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Expectations from 71st UN Assembly in New York

 Prof. Osita Agbu

Prof. Osita Agbu

The need to promote global peace and security, fight hunger and poverty, put and end to Syrian conflict, among others, were part of the issues brought to the fore at the 71st Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.

A professor of International Relations and Head, Division of International Politics at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Lagos, Prof. Osita Agbu, speaking on the New York meeting, said: “There are critical issues today brought forward by countries, member-states of the UN at the meeting and by other concerned bodies on the margins. These include, the character and impact of globalisation around the world, especially on disadvantaged global citizens and how to make this phenomenon less disruptive and painful on the disadvantaged, the increasing incidents of political and religious conflicts around the world, especially in Syria and its implications for global peace and security and the role of the United Nations, the resultant unprecedented refugee crisis and irregular migration and how all countries should come together to address this, as well as the urgent problem of climate change and its implications for livelihood of peoples and sustainable development.

For Nigeria, I believe that this time more than ever, we are prepared as a country to actively participate at the 71st General Assembly. Mr. President is there in attendance with a very powerful and knowledgeable team, unlike what we used to have before when several Nigerians, when many with nothing to contribute to Nigeria’s participation troop to the UNGA meeting as a sort of jamboree. This time around, I believe Nigeria is interested in strengthening her business relations with other African countries and the industrialised countries, especially the United States, Prof. Agbu stated.

This is important for Nigeria as she is serious about diversifying her economy away from over dependence on the oil and gas sector, Indeed, Nigeria is presently laying a strong foundation for a revolution in the agricultural sector, and is equally serious about improving investments in the solid minerals sector, as well as infrastructure development.

The international relations experts said that Nigeria will also host a meeting on the margins on climate change and the need for global assistance in addressing the matter of the loss of water in the Lake Chad Basin and its implications for the peoples in that area and conflict generation. The expectation is that inspite of the present security challenges facing the country, which both the government and Nigerians are trying to overcome; she will be able to attract significant investments into her economy to drive the diversification she desires.

On Syria and global peace and security, Prof. Agbu said: “The world is presented with the quintessential test case of a very complex conflict that arose against a backdrop of history and geo-politics, competing religions, ethnicities, strategic resources that include oil and gas and issues of supply lines to Europe, deep-seated internal contradictions and rivalries that involve religious groups and the military, regional hegemonic aspirations by Turkey, Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia; the Kurdish dilemma with respect to Turkey, Syria and Iraq, and in more recent times the emergence of the Islamic State (ISIL) in the Syrian conflict, as well as the very debilitating manipulations and machinations of foreign interests that include Russia, The United States, France, Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Do you now get the picture? The Syrian conflict presents us with a ‘security complex’, in the sense that it is a conflict with intertwining regional dynamics, and any sustainable resolution must factor this fact into the equation. I took a special interest in this particular conflict, and after examining it broadly and critically came to the conclusion, that it is indeed, a test case of the global capacity to resolve intractable conflicts. It is the quintessential conflict – in, fact, the ‘mother of all conflicts’, as presented and as constituted. Stopping this conflict and finally resolving it, is a major task of the United Nations and the 71st UNGA.

As we have seen, the efforts by the United States and Russia to broker a ceasefire that will last has collapsed just within about one week of its being in place. This is because the interests are deeply-rooted and the major actors are not yet ready for peace in that region.

Some countries are allowing their national interests to override the necessity for peace and to reduce the great human suffering of the peoples in this region, and especially Syria. It is in fact, the threat of the deluge of refugees and illegal migrants swarming their countries and Europe that has given impetus to the renewed efforts at some truce, and hopefully resolution.

By my reading of the situation, what is needed in Syria is not outright victory by any country or group to the crisis, what is needed is for key stakeholders to step down or sacrifice some of their interests or positions, in order to elicit commensurate concessions from others, who will then rein in their allies and supporters. Continued effort should be made to achieve some truce again, and collectively get President Bashar al-Assad
to step down through a negotiated agreement that ensures his safety, that of his family, supporters and ethnic group. I seize this opportunity to appeal to President Assad and also Russia to allow Syrians some hope for peace by Assad stepping down, and allowing a neutral umpire to broker peace.

The Syrian people have suffered enough. In all this, the United Nations is now the most trusted umpire, as neither the United States nor Russia has the moral grounds to lead the mediation.

Finally, we cannot continue to hope that the just articulated 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that includes the reduction of poverty and hunger can be achieved by 2030 when the world is witnessing the kinds of inequalities existing today that are further worsened by intractable conflicts like we have in Syria, sometimes fuelled by external interests.

It will be impossible to reduce want and hunger in the face of conflicts around the world. And in a globalised world, no part will really know peace until it helps in contributing to building global peace. Therefore, achieving the SDG 2 hinges on creating global stability and peace, then people can engage in sustainable production and be able to relate to the land, and become better empowered to attain sustainable development.

Russia and the United States clashed at the United Nations over the carnage in Syria on Wednesday, as air strikes pounded Aleppo following the collapse of a ceasefire.

Meanwhile, an angry U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, demanded at a UN Security Council meeting that Russia forced Syria to ground its air force, which Washington blames for an attack on an aid convoy.

Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, sat with key players in the conflict on Thursday and tried to revive the ceasefire and chart a new course towards ending the five-year war.

Also, the United Nations UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, told the council, “We are at a make or break moment,” and urged world powers to use their influence to help restart political talks so Syrians can “negotiate a way out of the hell in which they are trapped.”

Russia and the United States negotiated the latest ceasefire plan, but Syria ended the truce on Monday following an apparently accidental U.S.-led coalition strike on Syrian soldiers.

Shortly after the truce ended, the UN aid convoy was hit, killing 20 humanitarian workers and destroying 18 trucks carrying food for desperate civilians in Aleppo province.

On Wednesday, heavy bombardment pummeled Aleppo city and the wider province, key battlegrounds in Syria’s conflict, and a raid hit a medical team late on Tuesday.

Addressing the council, Kerry said the bombing of the aid trucks raised “profound doubt” about whether Russia and its Syrian ally were committed to upholding a ceasefire.

“We must move forward to try to immediately ground all aircraft flying in those key areas in order to de-escalate the situation and to give a chance for humanitarian assistance to flow unimpeded,” he said.

On UN attack on aid convoy that was conveying food and drug to Syria, Moscow denied that Russian or Syrian planes carried out Monday’s strike.

A Russian military spokesman said a coalition drone was in the area when the aid trucks were destroyed, a claim the Pentagon denied.

After halting aid operations in response to the convoy attack, the United Nations said it was ready to resume humanitarian deliveries.



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