The reform “is extremely important”, Nigeria’s Permanent Representative Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, who is running unopposed for the position, said on Monday.
“We should really redouble efforts in every way possible to see that fair and responsible negotiations continue and focus on the results that continue not to go in circles,” he said.
“There is nothing as urgent as dealing with terrorism,” Muhammad-Bande said while responding to a question by India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin during the town hall meeting at the UNGA ahead of the election of the President for its next session that starts in September.
The post of the Assembly President rotates among geographic regions and it is Africa’s turn for the next session. The continent’s countries agreed unanimously to field Muhammad-Bande as their candidate, ensuring his election.
Akbaruddin said that India welcomed the decision by Africa to unanimously nominate Muhammad-Bande, whom he described as a “noble” African.
Muhammad-Bande taking over the presidency of the Assembly could give the Security Council reform process a boost as African countries want it to move forward to give them permanent representation to undo the historic injustice of their exclusion and because most of the Security Council-mandated peacekeeping mandates are on the continent.
Nigeria would be one of the contenders for a permanent seat if Africa is to get any on a reformed Council.
“We need to reform an organisation that in (19)45 understood the world in the way it understood”, he said referring to the founding of the UN in the aftermath of World War II when most African countries were colonies of European nations that dominated the UN.
“That understanding is no longer tenable,” he declared.
After being revived under the leadership of another African, Sam Kutesa of Uganda, who was the President of the 2014-15 69th Assembly session, the Security Council reform process has languished during the current session and the three previous ones under the presidencies of countries for whom it is not a priority.
Emphasising the need for Council reform, Muhammad-Bande said: “I believe we should commit to doing what we promised, what was also tasked by heads of state and government.”
He warned that failure to reform would lead to cynicism about the world organisation.
“A lot of people are talking as if this again is just UN talk, nothing happens. This is not what should happen in this hall. Reform is important because it helps achieve results, which results we have committed to,” he said.
Muhammad-Bande was confronted by Italy’s Permanent Representative Mariangela Zappia, who heads a group called United for Consensus that includes Pakistan and has been sabotaging the reform process through the strategy of blocking the adoption of a negotiation text for reforms.
She demanded to know how he could come up with a solution “that can garner the widest possible acceptance by member states”.
Muhammad-Bande replied: “What we need to do is… to continue to remind people that (by) talking without listening we improve the chances of cynicism not only in this room or in this hall in this assembly, but that would percolate beyond the UN itself and give the youth a sense that we are unable to protect them.”
On terrorism, Akbaruddin asked Muhammad-Bande about making the Assembly “more action-oriented” and taking initiatives for moving forward with the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) that India had proposed in 1996.
“There is nothing as urgent as dealing with terrorism, and what it has done”, Muhammad-Bande said.
“As my friend Syed has stated, it goes completely contrary, completely counter to all that this organisation stands for.
“The traditions of different countries stand in the way of a matter that is so urgent everyday, that affects countries regardless of region size or circumstance,” he added.
The stumbling block for adopting the CCIT is the differences over defining terrorism, with some making a false distinction between “freedom-fighters” and terrorists instead of seeing that it is the tactic of killing civilians, including children, and not the ideology that defines a terrorist.
Muhammad-Bande said that it was necessary to work as one and “continue to collaborate very deeply with others in this matter”.
An academic before becoming Nigeria’s UN envoy, he had served as the Vice-Chancellor of the Usman Danfodiyo University in Sokoto and the Director General of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru.
(Arul Louis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @arulouis)