President said that Member States showcased best practices
to leverage cultural and creative industries in recovery
plans to support the delivery of the SDGs and hailed it as
is “a key driver of sustainable development” with the
unique ability to shift human
behaviour.

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