Interview with Ahmed Abdel Latif – The Cairo Review of Global Affairs
As the third edition of The Aswan Forum ended on June 22 the Cairo ReviewCairo Deputy Editor Omar Auf met with Ambassador Ahmed Abdel Latif, Director General of the Cairo International Center for Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding (CCCPA). The CCCPA hosted the conference, under the leadership of Abdel Latif, highlighting issues such as climate change, financing, youth empowerment and their links to peace and development.
Third Edition Highlights
For Abdel Latif, this year’s Aswan Forum had four important highlights. The first highlight was linked to the theme of the forum, which was “Africa in an Age of Cascading Risks and Climate Vulnerability: Pathways to a Peaceful, Resilient and Sustainable Continent”. The idea of cascading risks is embodied by the Ukrainian crisis, which has added to the already existing pressures of COVID-19, the climate crisis, armed conflicts and terrorism in Africa.
Climate change was another important theme of the forum, in particular its effects on peace and development. In particular, because climate change has become a “threat multiplier”, it has contributed to “exacerbating tensions, fueling conflict dynamics by impacting economic resources, food security, water security, leading to displacement large scale “. Additionally, “a lot of work done for climate adaptations can have positive effects for peace and peacebuilding.” Yet, due to its context-specific nature, the focus should be on national measures, according to Abdel Latif. This allows local decision-makers to formulate unique solutions to the unique challenges each country inevitably faces, rather than taking a cookie-cutter approach to challenges whose nuances may not be immediately clear to outside observers.
To address this challenge and others facing the continent, the forum emphasized bringing young people into the discussion, especially those working on climate issues or peacebuilding, inviting a “cross-fertilization” of the two ideas.
The final highlight of the Aswan Forum was ‘Aswan in Practice’, where the outcomes of discussions during the Forum are implemented on the ground. This happened thanks to the visit of a CCCPA team to Nigeria’s Borno State, which is at the forefront of the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. The team met with state and federal government officials and produced a report that “provides a number of insights into how to ensure synergies between the state approach and the federal level, and how to maximize the benefits of both approaches and ensure they work in tandem. report was then presented at the Forum, in the presence of the Governor of Borno.
On the Aswan forum: changes and constants
Asked about how to operationalize the results of the Aswan Forum, Abdel Latif underlined the Conclusions of the Aswan Forum, which are published after the forum, capturing its key messages. “They are often quite general, but they try to capture where the gaps are, where the action needed to advance sustainable peace and development lies.” He added that the CCCPA, as the secretariat of the forum, tries to be a “catalyst” in putting the findings into practice, such as through the field mission to Borno.
Abdel Latif also gave the example of discussions on the Red Sea, which have been a constant theme throughout the three editions of the forum. It is an area that connects Africa to Asia and the Middle East, and which is an important trade route through the Suez Canal, but also a contested arena in which the dynamics of power. At the third edition, however, Abdel Latif noted that there was an understanding of the challenges facing the region and posed the question “how can we concretely contribute to addressing them?” His solution was to hold a capacity-building course on conflict resolution in the Red Sea last November, where they brought diplomats and foreign defense officials from Arab and African countries to the Red Sea “to see how we can build their capacity in skills building, cooperation and the resolution of the Red Sea conflict”.
The Aswan Forum is ultimately a peacebuilding conference. Here, Abdel Latif mentions “the operationalization of the link between humanitarian peace and development, which is fundamentally the idea that these three dimensions must be implemented in harmony and in a coherent manner”, as a constant that seeks to strengthen the links between peace, security and security. development. He added that “everyone agrees that there is a clear relationship between the two; you cannot have peace without development, and vice versa. Although most countries agree with this statement, when put into practice or operationalized, projects supporting these areas “tend to operate in silos”, meaning that peace and development operations unfortunately take place independently. .”
The issue of funding was another important issue raised at the conference, with its own dedicated session. Of the overall funds earmarked for peace operations, peacebuilding received only a small share, at just 3% according to one panelist. The low share of funding for climate adaptation compared to climate mitigation has also been criticized. There were repeated calls from developed countries to honor their pledges, as well as a suggestion to rethink the distribution of special drawing rights, for a fairer distribution of funds. The private sector was seen as a possible tool for some initiatives, such as climate change mitigation, although other panelists cautioned against the limitations of the private sector.
An important fundamental principle that the APCCC is keen to preserve in the Aswan Forum is the notion of local African responses and national ownership of solutions, to ensure maximum agency and to respect the context-specific nature of problems and solutions. This was highlighted in the third edition by William Azumah Kanyirege-Awinador, Senior African Union Advisor on Governance and Peacebuilding in the Department of Political Affairs, during the session on AU-UN Partnerships. Abdel Latif believes that it is “fundamental for African countries to take ownership of the responses to the challenges they face”.
CCCPA: activities, mandate and more
About the center and its activities, Abdel Latif explained that the CCCPA is an Egyptian institution with a regional and international vocation, as it is a center of excellence of the African Union.
At the African level, the center is the focal point for the training of the North African capacity of the African standby force, while at the Arab level, the CCCPA is “the only center for civilian training on the maintenance and consolidation of peace in the region which delivers its work in Arabic”. .” Moreover, according to Abdel Latif, the CCCPA is “very integrated into the peacekeeping community”, since it trains, in cooperation with the Ministry of Defence, Egyptian blue helmets.
Peacebuilding, on the other hand, was added to the center’s mandate in 2017, which “reflects the importance that peacebuilding has gained in international efforts – that keeping the peace is not enough, it we must also build peace and have a complete cycle where we go to maintain the cycle of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding”.
When asked how exactly do you build peace, Abdel Latif explained that peacebuilding is a broad term referring to “all the elements necessary to have a peaceful environment“, including, in particular, s tackling the root causes of conflict. The Director-General described peacekeeping as “very ad hoc” when it comes to implementing a ceasefire or upholding a peace agreement, “but peacebuilding is meant to complement that. by addressing the root causes of the conflict, grievances related to building the institutions necessary for lasting peace, socio-economic institutions, economic conditions and infrastructure. Abdel Latif added that disarmament, demobilization and reinstatement (DDR), is also an area with which the center works closely.
Abdel Latif concluded by emphasizing the importance of institution building: “To have effective peacebuilding, you need strong institutions and institutions that can respond to all of these complex challenges and risks. So really, all of these efforts are peacebuilding. He then identified the main challenge facing peacebuilding as the lack of funding, saying that most of the money goes to peace operations. The Director-General concluded by saying that “we also need to increase funding for peacebuilding to make it more effective”.
Omar Auf is associate editor at Cairo Review of World Affairs.