EMELDA MWITWA, New York
IS THE United Nations more relevant to the needs of the people of the world now than it was about 72 years ago? That’s the question President Edgar Lungu and other 94 heads of state and 42 heads of government are asking themselves this week and, perhaps, answering themselves.
President Lungu is among world leaders attending the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York this week at which global issues of governance, peace and security, health and development are being discussed.
Today, President Lungu will deliver Zambia’s address to the assembly of world leaders at the UN headquarters during the first-ever Nelson Mandela Peace Summit.
Making the United Nations Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies is the theme that is guiding the global discourse of world leaders at the 73rd UNGA.
To make the UN relevant to the needs of the people in the 21st century, two things are paramount – attainment of global peace and creation of equitable and sustainable societies.
President of the 73rd UNGA, María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés of Ecuador, the fourth woman to occupy the seat in the last 73 years, is concerned that the 193 member states of the UN have not made the cause of the UN known to all the people to elicit their support.
Ms Garcés believes sharing of global responsibilities to create peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies entails rallying the people to the cause of the UN, created over seven decades ago to maintain international peace and security, promote cooperation among states and international development.
However, today, the world still faces challenges of instability, development and inequalities.
The UN believes it is only by international cooperation that mankind can address the challenges posed by global and regional issues.
The President of the 73rd UNGA believes that although during the past 72 years, the UN has produced and codified an invaluable body of international law and defined many human rights, there is much to be done in making the international body relevant to all the people of the world.
“Making the United Nations relevant to all people will be the focus of my work during this session of the Assembly. I am concerned that we have not made the case for the United Nations in ways that inspire the broadest possible public understanding and support,” Ms Garcés said last Tuesday at the opening of the 73rd session of the UNGA at the UN headquarters here.
She believes that by making the public more aware of work and the goals of the UN, member states will enhance people’s support for the implementation of their agreements at the national level.
“In order to assure our relevance as an organisation, I want to emphasise our need for global leadership within the framework of multilateralism and our shared responsibilities to attain peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies. This vision will inspire all of my efforts in the coming months,” she said.
Global peace is core to the agenda of the 73rd session of UNGA, and all global leaders are expected to commit to peace and suggest ways for conflict prevention.
The high-level meeting of heads of state and government today begins with the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit, which is a plenary event on global peace in honour of the centenary of former South African President Nelson Mandela’s birth.
This event provides all UN member states with the historic opportunity to present their views on how to prevent conflicts, and provides a renewed boost to build more peaceful and resilient societies.
Further, world leaders are expected to renew their commitment to global peace, conflict prevention, conflict resolution, peace-building, promotion and protection of human rights and long-term development initiatives as called for by the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres.
The Nelson Mandela Peace Summit will also adopt a political declaration, which will reaffirm the values of President Mandela.
Zambia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Lazarous Kapambwe, has confirmed that President Lungu will participate in the Mandela Peace Summit because of Zambia’s active participation in dismantling apartheid in South Africa.
Mr Kapambwe observed that Zambia played a key role in the fight against apartheid, and that Lusaka played host to the headquarters of the African National Congress during the white minority rule in South Africa.
Zambia’s participation in the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit reaffirms her commitment to global peace efforts, including UN peacekeeping missions.
The UN ranks Zambia as one of the shining troop contributing countries to peacekeeping missions in Africa and other parts of the world where war and conflicts wreak havoc.
As at May 31, 2018, Zambia had contributed about 1,011 military, police and staff officers to different UN peacekeeping missions which include United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission (MINUSCA) in the Central African Republic, African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
The UN thanked Zambia for her service and sacrifice for providing more than 1,000 military and police officers as peacekeepers to different UN Peacekeeping missions, according to the latest ‘thank you Zambia’ message published by the UN Department of Public Information (DPI).
Zambia’s Military Advisor to the UN General Eric Mwewa confirmed that the country has since January this year contributed 930 peacekeepers to MINUSCA, and about 55 peacekeeping troops to UNAMID, while 29 peacekeepers have so far been deployed in UNMISS.
PRESIDENT LUNGU’S ENGAGEMENTS
At a press briefing at Zambia’s Permanent Mission to the UN here, ambassador Kapambwe said President Lungu’s statement during the general debate will touch on both global and national issues such as health, development and governance.
During the week-long high-level meeting, Mr Lungu will organise a high-level event to discuss child marriage, given his appointment by the African Union as a champion on ending child marriage.
He will also chair a high-level meeting on the fight against tuberculosis (TB) and another on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Disease.
The TB meeting is being held under the theme “United to end tuberculosis: An urgent global response to a global epidemic”.
Further, Mr Lungu will have bilateral meetings with leaders from Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa.
Tomorrow, the President will participate in the general debate of the General Assembly during which he is expected to address the UNGA.
He will address the plenary meeting of the UNGA on Wednesday.
HIS ADDRESS TO PREVIOUS UNGA
In his address to the 72nd UNGA last year, President Lungu called on world leaders to evaluate multilateral approaches to the challenges affecting the world’s peoples such as threats to socio-economic development, international peace and security, as well as those posed by terrorism, climate change, nuclear weapons, HIV/AIDS and more.
“In this globalised and interdependent world, no country – however wealthy or powerful – can resolve all these challenges single-handedly,” he stressed, calling for common solutions from a strong UN.
He said the effects of climate change were also frustrating efforts to raise living standards for the world’s poor and meet the Sustainable Development Goals.
However, he expressed hope that at the 23rd Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, countries would establish mechanisms to implement the Paris Agreement, and that stakeholders would ensure the Green Climate Fund was adequately funded.
He said as a developing country, Zambia required assistance to enhance its adaptive capacities in areas such as scientific research, early warning and rapid response to address the adverse impacts of climate change, as well as the appropriate technologies to do so.
President Lungu also underscored Zambia’s commitment to fostering an all-inclusive development paradigm based on the 2030 Agenda and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
He cited the launch of the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) under the theme “Accelerating development efforts towards the attainment of the national vision 2030 without leaving anyone behind”, as an example.
He said the 7NDP seeks to improve productivity in agriculture and create opportunities for unskilled wage improvement in sectors such as manufacturing.
It also pays particular attention to uplifting living standards in rural areas and places a new focus on “agro-value addition”, while aiming to reduce poverty.
Further, he said in keeping with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, Zambia would mobilise and use all sources of finance whether locally mobilised or through internal cooperating partners – for the benefit of its citizens.
Obviously, at the 73rd UNGA, President Lungu will touch on Zambia’s case and the common global responsibilities for creating peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies.
EMELDA MWITWA, New York