74th UNGA presidency: Muhammad-Bande spells out his vision

74th UNGA presidency: Muhammad-Bande spells out his vision

Sunday, May 19, 2019 11:00 pm

Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Amb. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, is set to be the President of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) beginning in September.
Muhammad-Bande, a professor of Political Science and former Director-General of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), is the only candidate for the 74th UNGA presidency, which is zoned to Africa.

For almost three hours on May 13, the Nigerian envoy sat down with other stakeholders at an informal dialogue to clarify his vision and take questions from them how he intends to pursue it.

The forum, presided over by the outgoing UNGA President, Ms Maria Espinosa, and attended by representatives of many countries, held inside the Trusteeship Council Chamber at the UN headquarters in New York.

Here are highlights of Muhammad-Bande’s vision :

* He described the United Nations as the most important and substantive global governance body. He said the organisation remains the most effective platform to address challenges facing humanity such as terrorism, climate change, pandemics, inequality, gender discrimination, illiteracy,  poverty and hunger, among others.
* Creation of the UN in 1945 was the most important achievement in global politics in history, indicating that regardless of location and circumstances, human beings are able to solve their problems collectively, according to him.
* He reinforced Nigeria’s stand with multilateralism, that is, partnership among nations, which he said the UN stands for. Therefore, this is not the time for people to be cynical or indifferent to the organisation.
*The crises of today are well known to all. Terrorism and climate change alone have brought to the fore the urgency of the problems facing the world.
* He said if elected, he would ensure that all the mandates from previous sessions were completed. It is important to do so, according to him, since they are mandates given by all 193 members of the Assembly.
* Global peace and security, which are foundational elements of the UN Charter,  will receive great attention. Terrorism, nuclear proliferation and occasional challenges concerning use of other weapons of mass destruction underscore the need for peace and security to be prioritised.
* These problems can only be effectively tackled through collaboration or partnership among nations. He said current efforts by the UN Security Council working with regional organisations in this regard should be applauded and sustained.
* On climate change, he said the Paris Climate Change Agreement of 2015 was one of the most important achievements of the UN. “The impact of climate change on how we live is very clear,” he said. The envoy cited the rising threats of cyclones, desertification and other natural disasters arising from climate change. He also linked terrorism and armed attacks especially in communities to shrinkage of natural resources such as rivers and lakes due to climate change. Therefore, climate action is very important to deal with this threat. He added that the commitment of 100 billion dollars to start climate action by 2030 is critical, urging all to do “all we can can through whatever mechanism or fora to see that this happens”.
* Muhammad-Bande also explained his vision on how to engender inclusion, gender equality and human rights. He said inclusion is key because exclusion of people or nations in the scheme of things triggers actions that threaten all. Women and youth are key agents of development because they have the creativity and energy to drive the process. Without them, the world has no future. Therefore, action must continue to deal with issues affecting women and youth as a way of inclusion. Noting that the foot soldiers of terrorism are mainly youths, he said “we need to engage them real things to do to ensure the safety and sustainability of our societies.
*On the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the envoy said: “we are not on target”. The reasons for that, he noted, are multifaceted and reflect national and other realities. He zeroed in on SDGs 1, 2 and 4 which target  poverty, hunger and quality education.  He describes illiteracy, poverty and hunger as serious afflictions of humanity. Therefore, he said the 74th UNGA would give adequate attention to them. “We have technically come to a point where it is possible to end hunger. So, we must address this as a very serious matter. The approaches to it are well known, including redoubling efforts concerning politics, sharing of information, change of agricultural systems, land reforms and financing. Again, I said the glue is partnership and cooperation.” He called for more investments in education.
*Reform of the UN: Muhammad-Bande said efforts would be intensified to reduce overlaps in functions of the various organs, and duplications of resolutions, and then focus on issues that really matter in line with the SDGs. “On the issue of the reform of the Security Council, the process started about 27 years ago premised on the idea that we cannot have an organisation that should be a model for us all which excludes. We are still discussing, and I believe we should commit to this reform.
* There has been cynicism about the UN, but stakeholders should not let that diminish their faith in the organisation. Reforms are important because they help to achieve results. Therefore, efforts must continue to ensure that responsible and fair negotiations take place. Focus should be on action so that it doesn’t seem as if it is only talk and no action.
“I conclude by reiterating that the importance of this organisation is such that we cannot afford to be cynical or indifferent.
“It is impossible to have national solutions to many things. The notion we have of humanity which includes empathy and partnership must push us to take the problems of others as our own.
“Cyclones and hurricanes have done a lot of damage in the last two years. A lot of small countries, especially island states, are in extreme difficulties. This is something that we need to really push beyond words. A lot of us cannot relate with the others’ problems, and I think we need to understand better, so that we are able to reach out to them as they reach out to us on so many things.”
He concluded by saying that as a “permanent student”, he was willing to learn from others when elected.
The election is scheduled to hold at the UN headquarters in New York on June 4, after which the next president would be inaugurated on September 17.
Muhammad-Bande’s emergence as president would make it Nigeria’s second time to hold the office in 30 years. Late Maj.-Gen. Joseph Garba from Plateau State, served as President of the UNGA between 1989 and 1990.
The office is rotated among the five geographical groups: Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Caribbean, and Western Europe.
Established in 1946, UNGA is one of the six principal organs of the UN, the only one in which member nations have equal representation.
All 193 members of the United Nations are members of the General Assembly, with the addition of Holy See and Palestine as observer states
It is the main deliberative, policy-making and representative organ of the UN.
Its powers include overseeing the UN budget, appointment of the non-permanent members to the Security Council, and appointment of the UN Secretary-General.

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