featured Op-Ed

As We Preside Over The World

As We Preside Over The World
  • PublishedSeptember 23, 2019

By Olowogboyega Oyebade

Do you know that all eyes are on Nigeria as we preside over the world?  Are you aware that President  Buhari in company of  Governor Adegboyega Oyetola,  of the State of Osun, will jet out of the country on Sunday 22nd  September, 2019 to New York, United States to participate in the 74th Session of the UN  General Assembly (UNGA74)?  Do you know that the President’s participation at this year’s gathering of world leaders coincides with Nigeria’s Presidency of the body? Do you know that this marks the second time Nigeria would be occupying the position following late Major-General Joseph Garba’s election during the 44th session of the body  in 1989? Do you know that the theme for this year  is:  “Galvanizing Multilateral Efforts for Poverty Eradication, Quality Education, Climate Action and Inclusion”? Do you know that President Buhari is scheduled as Number Five Speaker on the first day of the debates and is expected to underscore his administration’s commitment to building on the achievements of its three-point agenda and will also reaffirm Nigeria’s position on salient global issues?        

        Do you know that  the Nigerian delegation is expected to participate at the side-events organized by the country’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) which include: SDGs Integration – Bridging the Policy Planning – Budget Gap for the Achievement of SDGs, organized by the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals; Promotion of International Cooperation to Combat Illicit Financial Flows and Strengthen Good Practices on Assets Recovery and Return to Foster Sustainable Development ? Do you know that the Federal Ministry of Water Resources is also organizing a side-event on Sanitation and Hygiene Campaign for a Clean Nigeria  to attract attention of the donor  organisations that may be  willing to support the target to end open defecation by 2025?  Do you know that President Buhari is also billed to hold bilateral meetings with some leaders, chief executive officers of big companies keen to invest in the country including  Aliko Dangote and Bill Gates on sustaining the polio-free campaign as well as issues on human capital development?  Do you know that before returning to Abuja, President Buhari will meet with a select group of top America-based Nigerian businessmen and potential investors? Hurray! Nigeria is leading the world in the General Assembly.

      Do you know that the President of the UN General Assembly is a position voted for by representatives of all countries  on a yearly basis and presides over the sessions of the General Assembly?  Are you aware that on June 4, 2019, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande of Nigeria was elected the President of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly?  Are you aware that the presidency rotates annually among the five geographic groups: African, Asia-Pacific, Eastern European, Latin American and Caribbean, and Western European and other States? Do you know that  some of the largest, most powerful countries have never held the presidency, such as  China, France, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States?  Do you know that  it is customary that no permanent member of the UN Security Council ever serves as UN General Assembly President? Are you aware that the only countries that had a national elected as President of UNGA twice are Argentina, Ecuador and Nigeria while all the other member states had been represented only once by their nationals holding this office? Do you know that the General Assembly of the UN is important to us?

Are you aware that prior to the establishment of the United Nations, the world order was characterized by serious conflicts?  Do you know that the balance of power was only done by alliances with the obsolete principle of the enemy of my friend is my enemy?  Do you know that most wars fought during that era had no basis at all?  Do you know that the International Committee of the Red Cross was formed to ensure protection and assistance for victims of armed conflict of such baseless wars?  Do you know that there were some wars fought in Africa by Africans only because their colonial masters disagreed in Europe?  Can you believe that the political a political assassination in Sarajevo of Arch Ferdinand set off a chain of events that led to the outbreak of World War I resulting in the death of millions of people and destruction of property all over the world?

Do you know that this terrible trajectory of wars inspired President Woodrow Wilson of the United States and some other world leaders to advocate for the establishment of the League of Nations in 1919 which became operational on 10 January, 1920? Do you know that as the world war was raging in 1917, Bolshevik revolution was going on in Soviet Russia?  Do you know that as soon as the first world war was ending in 1918, Anton Drexler had formed the NAZI party, a party that Adolf Hitler became the Secretary General in 1923?  Do you know that the coup staged by the party in 1923 failed and Adolf Hitler was jailed?  Do you know that while in prison, Hitler was writing Mein Kpamf, a book that mobilized the Germans against the harsh provisions of the Treaty of Versailles? Do you know that Adolf Hitler was forcefully released in 1933 to lead Germany, a leadership that changed the entire history of war in the world?  

Do you know that despite the fact that the League of Nations was instituted, Japan went ahead to invade Manchuria?  Do you know that in February 1933, 40 nations voted on the floor of the League to compel Japan to withdraw from Manchuria? Can you believe that Japan walked out of the League instead? Can you believe that the aggressive expansionist tendency of some European leaders inspired Benito Mussolini of Italy in 1935 to send soldiers and war machines to Ethiopia in Africa to invade it and took a part of it by force of arms?  Do you know that in 1938, Britain and France tried frantically to negotiate peace directly with Hitler, a negotiation that failed woefully?  Do you know that Adolf Hitler led Germany to annex Austria and in 1939, Hitler cowed Poland and invaded Czechoslovakia?  Do you know that the world war was fought with payloads from 1939 to 1945, a war that killed the League?

Do you know that the United Nations  replaced  the League of Nations after World War II through the initiative of  President Franklin Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom and Roosevelt aide Harry Hopkins, with suggestions from  Soviet Union?  Do you know that with the addition of South Sudan on 14 July 2011, there are 193 UN member States?  Do you know that there are two non-member observer States of the UN General Assembly, namely: the Holy See (which holds sovereignty over Vatican City) and Palestine?  Do you know that the Charter of the world body was drafted on 25 April 1945, adopted on 25 June 1945 signed on 26 June 1945 and took effect on 24 October 1945, when the UN began operations upon ratification of the Charter by the five permanent members of the Security Council—France, the Republic of China, the Soviet Union, the UK and the US—and by a majority of the other 46 signatories with the Norwegian Foreign Minister, Trygve Lie, elected as the first UN Secretary-General? Do you know that the UN has six principal organs, namely : the General Assembly; the Security Council; the Economic and Social Council; the Trusteeship Council; the International Court of Justice; and the UN Secretariat?  Do you know that the UN System agencies include the World Bank Group, the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme, UNESCO, and UNICEF?  Are you aware that the UN’s most prominent officer is the Secretary-General?  

Do you know that  on 29 November 1947, the General Assembly approved a resolution to partition Palestine, approving the creation of the State of Israel?  Do you know that on November 7, 1956, the first UN peacekeeping force was established to end the Suez Crisis?  Do you know that on 14 July 1960, the UN established UN Operation in the Congo (UNOC), to bring order to the breakaway State of Katanga back to the Democratic Republic of Congo by 11 May 1964?  Do you know that while travelling to broker peace in the area, Dag Hammarskjöld, the then Secretary General, died in a plane crash? Do you know that in 1964,  U Thant deployed the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus to keep peace?  Do you know that the establishment of the world body promoted the decolonization process particularly in Africa?  Do you know that the UN negotiated an end to the Salvadoran Civil War, launched a successful peacekeeping mission in Namibia, and oversaw democratic elections in post-apartheid South Africa and post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia?  Do you know that in 1991, the UN authorized a US-led coalition that repulsed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait?

Are you aware that the UN has five principal organs, namely: the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the International Court of Justice and the UN Secretariat?  Are you aware that a sixth principal organ, the Trusteeship Council, suspended operations on 1 November 1994, upon the independence of Palau, the last remaining UN trustee territory?  Do you know that four of the five principal organs are located at the main UN Headquarters in New York City while the fifth organ, the International Court of Justice is located in The Hague, while other major agencies are based in the UN offices at Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi?  Do you know that the six official languages of the UN, used in intergovernmental meetings and documents, are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish?  Do you know that on the basis of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the UN, the UN and its agencies iare immune from the laws of the countries where they operate, safeguarding the UN’s impartiality with regard to the host and member countries?  

Do you know that the General Assembly is the main deliberative assembly of the UN, consisting of all UN member states?  Do you know that the General Assembly meets yearly, but emergency sessions can also be called?  Are you aware that the General Assembly is led by a President, elected from among the member states on a rotating regional basis, and 21 vice-presidents?  Do you know that each member country has one vote?    Do you know that for any issue to sail through, a two-thirds majority of those present and voting is required?   Are you aware that  resolutions are not binding on the members?  Do you know that the General Assembly is estopped to make any other recommendations on any matters relating peace and security that are under consideration by the Security Council?  What is the Security Council?  Come along.

Do you know that the Security Council is charged with maintaining peace and security among countries under the terms of Article 25 and the decisions of the Council are known as UN Security Council resolutions?  Are you aware that the Security Council is made up of fifteen member states, consisting of five permanent members—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—and ten non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly (with end of term date)—Belgium (term ends 2020), Côte d’Ivoire (2019), Dominican Republic (2020), Equatorial Guinea (2019), Germany (2020), Indonesia (2020), Kuwait (2019), Peru (2019), Poland (2019), and South Africa (2020)?  Do you know that the five permanent members hold veto power over UN resolutions, a power that allows a permanent member to block adoption of a resolution?  Do you know that the ten temporary seats of the Security Council are held for two-year terms, with five member states per year voted in by the General Assembly on a regional basis?  Do you know that the  presidency of the Security Council rotates alphabetically each month?  Do you know that the Secretary General of the UN is key? Come along.

          Do you know that the role of the UN Secretariat is laid out by Chapter XV (Articles 97 to 101) of the UN Charter? Do you know that the UN Secretariat is headed by the secretary-general, assisted by the deputy secretary-general and a staff of international civil servants worldwide? Do you know that all Secretaries-General since 1971 have been appointed to serve five-year terms?  Do you know that every Secretary-General since 1961 has been re-selected for a second term, with the exception of Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt, who was vetoed by the United States in the 1996 selection?  Do you know that there is a term limit of two full terms, established when China cast a record 16 vetoes against Kurt Waldheim’s third term in the 1981 selection and no Secretary-General since 1981 has attempted to secure a third term?  Do you know that in 2016, the General Assembly and the Security Council sought nominations and conducted public debates for the first time to pick a candidate?

Do you know that the Secretariat provides studies, information, and facilities needed by UN bodies for their meetings and carries out tasks as directed by the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, and other UN bodies?  Are you aware that the secretary-general acts as the de facto spokesperson and leader of the UN and he is regarded as the UN chief administrative officer? Do you know that Article 99 of the Charter states that the secretary-general can bring to the Security Council’s attention any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security?  Do you know that the office has evolved into a role of  mediator addressing disputes between member states and finding consensus to global issues?  Do you know that the secretary-general is appointed by the General Assembly, after being recommended by the Security Council, where the permanent members have veto power and it has become accepted that the post shall be held for one or two terms of five years?  Do you know that the current Secretary-General is António Guterres of Portugal, appointed by the General Assembly on 13 October 2016., who replaced Ban Ki-moon on 1st Jan., 2017?  Do you know that the following people had served as the Secretary General of the UN: Trygve Lie  Norway (2 February 1946 10 November 1952) Dag Hammarskjöld ( Sweden)   (10 April 1953 18 September 1961),  U Thant (Burma) (30 November 1961 31 December 1971), Kurt Waldheim  (Austria) (1 January 197231 December 1981),Javier Pérez de Cuéllar (Peru0 (1 January 1982 31 December 1991), Boutros Boutros-Ghali ( Egypt) (1 January 1992 31 December 1996), Kofi Annan (Ghana) (1 January 199731 December 2006),  Ban Ki-moon (South Korea) (1 January 2007 31 December 2016) and  António Guterres ( Portugal) (1 January 2017 till date).

Do you know that the  International Court of Justice in The Hague, in the Netherlands, is the primary judicial organ of the UN?  Do you know that it was established in 1945 by the UN Charter and  the Court began work in 1946 as the successor to the Permanent Court of International Justice?  Do you know that the ICJ is composed of 15 judges who serve 9-year terms and are appointed by the General Assembly under the principle that every sitting judge must be from a different nation?  Do you know that the ICJ’s primary purpose is to adjudicate disputes among states and the court has heard cases related to war crimes, illegal state interference, ethnic cleansing, and other issues?  Do you know that the ICJ can also be called upon by other UN organs to provide advisory opinions?  

Do you know that the UN has Economic and Social Council, a 54 member council elected by the General Assembly for a three-year term to assist the General Assembly in promoting international economic and social co-operation and development, including Sustainable Development Goals?  Do you know that the UN has some other specialized agencies including: the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), the World Bank, and the World Health Organization (WHO)?  Do you know that the UN performs most of its humanitarian work through these agencies?  

Have you heard of the Group of 77 (G77) at the UN?  Do you know that it is a coalition of developing nations founded on 15 June 1964, designed to promote its members’ collective economic interests and create an enhanced joint negotiating capacity in the UN? Do you know that by November 2013 the organization expanded to 133 member countries?  Do you know that the group has been calling for serious reform of the UN?  Have you wondered how the UN funds its operations? Do you know that the body is financed from assessed and voluntary contributions from member states as the General Assembly approves the regular budget and determines the assessment for each member based on the relative capacity of each country to pay, as measured by its gross national income (GNI), with adjustments for external debt and low per capita income?  Do you know that the General Assembly has established the principle that the UN should not be unduly dependent on any one member to finance its operations, thus, setting a ceiling for the maximum amount that any member can be assessed for the regular budget?  Do you know that a large share of the UN’s expenditure addresses its core mission of peace and security? Do you know that special UN programmes not included in the regular budget, such as UNICEF and the World Food Programme, are financed by voluntary contributions from member governments, corporations, and private individuals?  

Do you know that 74th Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 74) opened on 17 September 2019? Do you know that the first day of the high-level General Debate will be Tuesday, 24 September 2019?  Are you aware that during the week of the debate, several other high-level events also will convene?  Do you know that on Monday, 23 September, the UN Secretary-General will convene a Climate Summit, and the UNGA will hold a one-day high-level meeting on Universal Health Coverage (UHC)?  Do you know that on Tuesday, 24 September, 2019, following the opening of the 74th General Debate, the UNGA will convene a meeting of the UN high-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), which will take place on the afternoon of 24 September and all day on 25 September?  Do you know that on Thursday, 26 September, the UNGA will hold a high-level dialogue on financing for development (FfD), as well as a high-level meeting on the elimination of nuclear weapons?  Do you know that on Friday, 27 September, the UNGA will hold the high-level meeting to review progress made in addressing the priorities of small island developing States (SIDS) through the implementation of the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway?  Do you know the  agenda for each session is planned up to seven months in advance and begins with the release of a preliminary list of items to be included in the provisional agenda?  Do you know that this is refined into a provisional agenda 60 days before the opening of the session?  Are you aware that after the session begins, the final agenda is adopted in a plenary meeting which allocates the work to the various Main Committees, who later submit reports back to the Assembly for adoption by consensus or by vote?  Do you know that the routinely scheduled portions of the sessions normally commence on Tuesday of the third week in September every year?  

Are you aware that the General Assembly votes on many resolutions brought forth by sponsoring states based on an array of world issues?  Do you know that most General Assembly resolutions are not enforceable as a legal or practical matter because the General Assembly lacks enforcement powers with respect to most issues, but its resolutions carry considerable political weight, and are legally binding towards the operations of the General Assembly?  Do you know that the General Assembly can also refer an issue to the Security Council to put in place a binding resolution?   Do you know that the General Assembly also elects members of the UN  Economic and Social Council and the UN  Industrial Development Organization, and some members of the United Nations Trusteeship Council?  Do you know that the General Assembly appoints the Secretary-General of the United Nations on recommendation of the Security Council, and adopts rules governing the administration of the Secretariat?  Do you know that along with the Security Council, the General Assembly elects Judges for the International Court of Justice in The Hague?  

Are you aware that the General Assembly’s  subsidiary organs are divided into five categories: committees, commissions,  boards, councils) and panels and working groups?  Do you know that these Committees include: Disarmament and International Security (DISEC),  Economic and Financial (ECOFIN), Social, Cultural, and Humanitarian (SOCHUM), Special Political and Decolonisation (SPECPOL), Administrative and Budgetary and general, Legal Committee?  Do you know that the General Assembly has Commissions which include: UN Disarmament Commission, established by GA Resolution 502 (VI) and S-10/2, International Civil Service Commission, established by GA Resolution 3357 (XXIX), International Law Commission, established by GA Resolution 174 (II), United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), established by GA Resolution 2205 (XXI), UN Conciliation Commission for Palestine, established by GA Resolution 194 (III), United Nations Peace-building Commission, established by GA Resolution 60/180 and UN Security Council Resolutions 1645 (2005) and 1646 (2005)? Do you know that there are seven boards which include: Executive Board of the UN Children’s Fund, established by GA Resolution 57 (I) and 48/162, Executive Board of the UNations Development Programme and of the UN Population Fund, established by GA Resolution 2029 (XX) and 48/162, Executive Board of the World Food Programme, established by GA Resolution 50/8, Board of Auditors, established by GA Resolution 74 (I), Trade and Development Board, established by GA Resolution 1995 (XIX), UN Joint Staff Pension Board, established by GA Resolution 248 (III), Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, established by GA Resolution 37/99 K?  Do you know that the newest council is the United Nations Human Rights Council, which replaced the aforementioned UNCHR in March 2006?  

             Are you aware that countries are seated alphabetically in the General Assembly according to English translations of the countries’ names?  Are you aware that the country which occupies the front-most left position is determined annually by the Secretary-General via ballot draw while the remaining countries follow alphabetically after it?  Do you know that there are some Sidelines of the General Assembly sessions which include: independent meetings between world leaders,  wealthy and influential individuals from around the world coming  to address various agendas, ranging from humanitarian and environmental to business and political issues?  Do you know that many nations are agitating for the reform of the UN General Assembly including proposals to change the powers and composition of the U.N. General Assembly, increasing the power of the assembly vis-à-vis the United Nations Security Council, or making debates more constructive and less repetitive? Do you know that while Britain, France and Russia from continental Europe and having veto powers on any issue in the Security Council, the entire countries in the continent of Africa do not have any country veto power?

Do you know that the  UN faced a number of crises within nations such as Somalia, Haiti, Mozambique, and the former Yugoslavia?  Do you know that the UN mission in Somalia was viewed as a failure after the US withdrawal following casualties in the Battle of Mogadishu? Do you know that the failure of the 1992 UN intervention in Somalia, showing that, between the start of the Somali civil war in 1988 and the fall of the Siad Barre regime in January 1991, the UN missed at least three opportunities to prevent major human tragedies?  Do you know that in 2004, the UN faced accusations that its Oil-for-Food Programme—in which Iraq had been allowed to trade oil for basic needs to relieve the pressure of sanctions—had suffered from widespread corruption, including billions of dollars of kickbacks?   Do you know that the UN mission to Bosnia was condemned for being grabbed by indecision in the face of ethnic cleansing?  Are you aware that in 1994, the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda failed to intervene in the Rwandan genocide amid indecision in the Security Council leading to the death of close to a million people?  In the General Debate of the 65th General Assembly, the voice of Jorge Valero, representing Venezuela, cuts in:

“The United Nations has exhausted its model and it is not simply a matter of proceeding with reform, the twenty-first century demands deep changes that are only possible with a rebuilding of this organisation. It is a remnant of the Second World War [it] is incompatible with the principle of sovereign equality of States”.

Do you know that according to the Charter of the UN, the General Assembly considers  and approves the budget and establish the financial assessments of Member States; elects the non-permanent members of the Security Council and the members of other UN councils and organs and, on the recommendation of the Security Council, appoints  the Secretary-General; considers and makes recommendations on the general principles of cooperation for maintaining international peace and security, including disarmament; discusses  any question relating to international peace and security and, except where a dispute or situation is currently being discussed by the Security Council, makes recommendations on it; discusses with the same exception, and makes recommendations on any questions within the scope of the Charter or affecting the powers and functions of any organ of the UN; initiates studies and makes recommendations to promote international political cooperation, the development and codification of international law, the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and international collaboration in the economic, social, humanitarian, cultural, educational and health fields; makes recommendations for the peaceful settlement of any situation that might impair friendly relations among countries; considers reports from the Security Council and other UN organs?  Do you know that the Assembly may also take action in cases of a threat to the peace, breach of peace or act of aggression, when the Security Council has failed to act owing to the negative vote of a permanent member?

              Are you aware that the General Assembly in 2005 enlarged the scope to reflect the commitment of member States to reach specific goals to attain peace, security and disarmament along with development and poverty eradication; safeguard human rights and promote the rule of law; protect our common environment; meet the special needs of Africa; and to strengthen the UN?  Are you aware that in September 2015, the Assembly agreed on a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals, contained in the outcome document of the UN summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda in Resolution 70/1? Can you now see how important the position a Nigerian occupies at this world body?  The time is now for the country to re-discover itself.  This is a sacred duty.  The statement of Frantz Fanon cutsin: “ Every generation, out of relative obscurity must discover its mission, to fulfil or betray it.” We cannot afford to betray Nigeria.    

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