Home Foreign POOR NATIONS, POVERTY & COVID-19– SUPPORT FOR UN’S PROGRAMMES

POOR NATIONS, POVERTY & COVID-19– SUPPORT FOR UN’S PROGRAMMES

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We previously published this piece.  It deals with the April 14, 2020 Statement by the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the World Health Organization’s efforts and plans to save the world from COVID-19. It is being re-published to implore ALL NIGERIANS to cooperate with the Federal, States & Local Governments for the purpose of containing the rampaging pandemic. The way the COVID-19 has wrestled with advanced economies is confounding.  Who could believe it 6 months ago that heads of government of the civilized world would literally admit being helpless.  No one could believe that such developments would occur in Europe and America for a lengthy period of time. Truth is no African country has the capacity to single-handedly confront a huge outbreak in the continent.  Figures of occurrences are increasing, giving even the global body sleepless nights. So, why would anybody decide to commit suicide by failing to adhere to regulations issued for the containment of diseases without known cure?  Good luck.

GLOBAL SUPPORT & COLLABORATION: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, on whose shoulders the coordination of world responses rest said on 8 April: “The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most dangerous challenges this world has faced in our lifetime. It is above all a human crisis with severe health and socio-economic consequences.  The World Health Organization, with thousands of its staff, is on the front lines, supporting Member States and their societies, especially the most vulnerable among them, with guidance, training, equipment, and concrete life-saving services as they fight the virus. ‘’It is my belief that the World Health Organization must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against COVID-19.  This virus is unprecedented in our lifetime and requires an unprecedented response. Obviously, in such conditions, it is possible that the same facts have had different readings by different entities.

‘’Once we have finally turned the page on this epidemic, there must be a time to look back fully to understand how such a disease emerged and spread its devastation so quickly across the globe, and how all those involved reacted to the crisis. The lessons learned will be essential to effectively address similar challenges, as they may arise in the future’’ But now is not that time.” As it is not that time, it is also not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus. As I have said before, now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences’’

ANTONIO GUTERRES                                                    SECRETARY-GENERAL,  UNITED NATIONS.

 IMPORTANCE OF SUPPORTING  THE UN& ITS AGENCIES – GLOBAL SOLIDARITY:  ‘We are not only all responsible for each other’s security. We are also, in some measure, responsible for each other’s welfare. Global solidarity is both necessary and possible. It is necessary because without a measure of solidarity, no society can be truly stable, and no one’s prosperity truly secure’’.KOFI ANNAN

Given the foregoing, it is foolhardy for anybody to think he/she could survive alone. Similarly, no nation of the world could stand alone. I remember a few years ago when I engaged a junior colleague in a casual discussion on preparations for the year 2015 general elections in Nigeria. He is very well versed in matters concerning refugees. He said he would just cross over to Canada if anything happened.  I laughed and requested to know if he and his wife and children would trek to Canada from Nigeria to enforce refugee status.  The UN Statutes mandate its Member-nations to assist refugees, forcibly displaced communities, and stateless people in their voluntary repatriation, local integration, or resettlement to a third country. This is one reason why those Western nations police their borders to ensure that people don’t gatecrash into their countries. About two-thirds of today’s refugees (67%) according to Wikipedia come from the top five of these countries.

  • Syria — 5.6 million refugees.
  • Afghanistan — 2.7 million refugees.
  • South Sudan — 2.3 million refugees.
  • Myanmar – 1.1 million refugees.
  • Somalia — 900,000 refugees.
  • Sudan — 725,000 refugees.
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo – 720,300 refugees.

UNITED NATIONS INTERVENTIONS: It is the stand of the United Nations that everyone should be allowed to benefit from global prosperity. But this does not find too much favour with the average American. The influential New-York Times magazine as far back as 1984 published a strong opinion against the UN. The influential publication asserted that: ‘’ the United States has come a long way from that day in 1949 when President Truman, in his inaugural address, pledged ”unfaltering support” for the United Nations and seemed to place the organization at the center of American foreign policy. ‘’For Washington these days, (1984) the United Nations at best is, in the words of Mrs. Kirkpatrick’s (then America’s envoy to the UN)  ”a useful place to make statements that resound throughout the world.’‘ The United States is on the defensive, trying not so much to advance its policy goals as to limit the damage that can be done to it by a hostile world body’’

UNESCO UNDER HAMMER:  Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, chief United States delegate to the world body (1984) characterized the American position there as ”essentially impotent, without influence, heavily outvoted, and isolated.” America’s reverses in the United Nations have produced more than disillusionment. The publication recalled that ”last month, for the first time, they generated strong retaliatory action, in the form of a decision by the Reagan Administration to withdraw from UNESCO by 1985, unless that agency made major changes in policy. UNESCO, or the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, had, in Washington’s view, become the worst of the independent agencies. Encouraged by the Soviet Union and radical third-world countries hostile to the United States, the Paris-based body pressed for such antidemocratic programs as tighter government controls over journalists, as embodied in the plan for a ”new world information order.” At the same time, the agency had become a platform for rhetoric excoriating Israel and blaming the West for virtually all of the developing world’s problems.” — New York Times

One of the first casualties of the UN/US disagreements are some activities of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, when America and Israel announced their withdrawal. America finances the UN by paying 22 percent of UNESCO’s budget.  Both countries disagreed with some aspects of UNESCO’s policies that included the inscription of World Heritage Sites. But UNESCO alleged that the United States as at then, owed it US$500 million. United States was for some time denied voting rights at UNESCO following its decision to withhold its Assessed contributions, an obligation Member-states must fulfill. The U.S. finally, for the second time in history, withdrew from UNESCO and United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in October 2017 and June 2018 respectively.

GLOBAL COOPERATION: Late last year and early 2020, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hinted that the UN was facing a “cash crisis” as some member states failed to pay the annual dues they owe: $1.3 billion in outstanding payments. Guterres reported to the General Assembly that “We risk exhausting the closed peacekeeping cash reserves, and entering November without enough cash to cover payrolls.” As of the end of September 2019, member states had paid just 70% of what they owed for the regular budget for the 2019 fiscal year. At the same time in 2018, that figure was 78%.  64 states had yet to pay their assessments in full.   The U.N, consequently periodically imposes new measures to account for budget shortfalls including freezing vacant posts, cancellation or postponement of meetings, curtailment of official travels, as the body strives to pay its employees.

This means a lot for global diplomacy and the hands of retrogression must be held back. Diplomacy watchers have alerted that running out of money as the UN and its agencies face severe humanitarian crises could be suicidal for the whole world including the super-powers. According to UN records, the United States pays 22% of the regular budget and 28% of the peacekeeping budget.  The next biggest contributor is China with 12.5 percent, while EU countries pay a total of above 30 percent. The four largest contributors to the United Nations – the US (22% of the UN budget), China (12.005%), Japan (8.564%) and Germany (6.090%) – together finance some 49% of the entire UN budget. Payments to the UN are broken into two types: voluntary and assessed. All 193 member countries are required to fund a certain amount of the organization; these are the assessed payments, and they’re determined using a complicated formula.

CHANGES IN AMERICA’S FOREIGN POLICY: America’s foreign policy of 1949 has changed.  The era of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, followed by that of the 33rd US President, Harry S. Truman was much easy, as who both had great sympathy for the UN. Both have gone into records as doing a lot to stabilize the United Nations post-World-War 11 era.  Most Member-states embrace the principles of equality and non-interference. They prefer a democratized UN in the formulation and implementation of policies that affect humanity. However, the most powerful democracy is unable to win the support of other Members for its views. But one nagging question is: What becomes of the world should the United Nations crumble? There is every possibility of instability, hatred, and conflicts wiping off humanity from the surface of the earth. This is one of the reasons why circumventing well-intentioned interventions put forth by the UN seems unreasonable.  Frustrating the U.N is certainly an unwise decision given its implications.  No African has headed the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, two important agencies that substantially control the direction of the global economy.

UNITED STATES AS DEMOCRATS:  It is possible in all democracies all over the world for the most powerful individuals, the richest and interests to lose out in democratic settings. Therefore, it is understandable if America that gives almost one-quarter of the UN budget to feel that America was ”’essentially impotent, without influence, heavily outvoted, and isolated.”  But that is the essence of democracy that the United States has promoted and is one of the inventors. The world must consider other peaceful methods to settle differences arising at the UN and its organs and agencies. What must not change is about belief in dialogue. This is one reason Harry Truman stated at the UN’s inauguration in1949 that: “If we should pay merely lip service to inspiring ideals, and later do violence to simple justice, we would draw down upon us the bitter wrath of generations yet unborn’’ This underscores the importance of the continued existence of the UN. Kofi Annan once argued that:  ‘’The UN’s success in mobilizing donor countries to support the Millennium Development Goals, through debt relief and increased foreign aid, convinces me that global solidarity is not only necessary but possible. ‘’The US has given the world an example of a democracy in which everyone, including the most powerful, is subject to legal restraint. Its current moment of world supremacy gives it a priceless opportunity to entrench the same principles at the global level. As Harry Truman said, “We all have to recognize, no matter how great our strength that we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please.” On his part, Nelson Mandela, a globally respected figure posited that: ‘’negotiation and discussion are the greatest weapons we have for promoting peace and development’’

EXPERIENCED DIPLOMATS: The foregoing is the essence of populating the General Assembly with experienced diplomats who know the essence of peace, and development through dialogue, cooperation, collaboration and solidarity. It is difficult to imagine a world without challenges. Even among family units,  differences must arise.   A report published by ‘The Hague Institute of Global Justice’’ asserts that: Diplomacy has been utilized for centuries and continues to be the main way for states to conduct their international affairs. In understanding the challenges, it needs to be appreciated that diplomacy has evolved even if we consider the last decade. Important institutional reforms have taken place at the multilateral level, for example, the appointment of former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan as the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syrian crisis, a position designed to provide good offices to bring the conflict to an end. A further example, at the regional level, is the establishment of the EU’s European External Action Service (EEAS) in 2009, which includes the Conflict prevention, Peace building and Mediation Instruments Division. At the bilateral level, many of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries have attempted to strengthen their preventive response.Additionally, the UN has prosecuted Building Stability Overseas Strategy (2011) by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence, aimed to implement a consolidated approach that integrates diplomacy, defense, and development.

THE WAY FORWARD: PEOPLE-CENTRED ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: The pangs of hunger are felt across the strata of the society. Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, in a sermon, asserted that: Social stratification based on financial status is more pronounced than any other type of stratification in modern society.  ‘’The rich are associated with wealth, power and fame; while the poor are associated with suffering, obscurity and lack. The rich have many friends, associates and family members. He is an independent fellow who can afford to pay his or her bills and also contribute to the development of the society. The poor, on the other hand, has few or no friends or associates. He can hardly pay his bills not to talk about contributing to the development of the community. ‘’God is personally interested in the cause of the poor.’’   It is evident that there is a huge need to adopt measures for redistribution of income that would encourage the rich to part with their money.

In a paper presented to President Bill Clinton in 1996, the Committee on Reelection asserted that: “By leaving people in poverty, at risk of their lives due to lack of basic living essentials, we have stepped across the boundary of civilization. We have conceded that these people do not matter, are not important. Allowing them to starve to death, freeze to death, die from deprivation, or simply shooting them, is in the end exactly the same thing. Inflicting or allowing poverty on a group of people or an entire country is a formula for disaster.”

POVERTY The government and the private sector must collaborate to lift people out of poverty. The United Nations defines poverty as a denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means a lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means not having enough to feed and clothe a family, not having. Today, more than 780 million people live below the international poverty line. More than 11% of the world population is living in extreme poverty and struggling to fulfill the most basic needs like health, education, and access to water and sanitation, to name a few.

GLOBALIZATION & HUNGER: Bill Clinton, a strong advocate of Globalization while delivering the First Nelson Mandela Annual lecture remarked that: ”For the first time in history, the rest of the world is interested in working not for or against Africa, but working with Africa, listening to you, looking to you, and learning from you. One lesson we all have to learn from Mr. Mandela is how to build a community across divisions of race, religion, and tribe. We do live in a world so interdependent that more email is sent every day than postal mail, and a sneeze in Hong Kong leads to a quarantine in Toronto. But the very advances that have brought our world together – transportation, open borders, the internet – have been exploited by terrorists to tear our world apart.

UNEQUAL & UNSTABLE WORLD: Bill Clinton argues that:  Humanity lives in an exciting, but still unequal and unstable world. Yes, globalization has lifted more people out of poverty in the last 20 years than any point in history, but half the world’s people still live on less than $2 a day and a billion of them will go to bed hungry tonight. But a billion of the world’s people are hungry, a billion of the world’s people cannot read a single word. In short, in our interdependent but unequal and unstable world, our simple job is to move from interdependence to an integrated global community, of shared benefits, shared responsibilities, and shared values.  (The inaugural lecture of the Annual Nelson Mandela Lectures was delivered in South Africa by President Bill Clinton in 2003) Is there anything seen or experienced by President Bill Clinton that others have neither seen nor experienced?

THE INTER ACTION GROUP: The World Council of former Presidents is quoted in its document on ‘’Balance of Freedom and Responsibility’ as stating that:  ‘’If endangered nations and their states, politicians and protectors of religions do not learn how to respect religious, cultural and civilization-related inheritance of others if people do not learn to make and maintain a balance between both categorical imperatives – freedom and responsibility – then indeed peace between them will be endangered.  The political world’s order and social-economic well-being of people may be thoroughly destroyed. This is why the end of the old century – 50 years after the Declaration of Human Rights – is the last moment to discuss Human Responsibilities. Minimal ethic standards need to be jointly recognized and are urgently needed for intercontinental co-existence – applying not only to individual action but also to political authorities, religious communities, churches, nations. There should be standards not only for governments, but also for international producers, commercial businessmen or concerns. The latter are today in danger of surrendering to a new, untamed beast speculating all around the World – the capitalism. The necessity of having awareness about one’s own responsibility is also relevant for electronic media operating at the international level, which may indoctrinate/intoxicate people with excessive broadcasts of murders, shootings and all kinds of abuse.

THE DEVELOPING WORLD & GOOD GOVERNANCE: Of the estimated 1.2 billion people living in abject poverty all over the world, Africa is host to about 300 million, which is grossly disproportionate to the overall population.  The gap between the rich and the poor countries continues to widen. External debt service payments made between 2001 and 2003 by Nigeria was five times as high as the recurrent federal government budgetary allocation to education; and about six times as high as the recurrent budgetary allocation to health. Nigeria’s exit from the Paris and London clubs of creditors was, therefore, a great advantage for the nation and an opportunity for its leaders to chart a new course for development.   One could, therefore, say that the Paris Club of Creditors and other grantees of loans to Africa may have contributed to the economic adversity of Africa.

SYMPATHY: Truth is the least developed and the developing nations might continue to win the sympathy of the United States, the United Nations and donor organizations for as long as they embrace good governance and are reasonable. Africa needs to go back to the drawing table and Africans need to hold their people in government more accountable. “Today, Africa is a continent of COMPETING BEGGAR-NATIONS. We vie with one another for favours from our former colonial masters, and we deliberately fall over one another to invite neo-colonialists to come over to our different territories to preside over our economic fortunes … Unless a beggar resolutely shakes off, and irrevocably turns his back on, his begging habit, he will forever remain a beggar. For, the more he begs, the more he develops the beggar characteristics of lack of initiative, courage, drive and self-reliance.”  – Obafemi Awolowo, in an Address to 4th OAU Summit in Kinshasa (1967)

Joaquim Alberto Chissano, was the first recipient of the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Good Governance. Chisano served as the second President of Mozambique for 19 years, from 1986–2005, and has also served as the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General to northern Uganda and southern Sudan. He also chaired the Forum of Former African Heads of State and Government. Chisano, whose country, Mozambique went through 16 years of armed conflict in which an estimated one million human casualties has disclosed in a public presentation that his first major step on assumption of office as president in 1986 was to initiate wide-ranging reforms and made attaining peace his number one goal. And that accounts for Mozambique’s strong and vibrant economy, averaging 8 per cent in economic growth between 1996 and 2006; one of the highest rates in Africa. According to the World Bank, between 1997 and 2003, almost 3 million people were pulled out of extreme poverty out of a total population of 20 million Mozambicans.

GOVERNANCE ARCHITECTURE: Chissano called upon Africa’s leaders to re-examine their spending priorities and consider the opportunities lost when these monies are not invested in providing health and education to our people. Another huge drain on our treasuries and our people is the heavy debt burden the continent carries.The former Mozambican president asserted that ”there is no alternative to good governance if any African nation is to grow: ”Good governance is our best hope against these challenges’’.  Governance entails choices. It demands a visionary leadership that will set enlightened priorities and redeploy resources and retain skilled talent. Compassionate and committed leaders can, and must create the policies and invest the necessary resources in progress towards the SDGs. From this point of view, we require strategic and enduring plans towards building a progressively, infrastructure and services, empowering people to improve their conditions and safeguard their children’s lives, thus accelerating the evolution of a truly secured nation. All Nigerians and indeed residents of the most populous black nation in the world must know that security of the society is the responsibility of all.  In this regard, a national crusade in which every Nigerians would be involved in the peace process is necessary for us all to imbibe the right political culture.

POST COVID-19 EXPECTATIONS & NIGERIA’S: If there is one country in Africa that needs to think seriously and plan against the pos-covid-19 period, that country in Nigeria given its role and influence in Africa.  In a Year 2009 speech tagged: “Africa must take greater responsibility for its own problems and solutions” delivered by  Kofi Annan to mark the centenary of the birth of Chief Obafemi Awolowo,  Annan  set out his vision of how African nations can address the challenges and opportunities they face in the 21st century. As documented by the Kofi Annan Foundation, Annan, in praising Chief Obafemi Awolowo as an “outstanding son of both Nigeria and Africa” reflected on how far Africa has come towards fulfilling the ambition of a “peaceful and progressive continent”, two decades after his death. He declared that: ‘’Africa must take a greater responsibility for its own problems and solutions: “The African Union is increasingly influential and important. ‘’But both the AU and Nigeria can, and must, do more. Across the continent there is huge potential for increased regional and sub-regional co-operation not least to improve infrastructure, boost trade and create jobs. Africa would be in a stronger position to demand and win the changes needed in international organizations if it showed the courage and will to tackle problems within our own continent.”

In the referenced speech, Annan said: ‘’both the AU and Nigeria’’, meaning Nigeria and other African countries. These are very complimentary words that demonstrate clearly Nigeria’s strategic importance in global politics. What Nigeria has done to Africa is remarkable and appears divine. No one could correctly quantify Nigeria’s efforts in the area of decolonization and struggles for political and economic emancipation of African nations. And the Creator seems to have placed a very great burden on the world’s most populous black nation such that one is tempted to reason that without Nigeria, West Africa might not be in existence today; on account of senseless and avoidable wars in the sub-region. Nigeria has intervened to restore peace to nations that would have been consumed by acts of intolerance and violence.  On the global level, Nigeria’s contributions to peacekeeping and peacemaking through troops contributions to United Nations initiatives are massive.

As at today, Nigeria is the chief motivator of the African Union. The fact is if Nigeria fails to keep peace in these nations, she would be the major recipient of refugees from them. There are indications that the new world order, if not properly addressed, poses a grave danger to the continued survival of the developing world.  An eminent political scientist and Nigeria’s former Education Minister, Prof. Tunde Adeniran has argued that “Nigeria must be an active participant in the global trend without her hands tied behind her back’’  Nigeria, the most populous black nation has a great role to play in leading the African continent to political and socio-economic advancement. Any dislocation to peace and economic development impacts Nigeria negatively. We bear the brunt through relocation to Nigeria to hurt our economy. Western nations cannot sleep with their two eyes closed if developing nations are not at ease.