The Future we want, The United Nations we need: Reaffirming Our Collective Commitment to Multilaterism – Amb Ayo Olukanni

By Amb Ayo Olukanni

Director General Nigeria Chambers of Commerce Industry Mines and Agriculture

At the United Nations Day:

Thursday October 24, 2019 United Nations Information, Ikoyi Lagos.


The general and cavalier view is that the UN is just a talking shop and that several things are wrong with the Organization.  Some argue that the organization should be scrapped. They point to wars, poverty etc across the world, But a hard look will confirm that there is nothing wrong with the United Nations as an international Organization. It is the members who have problems. A stronger UN will make a better world. As Professor Gambari observed in his book “Africa at the United Nations in a Changing World”  With no standing army and no police Force and members states refusing to pay their financial contributions the UN can only be as effective as they want it and will do only what they want it to do. But for its critics, ardent UN bashing, the UN today stands in the court and it is accused of so many things. They point its inability to end the numerous conflicts and wars raging in several parts of the world:  Syria, Yemen, Ukraine Central Africa, Somalia, and the Great Lakes region and failure to prevent or end these wars; ineffective of UN peace keeping operations such as the embarrassing faux pas and inability to prevent the Rwanda Genocide. General Romeo Dallaire the commander of UNAMIR who tried to commit suicide after the Rwanda genocide under his watch said with a well armed group of 5000 men and a proper mandate the UN could have stopped the slaughter of thousands of Rwandans. After the cries of Never again after the Holocaust in which 6 million Jews were murdered in most horrific manner and in-ability to find solution to the Palestinian question and flagrant violation of UN Resolutions and establishment of the State of Palestine and a homeland for the Palestinian People as envisioned in UN Resolution 242 and other relevant Resolutions. This appears to reinforce the general perception that the UN is just a mere talking shop an International Organization to provide exotic living for international civil servants.  Late Prof Ola Rotimi’s play “Holding Talks” was reportedly inspired by the array and endless meeting of the UN with little results to show for them. There is also the belief that UN staffers are simply Poverty Entrepreneur who flies business class around the world to discuss issues of poverty.

However a close assessment  will reveal that the UN truly works and indeed like the slogan says a Strong UN means a better world and the question most of us involved in UN work on various fronts is without the UN and its international processes, where shall we all be today as the human race. Let’s quickly look at some of these issues as I wind down this discussion:

Decolonization and Independence for Colonial Territories:  Against the background of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Decolonization Process Fundamental Human Rights Certainly the UN in 70 years of its existence has had tremendous impact on nations across the world and international Community as a whole. Has it succeeded I will say yes to all large extent; and that truly is my assessment as a witness to the struggle of the UN to meets its purpose: Let me briefly point to some sign posts:

  • Prevention of a global War: If only for the fact that the Organization has prevented a global war as we have witnessed in the 1st and 2nd World wars. It can be asserted that the Organization has fulfilled one of the main objectives of the founding fathers as expressed in the Preamble of the Charter.
  • Maintenance of International Peace and Security and The Peace Keeping Operations: The UN Peace keeping forces the Blue Beret are the most visible symbol of UN Peace keeping operations. Since 1948, 69 UN Peace Keeping operations have been deployed in practically all parts of the world. According to the UN Handbook publish annually by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of New Zealand (copy is available on line and I strongly recommend it for anyone interested in the nitty-gritty of the workings of the UN) The Budget of UN peacekeeping operations for 1st July 2013-30th June 2014 was put at $7.83billion;
  • As at May 31 2014, there were 98,755 uniformed personnel troops, police along with 2022 UN Volunteers; and as at 30th April 2014 17190 international and local civilian personnel serving in peacekeeping operations;
  • Example of UN Peace keeping operations includes the following: UNTSO (UN Truce Supervision Organization in Jerusalem) established in 1948 to help enforce cessation of hostilities in Palestine, UNFICYP to handle the conflict in Cyprus. UNMOGIP (UN Military Disengagement Force in India and Pakistan): The peace Keeping Force in Cyprus; UN Disengagement Observe Force (UNDOF) on the Golan, the Peace Keeping Force in Lebanon (UNFIL);  MONUC in Congo, UNOCI in Cote D’Ivoire UNAMID in Darfur; MINUSCA Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Central Africa Republic. MINUSTAH (UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti).
  • Such is the success of the UN Peace Keeping Operations that the UN Peace Keeping Forces was awarded the Nobel peace Prize;
  • Humanitarian Operations: Taking care of Refugees across the world those escaping from wars, one form of persecution or the other.
  • Tackling issues of Global commons such as Environment, Climate Change, Trafficking in Peoples and Narcotics etc.


Globalization and the ICT Revolution have radically altered our world so today we speak often of a radically changed and still changing world order. There are benefits of globalization and there are down sides; As Professor Ibrahim Gambari said in his seminal work Africa at United Nations in a Changing world Oder, the challenge facing us all is to harness the benefits of globalization while reducing its negative impacts. I am sure you all agree that our world require reinventing think of the inequality between the developed and developing world and the inequality within states where 1% of the people own 99% of the wealth. The quest for a New and Just World order in which globalization will work for all can be as envisioned by the UN is encapsulated in the Sustainable Development Goals adopted to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the UN in New York at the last Session of the UNGA. Implicitly the UN will continue to be relevant. It therefore must be made more effective for its continued relevance the UN and this means the Organization must continue to review and renew itself, by including in particular the Reform of the Security Council through expansion and inclusion of new regional powers including Nigeria and only the member states can do so.


UN Sustainable Development Goals to Transform our World

The Millennium Development Goals adopted in 2000 had recorded mixed results while some made progress others did not. Nonetheless the view was that the UN should build on the MDGs to provide visionary leadership consequently the process of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Sustainable Development Goals was adopted by the world leaders at the 70th Session of the UNGA in New York the member States as a Sustainable Development Agenda. It has helped to reposition the UN and its member states, International Organization as well as the Civil Societies in the quest to transform and improve the lives of people everywhere and ensure a better world.   The 17 SDGs listed here below;


  • Poverty;
  • Hunger and food security;
  • Health
  • Education
  • Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment
  • Water and Sanitation
  • Energy
  • Economic Growth
  • Infrastructure and industrialization
  • Inequalities
  • Cities;
  • Sustainable Production and consumption
  • Climate Change
  • Oceans
  • Biodiversity Forests Desertification
  • Peace and Justice
  • Partnership


These are the new paradigm which 19 goals to transform our lives and young people across the world have important role to play in the achievements of these goals yond

Certainly, as future generation the world belongs to you and it is your organization and the task for how it will function will devolve on you. Yours is the digital age a highly globalised world with all its potentials and challenges such as issues of global common such as the environment, climate change human trafficking etc. It is information and digital age; the ICT Revolution continues unabated. We speak of Diplomacy in 140 Characters: The Twitter Revolution and foreign policy    E-diplomacy; Twin-diplomatic. All of these are having impact on old state craft of diplomacy. All of this is impacting on how the UN will function perform its functions in the promotion of Justice human rights and development. It will devolve on your generation here in Nigeria and other parts of the world in helping to drive how the UN will meet the challenges of the future.

I thank you for listening.