Africa Day conference spotlights climate crisis
The climate crisis has been in the spotlight of the first day of the 12th Africa Day international conference at Brdo pri Kranju. Promoting its bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, Slovenia said that, if elected, it would aim to step up climate security, as African officials urged global action against climate change.
The two-day conference, which is all the more important for Slovenia's diplomacy in light of its Security Council bid campaign, is attended by foreign ministers of Cape Verde, Malawi, Rwanda, and the Comoros, Rui Alberto de Figueiredo Soares, Nancy Tembo, Vincent Biruta and Dhoihir Dhoulkamal, respectively.
The four officials underlined at a leaders panel on 20 April that despite bearing the brunt of climate change consequences, Africa is not responsible for this crisis. The debate heard consensus on the need for global cooperation in the fight against climate change.
The event's host, Slovenian Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon, stressed the role of "water diplomacy", which she believes could mitigate tensions and conflicts worldwide through responsible and sustainable water management.
Also taking part in the conference was John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy for climate, who warned about the risks that climate change poses for the security of Africa and the world. A total of 17 of the 20 countries most threatened by climate change are located in Africa, Kerry said in a pre-recorded video address.
When it comes to Slovenia's bid for non-permanent membership of the Security Council in 2024-2025, the conference is a great lobbying opportunity ahead of the 6 June vote as it is Africa which has been recently considered an area key to the election outcome, and both hopefuls, Slovenia and Belarus, have been vying to secure votes of African countries.
Support in principle for Slovenia's bid has been confirmed for the media by Dhoihir Dhoulkamal, foreign policy chief of the Comoros, which is presiding over the African Union this year, and his Malawian counterpart Nancy Tembo.
Turning to Slovenia's bid, Fajon reiterated she is cautiously optimistic, but would not dare predict the outcome until the very end.
Regarding climate justice, the pace of action should be faster and an effective model of global climate funding should be put in place. What is equally important are environmentally friendly and locally-targetted measures, she said as she called for efforts to pay attention to young people's ideas, needs and concerns and to increase women participation in decision-making.
Climate change is also an opportunity to create new partnerships or renew the existing ones to realise the green transition and develop new technologies and new solutions. As a small country, Slovenia finds it essential to form partnerships around the world based on its solidarity- and respect-based foreign policy, the minister said, adding it was in this context that the country's ties with Africa were developed and continue to be deepened.
An address at the conference was also delivered by Slovenian President Nataša Pirc Musar, who said Slovenia, if elected to the UN Security Council, would work to advance the climate and environmental security agenda.
Hopeful that partnership and cooperation with African countries will be strengthened, the president said that Africa is not only the continent of the future, but also the continent of the present.
It is unfair how African countries are among the most vulnerable in the face of the climate crisis while being among those least responsible for it, she added.
What needs to be done is to boost local resilience and use know how, including state-of-the-art technology, to respond to climate change-caused threats, she said, calling for more robust commitments in the global implementation of the Paris Agreement targets. "The 1.5 degrees Celsius target is swiftly sliding out of our reach," she warned.
Also addressing the conference, Slovenia's National Assembly President Urška Klakočar Zupančič said that no country could combat climate change alone. She believes that the desire to mitigate climate change leads people to question the system that puts the profit of the few above the well-being of people and the environment.
Another address was delivered by European Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen, who highlighted in a video address the importance of cooperation in the fight against climate change, which is crucial for the development and stability of Africa.
The conference is attended by some 300 stakeholders and experts from Slovenia, Europe, Africa and some other parts of the world, the Foreign Ministry said.
On a lighter note, the international event also came with a free musical treat, as Ghanaian Afro-pop singer-songwriter Wiyaala, one of the brightest stars of Africa's music scene, performed in Ljubljana's Novi Trg in the evening of 20 April. She was accompanied by her Europe-based Yaga Yaga Band, which features Slovenian musicians.