H.E. Osama Abdelkhalek


Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Egypt to the UN

Mr. Abdel Khalek has been in his current role as Deputy Permanent Representative of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United Nations since July 2011. Prior to that, he held the position of Counsellor in the Cabinet of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He has served in the Egyptian embassies in Muscat, Oman; Madrid, Spain and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he held the position of the Deputy Permanent Representative of Egypt to the African Union. At the Headquarters, Mr. Abdel Khalek has worked in the Department of International Cooperation, in the Office of Egypt’s Permanent Representative to the League of Arab States, as well as in the Human Resources Department. He holds a Bachelors Degree of Science in Architecture from Cairo University, and speaks Arabic, English and Spanish.

 Event Title Date
 Africa Solutions to African Problems: Education, Health, Culture, Economy, Culture, Peace & Security 04/ 16/ 2014

I would like to begin by analyzing the waves of change in Africa. The first wave of change started over 50 years ago as African countries gained independence along with the creation of the AU. The second wave of deep change was the democratization that started from Senegal, and Zambia for example starting to change the regimes and meeting international standards; that phase is still ongoing. We are still witnessing changes happening even in my own country of Egypt, such as the political change aiming for democratization. I wanted to address the paradox Ambassador Tete mentioned along three axis’s: sustainable development, peace and security, and democratization. How do you prioritize where to start, where to end, the dilemmas, and the delicate balances between them? Africa has chronic problems with poverty, illiteracy, and diseases. The question is how to address them.

In terms of sustainable development, it is a real challenge. Which model should Africa use? The Chinese model? The Indian? Or western model in reaching a formula? The green economy has become a main talking point, but Africa is lagging behind since it has not developed sufficiently. It shouldn’t reinvent the wheel, but to follow the best of the formulas we have. A lot of Africans are saying that Africa needs a fair chance internationally. The rest of the world has developed enough, so no conditionally should be put on Africa to develop. No conditionality should be applied under the umbrella of climate change and global warming. Yes, we are a globe, but we have common and different responsibilities. Africa should have had the opportunity to grow and meet the needs of its people to combat and eradicate poverty, to guarantee education for the younger generation. Secondly fair opportunities are not about donations, but the transfer of technology. We are ready to have better solid waste management, but we need technology and concessions, foreign direct investment, and free trade to do so. Europe for example is subsidizing their own farmers. It comes at the expense of Africans having a fair opportunity and then Europe asks why are we receiving so many illegal immigrants from Africa? This is all part of the same issues.

Being diplomats in the UN, we are working on the African cause to introduce the African case and protect African interests. It is a daunting task. When I mentioned which model to use, Ambassador Mamabolo spoke about unity and whether it is doable or not. Could we have a better opportunity? Yes, we have a lot to learn, but it is doable. It is not mission impossible. We have to look at the European Union as an example, and follow suit. When we started with African unity, it was coming from a political perspective. The old AU was more of a political platform, and moving very slowly on regional economic integration. Whereas the EU started as a regional economic community, and now has become a political giant with a strong union. We need to borrow from that experience.

Coming back to African solutions, when you speak of solutions you describe mechanisms, capabilities, and empowerment. I worked four years in Addis Ababa and two years with the ex-minister of foreign affairs, so I consider myself an Africanist. I would say the AU needs to continue to prioritize and keep the focus. Ambassador Tete was kind enough to mention the ambition of the 50 years agenda. But 50 years is too long. We need to talk about a series of decades and intermittent goals along the way. We heavily rely on external funds provided by partners to finance that program or so on. We are recipients. To develop our own capability yes we now have the set-up. We now have Africa peace and security architecture, and Africa standby forces in progress. But we need to develop our very strong base of finance to fund our own activities. If we do not, we will always be dependent on others and on priorities set by others and so on. This is very important. When we speak about the issue of finance and sustainable development which Ambassador Mamabolo mentioned specifically the illicit flow of cash. We need to continue working with the international community which has been able to track each dollar on the issue of finance going to terrorists activities. We need to do the same when it has to do with corruption. We heard $50 billion is wasted per annum because of these illicit flows. We need to do a better job on that. We need to work on our homework on democratic governance, such as the issue of the energy gap and how to address it. Africa needs a fair opportunity, but we need to bear in mind that Africa is also paying a price for the climate change. We keep hearing about climate change refugees and for example look at Al Sahel. Part of the problem was the desertification, so there was a price to be there.

Democratization also is not one size fits all. I would like to quote the ex-prime minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, who stated that democracy is an organic cultivation. It has to be cultivated in each society, bearing in mind the specificity of that society. We do not intend to reinvent the wheel, but we know what we want to, and it will take some time.

Since we are speaking about the unity, the key word should be regional economic communities starting with the building blocks. The building blocks are the regional economic communities in Africa. We cannot jump from 11 to 54 countries to where we will be the United States of Africa. The sequence and cooperation from the state as an actor to the REC’s, to the AU as our continental organization is of great importance. We need to do some work on that. We have some protocols and so on. We have managed well in some cases, but the secretariat and the REC’s are lagging behind in some areas. To end with a positive note, I am one of those that believes the strengths of Africa are great. Yes, Africa can do it and can do a better job in being united. We can follow the example of the UN that Africa speaks with one voice. Most of the time, Africa speaks with common African positions. It is possible and is doable. It makes a difference. I believe that since previous speakers have spoken on UN reform, Africa needs to have two permanent seats in the UN Security Council. I think we forgot about the need for international economic reform and governance. Structures are needed. We are proud to have South Africa as part of the G20, but we need much more than that. The future of the global economy needs to have more of our presence. The international community needs to continue reforming that governance structure for better opportunities for Africa which has the potential. It is a place where in terms of demography, the younger generation is very strong. I believe we are on the right track. African unity is doable. It needs a lot of hard work, and persistence. The younger generations are those in the present who can borrow from others, and be confident in their abilities.