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Monday, October 12, 2015


Hon. Bernard Membe, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation,
Amb. Liberata Mulamula, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Your Excellency Juma-Alfani Mpango, Dean of Diplomatic Corps and Ambassador of DRC,
Your Excellency Alvaro Rodrigues, UN Resident Coordinator,
Excellencies Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Heads of UN Agencies,
Distinguished Invited guests, Youths,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour for me to be in your midst today to celebrate 70 years of life of the most important institution for peace and development of humanity, the United Nations. In June 1945 in San Francisco when the Charter of the UN was signed by 50 of the 51 original members, its main objective was maintenance of peace, international security and respect for human rights, as summed up in the preambular paragraphs. They assert: “We the peoples of the UN......quote the be known as the United Nations. 

Since its inception in 1945, its objectives and their scope have become wider than what the founders envisioned then. That notwithstanding, the UN has remained very much at the centre of today’s international system to which we all belong. In my talk, I have attempted to look in retrospect at how this institution evolved and swam against the tide of geopolitics to live up to its raison d’être and striven to remain relevant seven decades later. A brutal retro-analysis will be helpful to discern where―as it was evolving and expanding beyond the vision of its earliest promoters― the UN did right, where it faltered and why. It is by doing this, that we will be able to uphold its continued relevance.

Writing in the London Financial Times two weeks ago, the columnist Gillian Tett states that the UN has become a sprawling mess. It has 15 Specialized Agencies, 12 different Funds. They have 12 Secretariats employing 40,000 people, costing $5.5 billion in 2014/2015. And the Security Council veto power leaves the organization in operational gridlock. I cannot vouch for those costs; but there is no denying the mounting questioning of the UN’s relevance and effectiveness.

I congratulate organizers of this symposium for their creativeness. I wouldn’t have thought of a better way to celebrate life of an institution of such monumental significance to mankind as the UN. This symposium affords us an invaluable opportunity to take stock of what the UN has done and in the process appreciate efforts it has so far undertaken to remain as relevant as it is. This stock taking exercise will allow us to traverse both ends of the success-failure spectrum. In this regard, I must say at the very outset that, in my talk today I will be both critical and laudatory of the role the UN has played in the last seven decades.

Excellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners, 
Invited Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen

In the winter of 1994, a renowned American International Relations scholar John Mearsheimer, wrote a famous article titled, “The False Promise of International Institutions”. In this famous article, he was very critical of liberal institutionalists stating that they placed too much faith in international institutions like the United Nations in creating security arrangements that will help contain wars, bring peace, build democracy and subsequently development to the entire world.

Looking at the UN from the political point of view today, I have had to labour so much to fault the intellectual plausibility of Mearsheimer’s generalization and exonerate it from such reproof. It is especially so at a time when we are witnessing untold human suffering in Syria while the UN through its Security Council is completely paralysed by indecision as it remains gridlocked by the cold war mentality. At the same time, Libya is teetering to a failed state with two parallel governments; post-Saddam Iraq, is neither safer nor democratic than it was before the gulf war; and Iran’s nuclear saga is catapulted to a global stage while it could have simply been a bilateral or may be a trilateral issue. This is because at the core of the crisis lie interests of powerful states. As a consequence of the impotence of the Security Council, we are witnessing the emergence of a new trend to circumvent the UN’s mandate. Faced by incendiary crisis and the obduracy of nationals charged with building consensus action, we witness fast creeping unilateralism. This is the formation of the so called coalitions of the willing” which run contrary to the spirit of multilateralism. Key to their appeal is their operational flexibility and adaptive design that can offer issue-specific approach and allow custom-tailored response. Unless the Security Council reforms accordingly, these ad-hoc coalitions have potential of eroding its relevance and render it obsolete.

Disappointments are also rife in the Human Right Council which due to vote trading and back-scratching, it is rendered ineffectual. Moral relativism has eroded its credibility and the so called third generation rights are given prominence over fundamental rights, like rights to decent life. It has failed to demarcate an inviolable standard universal moral and legal decency for all nations to advocate and enforce. On the other hand, the most representative and democratic body of the entire UN system―The General Assembly―is no different. It has remained ritualistic, devoid of any power to enforce its decision. As a consequence, its work has been reduced to a perpetual producer of resolutions after resolutions.

Hon. Minister
Excellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners, 

Ladies and Gentlemen
It is because of such inefficacies that there has been a cacophony of calls for reform of the United Nations from various quarters. These reforms, if undertaken will enhance the relevance of the UN and will enable it to function more coherently and effectively. It is however more disconcerting that this is easier said than done. Those who benefit from the current structure are bent on maintaining the status quo. And since reforms we are longing for cannot take place without their consent, we find ourselves in a present catch 22 situation.

There is a moral and economic imperative for reforms of the United Nations for it to move in consonance with the current realities. Main challenges confronting the world today and which are the main preoccupation of the UN today have assumed a global dimension and therefore require a holistic and unified global approach. This approach unfortunately, demands a UN that is truly universal in both its anatomy and conduct. It is fool hardy to prematurely celebrate the success of the UN in preventing the Third World War by “maintaining peace and save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. There are still a multitude of scourges and threats that are emerging today that cause untold sorrow to mankind” and demand action.

I therefore join others to call for serious reforms of the UN to reflect the current geopolitical configuration. As a solution to the nagging impotence of the Security Council, some reformists have been calling for a complete abolition of the VETO, World War II relic. We in Africa agree with this position in principle. The main shortcoming of this proposition is that it does not address the excesses of the raw majority that the absence of VETO may supposedly emerge. Nonetheless, collective security is too precious to be left to the dictates and whims of the rich and powerful. That responsibility must be bestowed on a global order which is firmly grounded on a binding international legal order that seeks true collective security and accountability.
Cognizant of the dynamics around this reform of the UN, the African Union adopted on March 8, 2005 in Addis Ababa, The Common African Position on the Proposed Reform of the United Nations, popularly known as the Ezulwini Consensus. It recommends a number of things, including reform of all bodies of the United Nations; the Security Council, General Assembly and ECOSOC, to mention but some.

I pray that it will not take another cataclysm, as the WWII, before we realise that hopeful future for us all must be predicated more on cooperation than contest, rule of law than perpetuation of an essentially anarchic system of self-interested sovereign states as theorized by classical realists.

Invited Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Despite the political disappointments I have alluded to earlier, there are manifest positive contributions that the UN has made to mankind. The United Nations has done a remarkable job in areas of humanitarian assistance, environment as well as social and economic development. It is pitiful that these accolades are invariably overlooked by most analysts who only zoom on political issues that are headline worthy. UN and its specialized agencies have been doing great job and their works to a larger extent have not been hamstrung by Security Council politics.
Being an African myself, from a country that was once a Protectorate Territory and is now enjoying 54 years of independence and progress as a result of the good work done by the United Nations through its now defunct Trusteeship Council; it would be remiss of me not to appreciate the leadership demonstrated by UN in the decolonization of Africa. The Trusteeship Council did a good job and entirely fulfilled its mandate of promoting the inhabitants of the trust Territories and preparing them to self-govern. This is one of the grand successes of the United Nations that we all must appreciate and applaud.

In being appreciative of the work done by UN, I entirely concur with what the Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said when launching these celebrations in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in June last year. Despite many challenges the UN is facing, most of the issues that it has been able to deal with successfully in the course of its 70 years of life are connected to the continent of Africa. From decolonization to ending apartheid; from eradication of poverty to fighting diseases; from peace making and peace keeping to peace building, Africa has benefitted immensely from the workings of the United Nations, more especially through the development programs of its specialized agencies led by UNDP.

Invited Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I was privileged in 2006 to serve in the Secretary-General’s High- level Panel on the System-Wide Coherence to explore ways on how the United Nations system could work more coherently and effectively across the world in the areas of development, humanitarian assistance and the environment. We were tasked to lay the groundwork for a fundamental restructuring of the United Nations operational work. To me the most important attribute to this initiative by Kofi Annan is the UN’s quest for efficiency in its operational activities and its readiness to reform thereto. From then, the UN did a commendable job in implementing our recommendations on how the UN could work at the country level to Deliver as One.

You are aware that Tanzania was one of the eight countries volunteered to pilot DaO. We bear witness to the immense benefits that these reforms can accrue to a country when UN agencies plan, implement, and report as one entity. With its five pillars namely One Programme, One Leader, One Fund, One Office and One Voice; DaO has enhanced ownership of government of the development plans and projects, improved partnerships with UN agencies at the country level, reduces transaction costs, and importantly improved inter-agency coherence and delivery. Under the United Nations Development Assistance Plan (UNDAP), we have witnessed UN agencies working together in a range of activities complementing government efforts to achieve impressive results. I could enumerate a number of results in various sectors that UN’s support has come handy in complementing government’s efforts. These include economic growth, environment, education, health and nutrition, HIV and AIDS, human rights, to mention but a few. One regret that I must stress here is, while strides have been made in reforming the UN at country level to enable its system to deliver effectively, efficiently and coherently as one, the same cannot be said at the headquarters level. These two levels are not mutually exclusive; we can’t sustain these successes when those at the Headquarters are still clinging on to their old ways of doing things.

Invited Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen

Summarizing successes and failures for a period spanning over 7 decades, of an institution of such gigantic stature and panoramic profile as the UN within 30 minutes is surely a no mean feat. There is so much that I still wish I could speak about but since this is a symposium, I believe in the ensuing discussion, you will be able to cover other areas that I haven’t touched. In conclusion, I believe the world now needs a Stronger UN than ever before. The cause and effect dichotomy of most of these challenges facing our world today spans the entire globe. Characteristic to these challenges is the fact that, no sooner do they emerge in one country than their effects transcend that nation’s borders. From poverty and hunger to climate change; from terrorism to energy insecurity; from migration to armed security and diseases, these are all global problems.

For us in Africa, abject poverty remains the “elephant in the room”. The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) was a demonstration of UN’s appreciation of this fact and a lot has been done under the stewardship of the UN to at least halve this scourge. We have never witnessed such a coalescence of efforts in the international scale towards addressing focused problems. MDGs have taken us many strides forward and it is my firm conviction that the recently approved SDGs will address the unfinished business left by MDGs. Ending poverty is possible and in my opinion should be the top priority. It will be possible, though not necessarily easy, to achieve that goal by 2030 if we refrain from reducing these goals to mere proclamations and start paying due attention to the means of implementing them.page10image13520
To paint a picture on the MDG’s success, the 2015 MDG Report attests that number of people living in extreme poverty has declined for more than a half from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015. Again a number of out-of-school children has declined by 43% from 100 million in 2000 to 57 million in 2015 while the literacy gap between genders has narrowed. These are just dashboard depiction of what MDGs achieved. We can therefore not afford to lose focus on the fight against poverty and loose the momentum that MDGs has already generated in pursuit of sustainable development for all. There is still one person in five in developing region who is living below the poverty line i.e. less than $ 1.25 per day. 795 million people (one in nine people globally) are still undernourished. Six million children still die before their fifth birthday and majority, four out of five to be precise, occur in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia. This grim picture should help us fathom the task ahead of us as we celebrate the past 70 years.
Another challenge that gives me twinges of disquiet is climate change. Since the commencement of the international political response to climate change began at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, enormous studies and researches have been commissioned and have helped to inculcate awareness about the effects of climate change. Inspite this accelerated awareness, there is no sense of urgency in securing a legally binding deal. Cynicism and indifferent shrugs have still been characterizing climate change meetings with no remarkable breakthrough notwithstanding the existential threat that climate change caused by dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Only the recently expired Kyoto Protocol was the sole legally binding instrument available for us to flaunt. I believe this time the UN will stand to the test and ensure a successful conclusion of the 21st Conference of the Parties to UNFCCC (COP 21) where another legally binding deal on climate control will be achieved to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.

Hon. Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation,
Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and Ambassador of DRC,
UN Resident coordinator,

Ambassadors and High Commissioners and Head of UN Agencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have spoken a lot and the list of mundane problems is never ending. I want to thank again the organizers for inviting me and for the opportunity to give my reflections on this truly important institution to mankind. Asked recently in an interview what he
thought would be the fate of the UN, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon replies; “There is no other universal organization which has legitimacy, and I am quite confident that the UN will continue to exist. But needs to evolve and change”. My brother and Former Secretary General of the UN, Mr. Kofi Annan has said, More than ever before in human history, we share a common destiny. We can master it only if we face it together. And that is why we have the United Nations.”page12image12376
I cannot agree more with Kofi. There is beauty and power in unity. We must therefore not relent in calling for true reforms of the UN so that it can continue to serve mankind better. This is no easy task but achievable so long as those who seek reforms remain united in heart and mind behind their purpose for such reforms.
One world, one people under one transformed UN, is not utopic, it is possible !!!!
Thank you for your attention

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