Is Africa in dire need of the UN?

Some African leaders have voiced concerns that the United Nations (UN) has been reduced to a ‘colonial tool’ and they feel time is rife for African nations to quit from the body that has been in existence for 70 years.

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and other African leaders have been pushing for Africa to have at least two permanent seats in the Security Council, with equal veto power, arguing that Africa’s 54-member countries justify the need for a say in crucial decisions, many of which affect the continent.

Among President Mugabe’s biggest complaint is the absence of Africa in the crucial decision-making Security Council, which comprises five permanent members with veto power – the U.S., France, Britain, China and Russia – while the rest of the countries serve on a rotational basis, with little influence.

Failure by the UN to reform and include Africa’s request, President Mugabe in January during the Opening ceremony of the 26 ordinary of the African Union Summit in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, suggested a mass exodus of African countries from the body.

 AfricanQuarters in Nairobi spoke to Sidharth Chatterjee, UNFPA Representative to Kenya and acting UN Resident Coordinator.

Mr. Chatterjee reckons that the UN has had challenges in discharging its mandate in African economies however he maintains that the UN body is what Africa needs more than before and it cannot be wished away.

He denies colonial tendencies in discharging the UN mandate in Africa and says those who want to quit will be making grievous mistake.

” UN is multifaceted where the agencies are working diligently and at the frontline of these disasters, providing food, water relief, health immunization, education services even under the trying moment. The UN’s impact on Africa’s socio political and economic development is significant.” said Mr. Chatterjee in his office at the UN headquarters.

UN leadership is now calling on political good will and sound policies to lift from extreme poverty over 400 million people by 2030 in least Developed Countries.

” Africa needs the UN more than 50 years ago to realize the development in economy, political, cultural and social issues.” Added Mr. Chatterjee

UN inception and achievements

The UN was founded at the end of World War II in 1945 and one of its aim’s was to end colonialism, but its presence in the African continent is today raising questions whether the UN is taking over Africa.

As of 31 August 2015 the UN had 90,889 troops attempting to keep the peace with 13,550 police and 1,806 military observers according to the UN official data.

In the recent past the UN has been active in keeping peace in seven African states experiencing incessant wars including the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Somalia, Liberia or Sierra Leone, Sudan, Burundi and Central African Republic among others.

Currently the United Nations has vast responsibilities across the continent.
Its refugee agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, looks after over 2.5 million Africans.

Some refugee camps have been in existence for years, like those housing nearly half a million people in Tanzania, who have since gradually returned to DR Congo and Burundi.
The UN steps in when governments fail.

He expects Africa to maximize on the growth opportunities provided by the UN to attain high standards of the developed continents. But he says Africa needs to eradicate corruption which has become a worldwide scourge.

Africa’s young population the hope of the future
Mr. Chatterjee says Africa is gifted with majority of young population and by 2020 the average age will be between 28-30years.

He says for the economic super powers to flourish in the world today, they tapped the potential of the young population through ‘FOUR Es’- Education, Employment ,Empowerment and Equity.

The UN according to Chattejee expects Africa to become the richest continent in the world in the next 30 years since it has all the required resources also if it implements the ‘FOUR Es’ Strategy.

” Africa has all it requires for advancement of its economy to enjoy the demographic dividend, but remember this benefit has a limited lifespan of 30 years. Just like Asian tigers, United States, Europe and Japan they all excelled by taking advantage of the young generation in ensuring they are massively employed. This is one area the UN is also concerned about and not re-colonizing Africa.” Says Mr. Chatterjee.

Challenges

In recent months, numerous allegations have emerged of peacekeeper abuse of vulnerable residents. Human Rights Watch issued a report documenting the cases of women and girls allegedly raped or sexually exploited by U.N. peacekeepers in late 2015 in the central city of Bambari in Central African Republic. Amnesty International said last August that it had obtained evidence of a U.N. peacekeeper’s rape of a 12-year-old girl in the capital.

While the U.N. has had its share of successes, its aging structure has struggled with new threats like Ebola and terrorist groups that control large areas of its member countries. U.N. members have been discussing change for decades, but agreement has proven impossible because of competing interests.

The same five countries — the victors of World War II — have been the power players since 1945: the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France. They are the only permanent members of the powerful, 15-seat Security Council. Each has veto power, which has led to near-paralysis at the council on some major crises like Syria and Ukraine.

Critics say the council simply doesn’t represent the world today. At its inception, the U.N. had 51 member states. It now has 193, many of them clamoring for more clout. All countries are represented in the General Assembly, but that body can only pass non binding resolutions.

Often mentioned as countries deserving of permanent Security Council seats are Germany, Japan, India, South Africa, Nigeria and Brazil. But there are no signs the big five intend to give up any power or share it with more countries.

The U.N. has 15 autonomous agencies, 11 semi-autonomous funds and programs, and numerous other bodies. There is no central entity to oversee them all. The secretary-general, currently Ban Ki-moon, can try to coordinate their actions but he has no authority over many of them.

The cumbersome structure was recently blamed for the World Health Organization’s delay in recognizing the Ebola epidemic. The WHO’s country directors in Africa report to the Africa regional director, not WHO headquarters in Geneva. And the WHO’s director in Geneva does not report to the secretary-general in New York.

Critics say the world has changed dramatically since the United Nations was established after World War II, but the organization has not adapted to reflect the 21st century. Well, how is the future of Africa with or without the UN’s support?

 

– AfricanQuarters, Wamoyi. M. M

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