Africa Battles for Rightful Place in the UN

By Jeffrey Moyo

HARARE | ADDIS ABABA (IDN) — Held in Addis Ababa the Ethiopian capital, the 35th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union early February seems long gone, with loud calls from African leaders for reform of the United Nations system.

The loudest calls came from the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed who boldly took the UN to task.

With the coronavirus restrictions loosening up across the world, the Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government this year commenced its 35th Ordinary session, the first to be held in person following a pause in 2021 when the Assembly was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is the right time to reform and revitalize the United Nations system to reflect current global realities and ensure that it is a more representative and equitable body,” said the Ethiopian Prime Minister.

In fact, he said, “it is the right time to reform and revitalize the United Nations system to reflect current global realities and ensure that it is a more representative and equitable body”.

One after the other, African leaders reiterated the need for reform at the UN, with the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa denoting the way the developing continent has been treated unfairly by the continental body in the fight against climate change.

Denoting the unfairness, the South African President said “a one-size-fits-all approach to complex issues such as a transition from fossil fuels that disregards the realties on the ground in Africa will simply not work, and is neither just nor equitable”.

Yet the Ethiopian Prime Minister was blunter as he took on the bull by its horns, demanding a fair share for Africa in the UN Security Council.

“Consistent with our Ezulwini Consensus of 2005, we should collectively insist that Africa’s reasonable request for no less than two permanent seats and five non-permanent seats in the UN Security Council be adopted,” said the Ethiopian Prime Minister.

The Ezulwini Consensus is a position on international relations and reform of the UN agreed by the African Union more than 15 years ago.

African leaders like the Ethiopian Prime Minister have not been apologetic about their calls for the reform of the UN, saying “Africa’s voice on the world stage needs to be heard loud and clear”. He added, “Africa must also be represented on important international bodies.”.

Taking over as the new AU chairperson this year from the Democratic Republic of Congo President Antoine Tshisekedi who was chairperson last year, Senegalese President Macky Sall in his inaugural speech, presented peace as a main goal of his one-year term.

“Our challenges are still far too numerous and urgent whether it be peace or security, unconstitutional changes of government, the protection of the environment, health as well as the economic and social development,” said Sall.

As calls grew for the reform of the UN, more similar calls were made for the AU itself by Mr Moussa Faki the AU Commission Chairperson, who pointed to legal and political limits that impact the powers and leadership of the AU Commission on matters of regional and continental importance.

While Mr Faki took this self-introspection of the world body, the Ethiopia’s Prime Minister disparaged the way the developing continent has for years been downtrodden and undermined in all spheres even as it is aligned to the UN.

“Today, more than seven decades after the creation of the United Nations, Africa remains a junior partner without meaningful input or role in the system of international governance. This is particularly true of the United Nations where Africa lacks representation on the Security Council and is underrepresented in a variety of ways,” said the Ethiopian Prime Minister.

He also bemoaned the way the global media portrayed the African continent.

“Africa is often portrayed in the international media negatively. The endless representation as a continent troubled by civil wars, hunger, corruption, greed, disease, and poverty is demeaning and dehumanizing and likely driven by a calculated strategy and agenda,” said Abiy Ahmed.

In fact, the Ethiopian PM preached more about the unity of African countries in the face of what he perceived as being side-lined in the UN.

“The greatest lesson that Ethiopia bas learned over the past year is that without the solidarity of our African brothers and sisters, our existence as a nation would have been at great risk. United we stand, divided we fall…. Our steadfast unity is the anchor and foundation of our Agenda 2063,” he declared.

Even as African leaders made demands for their rightful positions in the UN, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that Africa was “a source of hope” for the world, and highlighted the examples of the African Continental Free Trade Area and the Decade of Financial and Economic Inclusion for African Women.

Despite African leaders like Ethiopia’s Prime Minister protesting about being undermined in the UN, Mr. Guterres said the collaboration between the UN and AU “is stronger than ever”.

But as things stand, the composition of the UN Security Council established 77 years ago, with the geopolitical realities having changed drastically over the years, the council has experienced minor changes.

In this case, the victors of the Second World War have continued to shape the UN Charter in their national interests, assigning themselves the permanent seats and associated veto power, among themselves.

Yet according to a formal statement by South Africa’s previous International Relations Minister Ms. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane speaking in the South African parliament in Cape Town in 2011, “the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) urgently requires reform to rectify inequitable power relations”.

Apparently in agreement with the Ethiopian Prime Minister who spoke at this year’s Assembly of the AU, then, the SA Minister then said “we reiterate that the reform of the UNSC is urgent and would go a long way in rectifying inequitable power relations within the Security Council”.

In 2020 at the peak of coronavirus cases across the world, in a recorded statement by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to congratulate the UN General Assembly on its 75th anniversary, he said “UNSC reform is necessary in order to make the UN system active again”.

“Leaving the fates of 7 billion people up to the justice of five countries was neither sustainable nor fair. A council structure based on democratic, transparent, accountable, effective and fair representation has become a necessity for humanity beyond choice,” said Erdogan. in 2020.

True to Erdogan’s remarks, this amid the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s calls for Africa to have a voice at the UN Security Council, the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France all have permanent seats on the Security Council, meaning that they can veto any draft global resolution.

In Zimbabwe, the ruling Zimbabwe Africa National Union Patriotic Front known as a diehard supporter, Taurayi Kandishaya voiced his concern for Africa’s weak position at the UN.

“African countries are treated as nonentities or rather perpetual juniors at all UN bodies and being part of that global organization as Africans simply means dehumanizing ourselves,” Kandishaya told IDN.

But a political analyst in Zimbabwe, Denis Bhebhe sees otherwise: “Africa is full of tyrannical leaders and adding their influence to the UN Security Council is simply adding to the influence of countries like China and Russia, countries that have always opposed any global moves to rein in dictators when matters reach the UN,” Bhebhe told IDN. [IDN-InDepthNews — 23 February 2022].

Photo: African leaders at 35th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union. Credit: African Union.

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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This article was produced as a part of the joint media project between The Non-profit International Press Syndicate Group and Soka Gakkai International in Consultative Status with ECOSOC on 23 February 2022.

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