This year, the United Nations celebrates its 75th anniversary. To commemorate this milestone, UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced that the UN is hosting the world’s largest global conversation on creating the future we want by 2045, when the UN celebrates its centennial. The UN is inviting civil society, businesses, political decision-makers, youth advocates and so many others to share their thoughts on the current state of the world, and is asking us all how we can work together to improve our world so that everyone, everywhere, can live their best lives. The Theme for the year is “The future we want, the United Nations we need: reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism”
Towards this, the United Nations Association of Nigeria (UNAN) in collaboration with Nigeria Youth SDGs and with the support of the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Lagos organized a webinar on Thursday 25th June, 2020 on the TOPIC: “UN@75: Ideas that changed the World – Human Rights at the Centre of Multilateral Diplomacy”.
The following persons were involved:
- Ambassador Olusegun Akinsanya – The President of Retired Career Ambassadors of Nigeria(ARCAN), Lagos Chapter and 1st National Vice-President of ARCAN
- Ambassador Ayo Olukanni – Director General of Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA)
- Rosemary Popoola – Lecturer, International Relations, Covenant University, Ota
- Oluseyi Soremekun – National Information Officer of United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Lagos
The moderator was Joshua Alade of Nigeria Youth SDGs.
The moderator welcomed all the participants by giving the background of the UN@75 event which all members of the United Nations are encouraged to organize series of events around their nations. The Youths should be fully involved as much as possible to explore their thinking of the UN they expect in the coming years.
Dr. Oluseyi Soremekun, the UNIC Information Officer who represented the UNIC Director gave the opening remarks where he started by stating that the chosen topic is very appropriate for the 75th anniversary of the UN. Several events were being planned along with several organisations but with the COVID-19 challenges, these may not materialize but he called on the need for increased conversations on UN@75 through the year. According to him, the Youth is the focus of the 75th anniversary and this is embodied in the Theme “The future we want, the UN we need”. He noted that the chosen topic for the day’s discussion correlates with one of the objectives of the UN Charter at its formation in 1945. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was ratified in 1948 has been translated into about 500 languages worldwide and member States are being encouraged to domesticate the document amongst their populace, In Nigeria, the document has been translated into nine (9) major languages and effort has increased towards getting the Students and Youths appreciate their rights. Dr. Seyi reacted to a comment by a participant by stating that issue of Human Rights is sensitive all over the World and the United Nations will continue with live supports to members States including Nigeria. The Human Rights Commission in Nigeria continues to work with UN organ responsible for Human Rights. He called on all to take a moment to complete the ongoing survey of UN@75 at “un75.online” and Your Photo Counts at “share.un75.online”. Dr. Soremekun in concluding his remarks stated that Youths are critical and key to delivery of the SDGs in 2030. The UN Agencies in Nigeria have increased Youth participation in their activities and events. Youth Organizations are being looked up to for greater effort in executing activities.
Dr. Rosemary Popoola in reacting to the issue of how far the United Nations has performed in 75 years of existence in ensuring a sustainable World praised the effort of the United Nations thusfar but noted that the body can still do much more. She stated that potency of ideas is very important as everything undertaken emanates from ideas; making ideas as the source of everything. Whereas ideas rule the world, ideas also ruin the world (looking at the gas chambers and Rwanda Genocide as examples). According to Rosemary, Human Rights is premised on Human Dignity and there should therefore be mutual respect for one another. She emphasized that “Women Rights are Human Rights” as the Rights of Women have domino effects on other Rights. The issue of the lockdown due to the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic has for example thrown up hazardous issues in Nigeria involving women and the underprivileged. She called for the Government to ensure the implementation of the various policies formulated towards sexual abuses, child rights and others. On Human Rights and Multilateral Diplomacy, Rosemary raised examples of Ghanaian demolition of part of facilities of the Nigeria High Commission in Accra; Xenophobia in South Africa; Africans in Libya’s prisons and increasing child labour; maltreatment of migrants and immigrants and current Black Lives matter. In conclusion, Rosemary called on the UN to increase the project of Rights of Women as she considers that Women Rights is central to everything we do. Empathy is critical to Human Rights while issue of Freedom should be taken as very important in all ramifications. She also called for further inter-generational collaboration to be encouraged by the UN and member states.
Ambassador Olusegun Akinsanya in his own delivery stated that by the UN continues to play a major role in the global landscape promoting international peace and security, peaceful, coexistence, understanding and cooperation among nations based on the UN Charter. Human Rights constitute one of the basic shared values that underpin conduct of international relations. It also derives its significance from sanctity of multilateralism that, since the end of the cold war, now characterizes the conduct of relations among nations. While Human Rights is universal, interrelated and interconnected, it is still subject of varied interpretations guided by international treaties, conventions and instruments that guide global governance systems. These differences amongst nations and regions still subsist but the greatest challenge facing the UN is the dichotomy between Civil and Political Rights as against Economic, social; and cultural rights to development. While most of the developed countries favour the former, the developing nations are vigorously pursuing the later which focusses on rights to food security, shelter and education amongst others. Some other Hunan Rights challenges that UN faces include racial equality and discrimination, Xenophobia and related injustices in inclusivity governance and lately responses to COVID-19 global pandemic. For Africa and Nigeria in particular, some of the burning issues include insecurity, governance, Human Rights violations in all forms, gender violence, rape, police brutalities and extra-judicial killings among others still pose serious challenges that the UN must address on a continuous basis, within broader context of Human Rights universalism and pursuit of effective multilateral diplomacy. Also, the non-state actors, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Think-Tanks must also be carried along in the process. He thanked the UNIC, UNAN for organizing the virtual meeting seen in the context of the ongoing consultations on thematic issues of interest to the UN@75.
Ambassador Ayo Olukanni while adding his voice started by calling on all to find time to read a book titled “UN THAT CHANGED THE WORLD” which he believes will bring up to the fore the benefits and otherwise of the United Nations since it was established in 1945. Amb. Olukanni in response to issue of how we can build resilience and wealth within institutions and people that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19, informed all participants that we just have to accept the new way of life after the pandemic. It will be very important for the Nigerian Government to ensure implementation of the various stimulus packages pronounced for different organs and setups (both public and private). Though the stimulus announce by the Nigerian Government appears low, the disbursement is also slow. Using the NACCIMA’s approach, the way forward after the pandemic is use of e-commerce for businesses and meetings. This is what the Chambers of Commerce in Nigeria are being encouraged to advocate. Amb. Olukanni noted that several international Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have been very effective in the areas of their work and continue to put pressure on the UN Member States. They have had challenges in the works but also have advantages (e,g. issue of Koko Waste in Nigeria in 1988 was brought to the fore by a CSO).
He called on Member States of the United Nations to domesticate various Conventions (example of the ongoing SDGs and Human Rights) not only at Federal levels but should be extended to States and Local Government levels. This is the only way the Citizens will feel impact of what the UN stands for. Various Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) should be involved. He concluded by calling on Non-Governmental organizations to continue their advocacy of the UN and ensure practical implementation of the Conventions of the body.
Conclusion and Vote of Thanks
The moderator, Joshua Alade noted that the various NGOs and CSOs are working together with the United Nations to have a sustainable world. He gave the concluding remarks that the day’s event is the first amongst several others in respect of UN@75 (by UNAN and Nigeria Youth SDGs) and next one which will involve mainly Young People from all over Nigeria will be held on 22nd July, 2020.
Engr. Ganiyu Owolabi, the Secretary General of UNAN gave the vote of thanks.
Collated by Engr. Ganiyu Owolabi