Kigali– Just over 75 years ago, on June 26, 1945, the United Nations Charter was signed – the birth certificate of the UN and the bedrock of international cooperation, which remains just as valid today.
On September 21, a special high-level session will be convened in New York to commemorate the UN’s 75th Anniversary and to look back at the numerous achievements and progress made in the areas of peace and security, sustainable development and human rights – the 3 core pillars of the UN.
But even more so, to look ahead to ensure this organisation continues its ongoing reform process so as to be in a position to respond appropriately to the ever-more complex global challenges – ranging from mediating armed conflicts, to fighting climate change and ensuring that globalisation delivers for all, to mitigating the negative impacts of global pandemics of the likes of Covid-19, which has upended our lives. None of these challenges can be tackled by one country alone – only collectively, based on the provisions of the UN Charter and the rules-based international order it continues to define.
This collective commitment to this principle of multilateral cooperation with the UN at its core is being strongly echoed in the political declaration world leaders will endorse during the high-level event on September 21.
The clear message is that the UN – despite its shortcomings – is an organisation that would need to be created if it did not exist yet.
While marking the 75th Anniversary, the European Union has reiterated its commitment to the rules-based international order, with the United Nations at its core.
The inter-connected world of today depends on a rules-based international order and needs commonly agreed rules and effective and inclusive global institutions, such as the United Nations (UN) system, to ensure peace, security, human rights, prosperity and sustainable development for all. The EU’s interest lies in a multilateral system that is rules and rights-based, protects the global commons, promotes shared public goods, and delivers benefits for citizens in Europe and across the globe. Cooperation through effective multilateralism remains the best way to advance national as well as collective interests.
The European Union and the United Nations are natural partners. We are the world’s leading proponents and defenders of a multilateral and rules-based global governance system. Together, we respond to global crises, threats and challenges which cannot be addressed by individual nations alone, but require cooperation and coordination based on universal values and rules.
Today’s challenges show that global cooperation is more necessary than ever. The outbreak of Covid-19 has clearly demonstrated this. The Covid-19 pandemic risks having a serious impact on the most fragile But, by adopting a human rights-based approach we can guarantee an effective response and ensure that no one is left behind. The current crisis has shown how crucial multilateral institutions are to global health, prosperity, and security.
The EU and its Member States are the largest donor to WHO and are at the forefront of the global response assisting those most in need to address the humanitarian, health, social and economic consequences of the crisis. To “build back better” – as stated by Secretary General Guterres– recommitting to the Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement is crucial.
At the global level, the cooperation between the EU and the UN system, including the UN Secretariat and the UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes, spans all policy areas. The United Nations is both a key EU partner and an indispensable global forum to deliver the ambitions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to promote peacebuilding and sustaining peace, as well as to address climate change or biodiversity loss. The EU remains a global leader in advancing human rights worldwide and retains the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights, as fundamental principles which are central to the UN agenda.
The EU and UN are strong supporters of gender equality, the empowerment of all women and girls and the realisation of all their human rights, which are essential for more equal, inclusive and resilient societies.
The best way to preserve and reinforce the credibility of the UN system is to make it more effective. The European Union will remain a staunch advocate for a more effective, efficient and sustainably financed United Nations, in full support of the UN Secretary-General’s reform agenda.
Collectively, the EU and its Member States are the single largest financial contributor to the UN system. The level of the contributions of the EU Member States amounts to almost 24% of the regular UN budget and more than 23% of the UN peacekeeping budget. In addition, the EU and its Member States also provide about a quarter of all the voluntary contributions to UN funds and programmes.
In Rwanda, the EU and the UN have joined forces to support the Government’s development strategy and promote the fundamental principle of leaving no-one behind.
There are numerous examples of the impact of EU-UN partnership in Rwanda.
In the immediate aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the support of the EU and the UN agencies was central to rebuilding the country. The EU was one of the leading supporters of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as well as Gacaca system of local justice and reconciliation.
In later years, the EU together with UNDP, assisted in setting up the National Institute of Statistics in Rwanda. With this continued support, the NISR is now one of the leading statistical agencies in Africa, generating key data to inform effective policy making for the population of Rwanda.
Relatedly, the EU has worked with UNFPA to assist with the last two population censuses in 2002 and 2012, giving a critical demographic picture to guide decision-makers.
The EU and UNICEF were also key partners with the Government of Rwanda in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, notably in terms of sector budget support in the field of nutrition, which led to better health outcomes for mothers and young children across the country. The EU continues to be active in the domain of food security, partnering with FAO and WFP on a number of initiatives including the agricultural sector strategy, the Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis, and a value chain platform. The EU also works closely with UNDP in terms of advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities in Rwanda.
In terms of refugee assistance, the EU is one of the leading supporters of the refugee response in the region, working closely together with both UNHCR and WFP. Additionally, the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa partners with UNHCR to provide durable solutions for migrants, including through the Emergency Transit Mechanism, located in Bugesera District.
Furthermore, the EU partnership with International Organisation for Migration has been on the forefront fighting for the betterment of migrants in Rwanda.
The EU and its Member States have progressively put in place an external migration policy which makes the saving of lives of migrants and refugees, the breaking of the smugglers’ and traffickers’ business model, the establishment of legal pathways as well as the addressing of root causes of irregular migration top priorities.
The EU and IOM currently have an ongoing activity to improve the situation of cross border traders between DRC and Rwanda, aiming to reduce insecurity and gender-based violence and to improve the lives of the traders on the frontier.
Indeed, this latter IOM-EU partnership on integrated border management has adapted to respond to the current covid-19 pandemic, with activities including trainings for border officials on engaging with communities in light of the virus. One immigration officer who participated in such trainings summed up the impact well, noting that “that no agency can respond to the Covid-19 pandemic on its own; we have now brought all the agencies operating at the border closer, allowing us to better understand the complementarity of each other’s’ roles”
From deepening the EU-UN political partnership to working together in advancing and shaping the multilateral agenda, EU-UN cooperation is both stronger and more important than ever. As Resident Coordinator and EU Ambassador, we will make sure that our institutions continue to work hand in hand to contribute to realising the development ambitions of the Rwandan Government and to improving the lives of the citizens of our host country.
Joint Op-Ed by United Nations Resident Coordinator in Rwanda Fodé Ndiaye and Head of Delegation of the European Union to Rwanda, Ambassador Nicola Bellomo on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations .
The views expressed in this article are of the authors.