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UN's role on Africa: past, now and then

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

10-19-2015 17:23 BJT

By Miroslav Atanasov, Ph.D.Renmin University of China

Last week - Oct. 12-16 - is a celebration of Africa Week under the theme "Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Moving from Aspirations to Reality."  Conducted in view of the United Nations 70th anniversary, the event is intended to mobilize global support for implementation of the African Union’s specific development plans. 

When the UN was founded in San Francisco in 1945, 750 million people, almost a third of the world's population then, was living in territories that were not self-governing.  Most African countries were under colonial rule.

In the 11th chapter of UN charter, the organization outlined the principles of humanitarian treatment and development of so-called "trusted" territories; it also encouraged the decolonization and self-determination of all peoples. 

As African countries one by one began to gain independence in the following decades and joined the UN, the organization became an excellent platform for them to have a voice in international affairs. They requested assistance to end colonialism and for economic development.

When Resolution 2758 was proposed by Albania in 1971 to make the People Republic of China the only legal representative of the Chinese people in the UN, the overwhelming support from a number of African countries was crucial for reaching the two-thirds majority needed to pass the motion.

Seventy years have passed since 1945 and Africa is officially free from colonial rule. The UN has contributed immensely to the continent's development with its multidimensional programs which tackle issues affecting all spheres of life such as humanitarian and political crises, health and nutrition, children and refugee assistance, women empowerment, cultural heritage, and environmental protection. Presently out of a total of 16 Peace-Keeping Operations of the United Nations worldwide, 9 are located in African countries.

The current relationship, however, between Africa and the UN is somewhat paradoxical. There is much talk about Africa and actions undertaken there, but there is less talk with Africa. Africa's current role in the UN  is not properly defined in view of the new global realities. While African countries make up over a quarter of the members, they feel far less influential than their other counterparts.

The recent seventieth session of the UN General Assembly was a great opportunity for African leaders to express their opinions of gratitude, frustrations, and wise counsel on the organization’s global governance process.

"Cooperation is the only way forward," said President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

The only female ever elected as African head of state Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia delivered a remarkable speech expressing the needs for structural reforms in the organization.

Said Sirleaf, "At seventy, we feel compelled to ask: Is our world organization hindered today by inflexible structures and overburdened by bureaucracies? Is the current structure of the UN fit for purpose - to play its role in the global transformation processes over the next 15 years? We are encouraged by the introspection, which is taking place around these questions."

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe gave a fiery speech encouraging the International Community to respect African nations and include a permanent representative for Africa on the Security Council. Mugabe said structures should be set up in the hopes that the Africans can benefit from their continent's wealth of natural resources.

The famous Zimbabwean president's speech stirred up the crowd when he denounced the double standards of Western nations. "We equally reject attempts to prescribe ‘new rights’ that are contrary to our values, norms, traditions and beliefs," said Mugabe.

Chinese President Xi Jinping's first address to the General Assembly was welcomed by the world community, especially Africa. Mr. Xi reaffirmed China's commitment to building world peace and upholding the international order.

President Xi announced the creation of a $ 1 billion China-UN peace and development fund over 10 years. He committed an additional 8000 Chinese troops for peace-keeping operations. Xi also said China will offer  $ 100 million of free military assistance to the African Union in the next five years to support the establishment of the African Standby Force and the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crisis.


( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.



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