The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has a new president. His name is Prof. Tijjani Muhammad Bande, permanent representative of Nigeria to the United Nations (UN).
Prof. Bande received a B.Sc in Political Science from Ahmadu Bello University, in 1979, in Northern Nigeria. And he proceeded for his Masters at Boston University, USA, in 1981. In 1987, he bagged his Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Toronto, Canada.
17 years into his academic career that started in 1980, at Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto Nigeria, he rose from a Graduate Assistant to a full professor.
It has been a score of success in his many fields of play, which didn’t stop when he became the permanent representative of Nigeria to the UN. He served as the Vice President of the General Assembly during the 71st session, and also as the Chairperson of the UN Special Committee on Peace keeping Operations (C34), and was a member of the Advisory Board of the UN Counter-Terrorism Center and the Chairperson of ECOWAS Group in 2018/19.
This is the man who has ascended the presidential seat of the United Nations General Assembly. But a lot of challenges await him, though members of the General Assembly believe he has the prodigy to handle them.
It’s been decades since many members of the UNGA began looking for a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), pushing for reforms that will accommodate other members who seem qualified to take a seat.
Year after year, the negotiation for reform gets pushed over, irritating member countries who believe it’s long overdue. India, Germany, Japan and Brazil, all share the view of the need for reform. The opportunity for reform, based on Intergovernmental Negotiation (IGN), passed by in September following the inability of the preceding President, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, to bring members to a table of agreement.
As Muhammad Bande takes the baton, pressure beckons on him to pull resources together to effect the reform. India, who has criticized Co-Chairs of the IGN for exclusionary approach to the UNSC reforms, has expressed confidence that Muhammad Bande, being an African, will get the job done.
The general reform needed in the UN has been stalled by the inability of IGN to reach a workable consensus on the UNSC reforms: a fact Muhammad Bande acknowledged.
“Negotiations are continuing and they will continue. We will try to hasten those negotiations in the spirit of fairness and in the spirit that an organization 73 years later cannot continue to talk the same language that was spoken 50 – 70 years ago.” He said.
Africa is also pushing to have a permanent member representation in the UNSC, which has made the reform a global goal. But the UNGA President acknowledged that such a goal can only be attained when there is fairness.
“It is a consensus element involving Member States. Progress is being made, we will continue to push this and at some point we will get to the point where the Security Council will be more democratic and more efficient.” He said
He promised that the report of the IGN’s draft will be studied as he pushes to see if there could be compromise among Member States so that the differences could be minimized to the degree of a possible solution.
There are also the challenges of peace and security, hunger, health etc.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for these challenges have been falling short. And there is need to double effort if they are to be attained.
For instance, the 2030, Zero Hunger SDG benchmark is far from being a reality. As a result of economic lapses around the world, especially in Africa and Asia. The number of people who go to bed hungry has increased from about 700 million last year to 820 million this year. The need to double up efforts to quell it has become a responsibility the UNGA has to take by spurring member countries to implement sustainable economic policies.