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71st UN Assembly… setting new template for global peace, prosperous living


US President Barack Obama addresses the 71st session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York September 20, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON

US President Barack Obama addresses the 71st session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York September 20, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON

Difficult as it may seem to accept, in view of tha acrimony that has gone on, the fundamental gain of the on-going 71st United Nations General Assembly in New York, United States of America is the resolve to resist all attempts to endanger global peace. There seems to have been a renewed commitment by the world leaders attending the summit towards achieving 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

This is in addition, to focus on efforts, specifically by the African leaders to reinvigorate with pragmatism, the concept of ‘Africa Rising’ as a dominant theme in conversations about the global economy.

Ironically, Nigeria, despite undergoing recession, has offered to lead this new campaign of making the concept of ‘Africa Rising’ a reality.

But the curtain raiser, tailoring the minds of the world leaders attending the summit towards achieving this goal of global peace came from the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon in his opening address at the start of the meeting last Monday.

Those cacophonic voices of wars, according to the UN scribe, are being propagated by those with “dangerously self-serving interests.”

The choice of: “Refugees and Migrants”: as the theme of the summit, Ki-moon noted, “represents a break through at a breaking point.”

And with so many shrill voices dominating the debate, governments from around the world, he believed, “are responding in measured tones that can yield real results if promises are kept.”

His narrative of current situation is highly disturbing.
“There are 244 million migrants in the world. More than 65 million people are now forcibly displaced. Half of them are children. Refugees running for their lives too often face grave dangers on their journey to safety.

When they arrive, many suffer discrimination and even detention. Facing difficulties in a mobile world, they often travel farther in search of safety and stability. But legal pathways are scarce, and unscrupulous smugglers take advantage, charging exorbitant sums for a risky chance to escape.

“Wars are lasting longer and refugees are finding it harder to return home – with the length of displacement in some cases stretching across generations. Contrary to prevailing impressions, the vast majority of refugees are not in rich countries; 86 per cent are in the developing world. And the poorer countries hosting refugees do not receive nearly enough help.”

As the first-ever gathering of top leaders to discuss refugees and migrants, Ki-moon is optimistic that the outcome of the summit – the New York Declaration – would be seen in the wider context of new and ambitious international efforts to improve conditions where people live so they are not forced to leave.

“Central to this is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, our global plan for peace and prosperity on a healthy planet. We are also pushing to prevent and resolve conflicts – and to sustain peace once the guns fall salient,” he said.

While acknowledging the enormity of the challenges, he counseled world leaders to also look at the benefits. “With the right approach, refugees and migrants can bring benefits to both their adoptive societies and their home countries.”

On his part, U.S. President, Barack Obama called on leaders to work together while criticizing those who seek a “simple rejection of global integration.”

President Obama insisted global integration would be impossible “if our desire to preserve our identities gives way to an impulse to dehumanize or dominate another group. If our religion leads us to persecute those of another faith, if we jail or beat people who are gay, if our traditions lead us to prevent girls from going to school, if we discriminate on the basis of race or tribe or ethnicity, then the fragile bonds of civilization will fray.”

According to him, “The world is too small, we are too packed together, for us to be able to resort to those old ways of thinking.”

Characteristic of Obama, his presentation on Tuesday in flowing narrative, now dubbed as his final address to the UN General Assembly captured those threats to global peace with suggestions of way out.

It reads in part: “And yet, around the globe we are seeing the same forces of global integration that have made us interdependent also expose deep fault lines in the existing international order. We see it in the headlines every day. “Around the world, refugees flow across borders in flight from brutal conflict. Financial disruptions continue to weigh upon our workers and entire communities. Across vast swaths of the Middle East, basic security, basic order has broken down.

“We see too many governments muzzling journalists, and quashing dissent, and censoring the flow of information. Terrorist networks use social media to prey upon the minds of our youth, endangering open societies and spurring anger against innocent immigrants and Muslims. Powerful nations contest the constraints placed on them by international law.

This is the paradox that defines our world today.
“A quarter century after the end of the Cold War, the world is by many measures less violent and more prosperous than ever before, and yet our societies are filled with uncertainty, and unease, and strife. Despite enormous progress, as people lose trust in institutions, governing becomes more difficult and tensions between nations become more quick to surface.

“And so I believe that at this moment we all face a choice. We can choose to press forward with a better model of cooperation and integration.

“I want to suggest to you today that we must go forward, and not backward. I believe that as imperfect as they are, the principles of open markets and accountable governance, of democracy and human rights and international law that we have forged remain the firmest foundation for human progress in this century. I make this argument not based on theory or ideology, but on facts — facts that all too often, we forget in the immediacy of current events.
Here’s the most important fact: The integration of our global economy has made life better for billions of men, women and children. Over the last 25 years, the number of people living in extreme poverty has been cut from nearly 40 percent of humanity to under 10 percent. That’s unprecedented. And it’s not an abstraction. It means children have enough to eat; mothers don’t die in childbirth.

“Meanwhile, cracking the genetic code promises to cure diseases that have plagued us for centuries. The Internet can deliver the entirety of human knowledge to a young girl in a remote village on a single hand-held device. In medicine and in manufacturing, in education and communications, we’re experiencing a transformation of how human beings live on a scale that recalls the revolutions in agriculture and industry. And as a result, a person born today is more likely to be healthy, to live longer, and to have access to opportunity than at any time in human history.
Moreover, the collapse of colonialism and communism has allowed more people than ever before to live with the freedom to choose their leaders. Despite the real and troubling areas where freedom appears in retreat, the fact remains that the number of democracies around the world has nearly doubled in the last 25 years.

In remote corners of the world, citizens are demanding respect for the dignity of all people no matter their gender, or race, or religion, or disability, or sexual orientation, and those who deny others dignity are subject to public reproach. An explosion of social media has given ordinary people more ways to express themselves, and has raised people’s expectations for those of us in power. Indeed, our international order has been so successful that we take it as a given that great powers no longer fight world wars; that the end of the Cold War lifted the shadow of nuclear Armageddon; that the battlefields of Europe have been replaced by peaceful union.

“In order to move forward, though, we do have to acknowledge that the existing path to global integration requires a course correction. As too often, those trumpeting the benefits of globalization have ignored inequality within and among nations; have ignored the enduring appeal of ethnic and sectarian identities; have left international institutions ill-equipped, underfunded, under-resourced, in order to handle transnational challenges.
And as these real problems have been neglected, alternative visions of the world have pressed forward both in the wealthiest countries and in the poorest: Religious fundamentalism; the politics of ethnicity, or tribe, or sect; aggressive nationalism; a crude populism — sometimes from the far left, but more often from the far right — which seeks to restore what they believe was a better, simpler age free of outside contamination.

We cannot dismiss these visions. They are powerful. They reflect dissatisfaction among too many of our citizens. I do not believe those visions can deliver security or prosperity over the long term, but I do believe that these visions fail to recognize, at a very basic level, our common humanity. Moreover, I believe that the acceleration of travel and technology and telecommunications — together with a global economy that depends on a global supply chain — makes it self-defeating ultimately for those who seek to reverse this progress. Today, a nation ringed by walls would only imprison itself.

So the answer cannot be a simple rejection of global integration. Instead, we must work together to make sure the benefits of such integration are broadly shared, and that the disruptions — economic, political, and cultural — that are caused by integration are squarely addressed….”

Meanwhile, President Obama has also commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his ongoing efforts to tackle corruption in Nigeria.  Speaking on the sideline of the 71st United Nations General Assembly holding in New York, Obama described Nigeria as a very important country in the comity of nations.  He also pledged to inject more fund to help Nigeria gets out of recession especially through Agriculture.

On his part, Buhari thanked Obama for the United States support especially in the fight against terrorism.

Also speaking on Tuesday in New York, Buhari explained that the anti-corruption campaign of the Federal Government and the economic programme of diversification will significantly address the lack of job opportunities and deprivation that make Nigerian youths vulnerable to recruitment by human traffickers.

He spoke at a meeting on Modern Slavery, hosted by British Prime Minister Theresa May on the margins of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA71).

He commended the British Prime Minister for drawing the attention of the international community to such a serious matter to coincide with a time that the global focus is on migration and refugee crisis.

He called for practical and innovative measures to address all modern day human tragedies.

For Buhari, Nigeria would lead the campaign of making the concept of ‘Africa Rising’ a reality.

Until a few years ago, Africa Rising, he recalled, was a dominant theme in conversations about the global economy. That enthusiasm, Buhari decried, “has since cooled, so that in newsrooms and think tanks and conference panels, ‘Africa Rising!’ has given way to a more questioning ‘Africa Rising?” While some of that pessimism may be justified, we do not have the luxury of distracting ourselves with lamentations about our current circumstances. Instead of hoping for commodity prices to rise, African countries should seize the opportunities that these times present — not least here at today’s U.S.-Africa Business Forum — to lay a foundation for the kind of economic growth that transforms the lives of our people. One of our biggest challenges during the boom years was that we failed to convert the benefits of high commodity prices into more jobs and significant improvements in standards of living. Hence the great debate, during those years, about how to ensure that the growth became “inclusive.”

Now that we are face to face with the vulnerabilities somehow hidden during the years of plenty, we should turn away from the unhelpful habits of the past and chart a new course. Since I signed the 2016 budget into law in May, Nigeria’s Ministry of Finance has released more than 400 billion naira for infrastructure spending — more than the total amount spent in 2015.

“In the face of dwindling oil revenues, we are turning to debt. We have begun raising a $1 billion Eurobond, our first in three years. We are also raising debt from the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Chinese Ex-Im Bank and other development finance partners.

“Unlike in the past, when borrowed funds were frittered away on unproductive ventures, we will ensure their investment in the revival of stalled road, rail, power and port projects, and in agricultural initiatives that will significantly boost domestic production of food. For far too long we have under-invested in infrastructure — the most critical element for creating sustainable economic growth. The net effect: an avoidably high cost of doing business in Nigeria.

But even more important than what the government is able to spend, is the limitless investment potential of the private sector. This is why one of our main priorities is creating an environment in which private-sector capital can thrive. We are in particular using Public-Private Partnership models to support game-changing private-sector projects in power, refining, gas transportation and fertilizer production.

Already we are investigating the theft of several billion dollars in public funds by the previous administration. We are not only bringing these corrupt officials to justice, we are also setting up systems to make it impossible for such a grievous abuse of public trust to happen again. And of course, we are as committed to playing by the rule of law as we are to accounting for every naira and recovering them for our treasury.

These were funds meant to build roads and railway lines and hospitals and schools, and to equip our military — which has for the last seven years been fighting one of the deadliest terrorist groups in the world. In that regard, we are already seeing the positive results of our anti-corruption efforts. Long starved of both materiel and morale by the corruption in the military’s upper echelons, our reinvigorated troops have now put Boko Haram permanently on the back foot. Some of the more than 2 million persons displaced by Boko Haram have started returning to their homes.

Just last week, the people of Nigeria’s northeast celebrated their first incident-free Eid in years. Our troops have rescued thousands of men, women and children trapped in areas held by Boko Haram. To meet their urgent humanitarian needs, we are working with the United Nations and other partners to provide food, medical help and shelter. We will strive to ensure that no victim is left behind, including the 219 Chibok girls who have, since their abduction in April 2014, served as a global symbol of the war against Boko Haram and a reminder of the horrors that it has inflicted on innocent Nigerians. Even though the times are still dire, our economic recovery plan is already showing positive results. Investment’s share in gross domestic product is at its highest since 2010. Inflation is slowing; manufacturing confidence is rising. People are seeing and seizing opportunities to make money catering to the needs of Africa’s most populous country.

Finally, our Social Investment Program — the most ambitious in Nigeria’s history — will kick off this month. In its first year it will provide cash transfers to 1 million of our poorest people, hot meals to 5 million primary-school children, cheap loans to more than 1 million artisans and traders, and job opportunities in health care, agriculture and software and hardware development for half a million young people. The journey ahead remains long and difficult. Our double-digit inflation, currency turmoil and downgraded ratings will not vanish overnight. We also know that the current recession is partly driven by the production outages in Nigeria’s Delta region, and we are confident that growth will accelerate as problems in that region are resolved. But the real story here is not the challenges, which are all too visible, but the opportunities. We have learned the necessary lessons…

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