- President Cyril Ramaphosa is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on its opening day, Tuesday.
- The UN Security Council will be called upon to focus on Mali, Sudan, and South Sudan as critical conflict zones.
- China and Russia will once again skip UNGA78, similar to their absence at the G20, but Africa can anticipate being taken more seriously than in previous years.
The 78th annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) commences in New York this week, with African heads of state and senior government officials playing a prominent role, perhaps more so than ever before.
On Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa will become the first African head of state to address the UNGA78, while other African leaders such as Mozambique’s Filipe Nyusi, Nigeria’s Bola Tinubu, and Kenya’s President William Ruto will address important side events.
The theme for this year’s significant gathering, which lasts for a week, is “Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress, and sustainability for all”.
The African contingent, consisting of over 40 heads of state, has been arriving in New York since the weekend.
These leaders are attending UNGA78 at a time when their influence in international affairs has never been taken more seriously.
Nearly two weeks ago, Africa was granted admission to the G20 by the African Union (AU) – a group of nations that arguably holds power over global economics and politics.
Africa intends to voice its concerns on various issues, including climate change, debt, failure to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets, conflicts both on the continent and beyond, global health architecture, the impact of the war in Ukraine on food security, and poverty.
President Cyril Ramaphosa will become the first African head of state to address the UNGA 78 gathering on Tuesday,
Geopolitical differences between the West and East may dampen the spirit of global unity, as neither Russia’s Vladimir Putin nor his ally, China’s Xi Jinping, will be in attendance.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), UNGA78 will not lack drama.
“As always, we can expect some grandstanding from presidents and prime ministers, eager to show their constituents back home that they are defending their interests abroad. Leaders of smaller nations will try to be seen with those from more influential ones in order to enhance their influence. Some minor dramas are bound to occur when bigwigs strut for the cameras,” HRW stated in a weekly brief.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) recommends that UNGA78 should primarily focus on Mali, Sudan, and South Sudan as conflict areas.
Regarding Mali, the UN should “seek limited political openings after the departure of peacekeepers, but should not completely abandon Mali,” stated the ICG.
The UN Stabilisation Mission in Mali (Minusma) has dominated the policy discussions of the UN Security Council for most of 2023.
UN officials have been at odds with the military government in Bamako over human rights abuses committed by Malian forces and Russia’s paramilitary organization, the Wagner Group.
The UNSC is evaluating its options to either strengthen or downsize Minusma, but Bamako has demanded its withdrawal.
Regarding Sudan, the ICG suggests that “the UNSC should express support for efforts to end the fighting.”
However, “finding a political foothold from which to help contain crises will be extremely challenging” as traditional methods like peacekeeping have proven ineffective.
“As the geopolitical landscape becomes increasingly bleak, the UNSC has only provided lackluster responses to many crises over the past year.”
The ICG remarked:
All it has done is issue statements expressing concern, whether it be the collapse of Sudan in April or the coup in Niger in July.
Regarding South Sudan, the ICG recommends that “the UN should decide whether to support the upcoming elections and how to prevent and mitigate any potential unrest.”
South Sudan President Salva Kiir is also present at UNGA28.
Although there is significant interest in his own country, which is currently suffering from extreme weather conditions that are devastating the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable populations, he is expected to unveil his vision for peace in Sudan while emphasizing his personal commitment to ending the five-month-long conflict that has resulted in the displacement of over 5 million people.