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Advancing the United Nations Development Agenda beyond 2015

By Jeroboam Shaanika
The preamble to the United Nations Charter expresses nothing but hope for humanity. Since its creation in 1945, the United Nations (UN) has championed a vision of people of the world living in larger freedom, free from want and fear. The Charter appeals to, and inspires, each generation to be accountable to the succeeding generations. As former Secretary General Kofi Annan says, the Charter presents a vision of a perfect "triangle of development, freedom and peace".

However, these noble goals are sometimes shadowed by dark clouds of harsh geopolitical reality that sometimes tends to play Russian roulette with the destiny of our planet.

While pledging to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, some Member States have done exactly the opposite. Yet with all its shortcomings, there is no other international organization better suited to be the vehicle for exercising international diplomacy and cooperation than the United Nations.

As the late UN Secretary- General Dag Hammarskj÷ld put it, the United Nations was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell. To people who were born and grew up in poverty stricken parts of the world, the destiny to heaven is not yet assured, but the hell of poverty is the only experience they know in life. They too aspire to reach the elusive promise land which flickers like a mirage rising in the distant horizon.

The UN has undergone many tribulations and challenges; even so, the promising words of Charter have always been a beacon that inspires hope where there is despair. The words of the preamble talk of "we the people," and it is we the people who will determine our own fate either by neglect or diligence.

At this moment, the greatest challenge for the United Nations is, and will remain, the eradication of poverty and improving access to food, health care, quality education and better housing. This is so because poverty is a nesting ground that is conducive for the breeding of all social ills: wars, hunger, diseases and instability. No country can succeed, no matter how wealthy it might be, if it is surrounded by sea of poverty. The incoming President of the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly, Dr. John William Ashe, has chosen "the Post- 2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage," as the theme for the general debate of the world leaders for this year's session.

In order to perfect the mutual reinforcing triangle of development, the world leaders need to demonstrate strong commitment and the necessary political will. The outcome of world summit in 2000 was a declaration by world leaders on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Eight goals were identified as crucial to set the peoples of the world free from want and fear. Yet, the pledges of the Millennium Development Goals still remain very remote for many of poverty stricken parts of the world.

These deprived members of the human race have not tested the fruits of the Promised Land; nor have they eaten from the honey comb or drank the plentiful milk. For them, peace and security remain elusive.

Once again this September, world leaders will converge in New York for the annual ritual of the general debate. As UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon says, "ours is the first generation with resources and know-how to end extreme poverty and put our planet on a sustainable course before it is too late". Clearly this is a Joshua general with a responsibility to lead us to the Promised Land. African leaders are encouraged to utilize the opportunity to highlight or spell out coherently the priorities of Africa beyond 2015.

Failure to spell out these priorities risks a situation in which some countries will seize the opportunity and identify the priorities, which they would think are best for us. Empowerment of youth by providing them with access to quality education is crucial to the post 2015 development agenda. If the youth are properly empowered, they will be able to create wealth. Women too need to be empowered and be included in all levels of decision making process and eradicate poverty.

Doing the above, Africa will go a long way to attain its priority goals for 2015 and beyond. If Africans do not take the initiative, they will end up either parroting what others have said and thus become permanent followers or condemn those others for imposing unrealistic or unachievable goals. Wisdom teaches that eating food alien to the stomach is likely to result either in constipation or diarrhea.

In the Middle East, there are glimmers of hope brought about by the talks between Israel and Palestine; however, we have been there before. Real negotiations should produce a "two-state solution" with Israel and an independent Palestinian State living side by side, under a durable peace.

The situation in Syria is worrying as the people that country continue to be tormented the rider of the bright red horse and more likely to come in the next few days or so. The UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon in a report submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 65/1, urges UN member states to ensure a life of dignity for all. Yet as the world leaders assemble in New York for their annual pilgrimage, the riders of four apocalyptic horses continue to torment the planet.

We need more than strength to pull out a sword from the hardened rock, with which we should confront the riders of the four apocalyptic horses of our time.

Overcoming these obstacles can save humanity form hell and truly ensure a life of dignity for all in larger freedom. Jeroboam Shaanika is a Namibian Civil Servant, however, the views expressed here are entirely in his own capacity


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