Author Archives: Oluseyi Soremekun

Prevent Genocide, Act Towards One Another In A Spirit Of Brotherhood – UN

Against the backdrop of deep concern of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres about the rise of racism, hate speech and xenophobia around the world, the National Information Officer of the UN Information Centre (UNIC) Nigeria, Dr Oluseyi Soremekun, has called on everyone to act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood as entrenched in Article One of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to prevent act of genocide anywhere in the world. “To act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood means demonstration of unbridled love towards the other person. It connotes a mutual understanding of ‘do no harm” to one another.”

He said this while speaking at the 2018 International Day Of Reflection On The 1994 Genocide Against The Tutsi In Rwanda, held on Wednesday 11 April at Covenant University Ota, Ogun State.

Organised by UNIC in collaboration with the High Commission of Rwanda in Nigeria and Covenant University, the observance was attended by Ambassador Stanislas Kamanzi, Rwanda High Commissioner to Nigeria; Barrister Segun Jegede, a former Prosecutor at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda (UNICTR) who was the Guest Speaker and some members of the Rwandan community in Nigeria.

Presenting the message of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres, the National Information Officer noted that “Rwanda has learned from its tragedy; so must the international community.  States have a fundamental responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.  It is imperative that we unite to prevent such atrocities from occurring.”

The Secretary General added that “To save people at risk, we must go beyond words.  We must nurture the courage to care and the resolve to act. Only by meeting these challenges can we honour the victims and survivors of genocide and ensure that what happened in Rwanda is never repeated, anywhere, ever again.”

Speaking, Ambassador Kamanzi called on youth to foster positive paradigm and contribute to rectifying the mistakes of the past by being courageous, creative and making good use of communications made easy by modern technologies, to network with age mates across the World, to spread the right message against hatred, divisionism, and any other forms of intolerance.

“As you grow up older and in wisdom, make sure that you oppose any negative influences. Endeavour to comprehend more deeply about the ideology of genocide and fight it unreservedly.”  He added.

In his keynote address, Barrister Jegede, noted that the genocide in Rwanda was better imagined than experienced, but the United Nations was resolute in bringing to account the perpetrators of the genocide. Hence, the establishment of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda (UNICTR).

Welcoming the participants earlier, the Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor A.A.A. Atayero, represented by the Head of Department, Political Science and International Relations, Covenant University, Dr. O. O. Fayomi,  expressed his delight about the opportunity presented to the students to learn more about the sad case of genocide in Rwanda that resonated across the world. He thanked the High Commission of Rwanda in Nigeria and the UN Information Centre for collaborating with the University to commemorate the Day.

 

Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the end of the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL)

Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the end of the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL)

The Secretary-General welcomes the successful conclusion of the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) on 30 March 2018. 

 
The Secretary-General congratulates the people and Government of Liberia for their determination to turn the page on crisis and conflict. He commends the Government’s continued efforts to ensure sustained peace and sustainable development in Liberia.
 
As UN Peacekeeping departs Liberia, the Secretary-General appreciates the essential contributions of all partners in the Liberian peace process over the years, particularly the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), whose green helmets laid the foundation for United Nations peacekeepers in Liberia.
 
The Secretary-General is appreciative of the excellent leadership of his Special Representative for Liberia, Farid Zarif, thanks all previous leaders of the Mission, and pays tribute to all uniformed and civilian personnel who served with UNMIL. The Secretary-General expresses his profound respect to the memory of the 202 peacekeepers who lost their lives in the service of peace during the nearly 15 years the Mission was deployed in Liberia. He expresses his gratitude to all troop- and police-contributing countries.  
 
The Secretary-General reiterates the commitment of the United Nations family present in Liberia to continuing to support the Government with the implementation of outstanding reform activities with a view to ensuring that the hard-won peace can be sustained and the country and its people will continue to progress and thrive. 
 
Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General
New York, 30 March 2018

‘Responsibility to protect’ reforms UN Peacekeeping Operations – Kayanja

“The introduction of the responsibility to protect in the United Nations Peacekeeping rules of engagement was a major reform in the UN Peace Keeping Operations.” This assertion was made on Wednesday, 14 February 2018, by the Director of the UN Information Centre (UNIC) Nigeria, Mr Ronald Kayanja, while engaging International Relations and Political Science students of Covenant University on the topic, “The International Peace Architecture: Challenges for the 21st Century” during their ‘Town and Gown’ lecture.

According to him, following the tragedy of the genocide in Rwanda, the doctrine of responsibility to protect was introduced and it revolutionised UN peacekeeping operations, and saved millions of lives.

Explaining the contribution of the UN to global peace and security, Mr Kayanja noted that the number of wars around the world has decreased as more countries embraced democratic governance; and voices of youth and the marginalised are getting heard.

He noted that Chapter IV of the UN Charter deals with actions with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression. This Chapter, according to him, gives the Security Council where it deems necessary “to take action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security” using forces of Member States but under UN Command.

The Head of Department of International Relations and Political Science, Dr Oluyemi Fayomi, in her welcome address, thanked the UNIC Director and his team which included the National Information Officer, Dr Oluseyi Soremekun, and urged the students to tap from Mr Kayanja’s experience.

The Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ Message on The International Day of Zero Tolerance For Female Genital Mutilation (6 February)

Female genital mutilation is a gross violation of the human rights of women and girls.

Over 200 million women and girls alive today have experienced female genital mutilation in 30 countries across three continents.

Without concerted, accelerated action, a further 68 million girls could be subjected to this harmful practice by 2030.

With strong political engagement, we are seeing success in several countries. But this progress is not enough to keep up with population growth. Unless we act now, the number of cases will continue to rise.

Sustainable development cannot be achieved without full respect for the human rights of women and girls. Sustainable Development Goal 5, with a focus on gender equality, calls for the elimination of female genital mutilation by 2030.

Together with the European Union, the United Nations has launched the Spotlight Initiative, a global, multi-year undertaking that aims to create strong partnerships and align efforts to end all forms of violence against women and girls, including female genital mutilation.

With the dignity, health and well-being of millions of girls at stake, there is no time to waste. Together, we can and must end this harmful practice.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ Message On The Olympic Truce For The Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games And Paralympic Winter Games

In one week’s time, the world will gather in PyeongChang in the Republic of Korea, united by the Olympic Spirit: in solidarity; mutual respect; and friendly competition.

The Olympics and Paralympics showcase the best of the world’s athletic achievements, and the best of humanity.

The Olympic Truce, which dates back to Ancient Greece, allows for the safe travel of athletes and spectators, and demands peace among participants during the period when the games take place.

Its fundamental message is that our common humanity can transcend political differences.

This ideal has more resonance than ever on the Korean peninsula.

I call on all parties to conflict to observe the Olympic Truce during the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Let the Olympic Flame shine as a beacon to human solidarity.

Let the Olympic Truce help spread a culture of peace.

We all have responsibility to resist racism and violence – UN

As the world marks the 2018 International Day of Commemoration In Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust today, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, has noted that “All of us have a responsibility to quickly, clearly and decisively resist racism and violence. Through education and understanding, we could build a future of dignity, human rights and peaceful coexistence for all.”

Mr Guterres acknowledged in his message delivered in Lagos by the Director of the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Lagos, Mr Ronald Kayanja, that decades since the Second World War, “we see the persistence of anti-Semitism and an increase in other forms of prejudice.” He therefore charged everyone that “We must stand together against the normalization of hate. Whenever and wherever humanity’s values are abandoned, we are all at risk.”

Explaining why the UN was commemorating the Day, Mr Kayanja said that it was one of the saddest moments in human history and that was why the UN General Assembly decided that every 27 January, the world should remember the saddest event so that it would not happen again. “We are talking to the students because we do not want a future where a human being kills another human being just because they are different from him or her or they are of different tribes or religions.” He added.

Speaking, the Tutor General/ Permanent Secretary of Lagos Education District 1, Dr O. Abiose Ayandele, urged everyone to treat each other as fellow human beings and learn to live in peace and make the world a better place.Th e Tutor General who was represented by the District’s Director of School Administration, Mrs Akor, added that “We are all one created by one and the same God. No one is superior to the other.”

The observance of the 2018 Holocaust Remembrance in Nigeria, organized on Thursday 25 January 2018, by the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Lagos, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Lagos Education District 1, turned out to be a great learning experience and lessons in tolerance, seeking peace and shunning prejudice and hatred for 500 secondary school students and 96 teachers from the Education District.

The students, drawn from the 99 secondary Schools in Education District 1, were exposed to a Poster Exhibition titled, “The Butterfly Project: Remembering the Children of the Holocaust”; Film Screening titled, “The Path To Nazi Genocide” and a Quiz Competition on the Holocaust and the United Nations.

It was a brilliant demonstration of knowledge of the Holocaust and the lessons derived therefrom by the students. Explaining his lessons learnt, Daniel Idulagbe (10 years old) of Meiran Community Junior High School Lagos gleefully acknowledged, “I learnt that we should ensure we are not involved in any form of racism, anti-Semitism, prejudice or hatred against anyone.”

According to Akinfewa Boluwatife (12 years old) Alimosho Junior Grammar school), “We should not discriminate against anyone or any religion or belief. There should be no room for intolerance.” Naomi Ifeoluwa Okikiri (14 years old) of Ojokoro Senior High School, Lagos, summarized her lessons learnt: “I learnt that as human beings, we should learn to tolerate our neighbours.”

Curating the Poster Exhibition, the National Information Officer of UNIC Lagos, Dr Oluseyi Soremekun, explained that the Poster Exhibition showed what happened to young people, and what happened to their hopes and dreams, during a very difficult time in world history known as the Holocaust.

According to him, “The Nazis were racist and anti-Semitic. The Nazis were anti-Semitic because they were prejudiced against Jewish people. The Nazis believed that people were born inferior or superior depending on the colour of their skin or their religious beliefs.”  This belief, he pointed out to the students, is racist because no person is born a superior or inferior person.

The Quiz competition started with 200 students from 99 schools out of whom 20 students from ten schools qualified for the finals. At the end of the finals the Winners emerged: First place winners were Chigozie Ndubusi and Mosimiloluwa Adebisi (Shasha Senior Community College); Second place were Barakat Adekanbi and Jessica Opara (Ipaja Junior College); while the Third place winners were Augustine Valentine (Stadium Junior Grammar school).

The theme of the Holocaust memorial ceremony is “Holocaust Remembrance and Education: Our Shared Responsibility”. The theme highlights the universal dimension of the Holocaust and encourages education on this tragedy so that future generations will firmly reject all forms of racism, violence and anti-Semitism. The Holocaust was a defining point in history and its lessons have much to teach about the danger of extremism and the prevention of genocide today.

Rejecting any denial of the Holocaust as a historical event, either in full or in part, the General Assembly adopted a resolution (A/RES/60/7) by consensus condemning “without reserve” all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief, whenever they occur.

UN Commits to ‘Leave no One Behind’, Unveils SDGs in Braille

In continuation of its commitment to leaving no one behind in the promotion of Agenda 2030 for sustainable development, the United Nations has unveiled the Braille Version of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Initiated and produced by the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Nigeria, the SDGs in Braille was unveiled on Thursday, 11 January 2018 at the closing ceremony of the One-Week Braille Celebration in Abeokuta, Ogun State.

Presenting the SDGs Braille to the Ogun State Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Mrs Modupe Mujota, the UNIC National Information Officer, Dr Oluseyi Soremekun, noted that in deepening inclusive access to information, UNIC took steps to ensuring that no one is left behind in understanding the global development framework, ‘Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to which both the Federal and State Governments have aligned their development priorities.

The National Information Officer, who represented the Director of UNIC Nigeria, Mr Ronald Kayanja,  enjoined the Honourable  Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, to share the SDGs Braille in all the Schools for the Blind in the State. The SDGs Braille, according to him, was aimed at fostering access to information by all and enhancing a sense of inclusiveness amongst the blind.

“The blind are human beings and their rights to education and other rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) must not be denied them. In line with the Salamanca Statement and Framework For Action On Special Needs Education, I call on governments to give the highest policy and budgetary priority to Special Needs Education.” He added. Dr Soremekun later presented to Mrs Mujota, copies of the Braille Version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which was the world’s first complete UDHR in braille, initiated and produced by UNIC Lagos Nigeria.

Speaking, the Honourable Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, acknowledged that the World Braille Day provided the opportunity to raise awareness about issues mitigating against the education and communication needs of blind persons. “The challenges blind people face in normalisation and inclusion into the mainstream of our society are many. The dearth of reading materials, specialised aids, games and equipment to mention but just a few.” She explained.

Mrs Mujota therefore, called on individuals, corporate bodies and other stakeholders to complement the State Government’s efforts by contributing to the growth of Special Needs Education Institutions.

Welcoming the audience to the occasion, the Director of Special Needs Education, Ogun State Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Mr Elijah Akinyemi, commended the Ogun State House of Assembly for the passage of the Ogun Disability Bill on 16 November 2017 and called on Governor Ibikunle Amosun to assent to the bill to realise an inclusive society which provides every citizen of Ogun State the attainment of their inalienable rights.

The high point of the Braille Celebration was the brilliant reading of the SDGs Braille by Ms Ronke Gisanri of the State Ministry of Information, Abeokuta.

 

Towards a new global compact on migration – By António Guterres

Managing migration is one of the most profound challenges for international cooperation in our time. 

Migration powers economic growth, reduces inequalities and connects diverse societies.  Yet it is also a source of political tensions and human tragedies.  The majority of migrants live and work legally.  But a desperate minority are putting their lives at risk to enter countries where they face suspicion and abuse.

Demographic pressures and the impact of climate change on vulnerable societies are likely to drive further migration in the years ahead.  As a global community, we face a choice.  Do we want migration to be a source of prosperity and international solidarity, or a byword for inhumanity and social friction? 

This year, governments will negotiate a Global Compact on Migration through the United Nations.

 This will be the first overarching international agreement of its kind.  It will not be a formal treaty. Nor will it place any binding obligations on states.   

Instead, it is an unprecedented opportunity for leaders to counter the pernicious myths surrounding migrants, and lay out a common vision of how to make migration work for all our nations.  

This is an urgent task.  We have seen what happens when large-scale migration takes place without effective mechanisms to manage it.  The world was shocked by recent video of migrants being sold as slaves. 

Grim as these images were, the real scandal is that thousands of migrants suffer the same fate each year, unrecorded.  Many more are trapped in demeaning, precarious jobs that border on slavery anyway.

 There are nearly six million migrants trapped in forced labor today, often in developed economies.

 How can we end these injustices and prevent them recurring in future? 

 In setting a clear political direction about the future of migration, I believe that three fundamental considerations should guide discussions of the compact.

 The first is to recognize and reinforce the benefits of migration, so often lost in public debate.

 Migrants make huge contributions to both their host countries and countries of origin. 

 They take jobs that local workforces cannot fill, boosting economic activity.  Many are innovators and entrepreneurs.  Nearly half of all migrants are women, looking for better lives and work opportunities.

Migrants also make a major contribution to international development by sending remittances to their home countries.  Remittances added up to nearly $600 billion last year, three times all development aid.

 The fundamental challenge is to maximize the benefits of this orderly, productive form of migration while stamping out the abuses and prejudice that make life hell for a minority of migrants. 

Secondly, states need to strengthen the rule of law underpinning how they manage and protect migrants – for the benefit of their economies, their societies and the migrants themselves.

 Authorities that erect major obstacles to migration – or place severe restrictions on migrants’ work opportunities – inflict needless economic self-harm, as they impose barriers to having their labour needs met in an orderly, legal fashion.

 Worse still, they unintentionally encourage illegal migration.

 Aspiring migrants, denied legal pathways to travel, inevitably fall back on irregular methods. 

This not only puts them in vulnerable positions, but also undermines governments’ authority.

 The best way to end the stigma of illegality and abuse around migrants is, in fact, for governments to put in place more legal pathways for migration, removing the incentives for individuals to break the rules, while better meeting the needs of their labor markets for foreign labor.

States also need to work together more closely to share the benefits of migration, for example through partnering to identify significant skills gaps in one country that migrants from another are qualified to fill.   

Third and finally, we need greater international cooperation to protect vulnerable migrants, as well as refugees, and we must re-establish the integrity of the refugee protection regime in line with international law.  

The fate of the thousands who die in doomed efforts to cross seas and deserts is not just a human tragedy.  It also represents the most acute policy failure: unregulated, mass movements in desperate circumstances fuel a sense that borders are under threat and governments not in control.   

In turn this leads to draconian border controls which undermine our collective values and help perpetuate the tragedies we have too often seen unfold in recent years. 

We must fulfill our basic obligations to safeguard the lives and human rights of those migrants that the existing system has failed.

 We must take urgent action to assist those now trapped in transit camps, or at risk of slavery, or facing situations of acute violence, whether in North Africa or Central America.  We have to envisage ambitious international action to resettle those with nowhere to go.

 We should also take steps – through development aid, climate mitigation efforts and conflict prevention – to avoid such unregulated large movements of people in future.  Migration should not mean suffering. 

We must aim for a world in which we can celebrate migration’s contributions to prosperity, development and international unity.  It is in our collective power to achieve this goal.  This year’s global compact can be a milestone on the road to making migration truly work for all. 

The author is Secretary-General of the United Nations

I am issuing an alert — a red alert for our world – Antonio Guterres

Dear friends around the world, Happy New Year.

When I took office one year ago, I appealed for 2017 to be a year for peace.

Unfortunately – in fundamental ways, the world has gone in reverse.

On New Year’s Day 2018, I am not issuing an appeal. 

I am issuing an alert — a red alert for our world

Conflicts have deepened and new dangers have emerged.

Global anxieties about nuclear weapons are the highest since the Cold War.

Climate change is moving faster than we are.

Inequalities are growing.

We see horrific violations of human rights.

Nationalism and xenophobia are on the rise.

As we begin 2018, I call for unity.

I truly believe we can make our world more safe and secure.

We can settle conflicts, overcome hatred and defend shared values.

But we can only do that together.

I urge leaders everywhere to make this New Year’s resolution:

Narrow the gaps.  Bridge the divides. Rebuild trust by bringing people together around common goals.

Unity is the path.

Our future depends on it.

I wish you peace and health in 2018.  Thank you.  Shokran.  Xie Xie.  Merci.  Spasiba.  Gracias.  Obrigado.

Women’s rights are human rights – UNIC says as ‘Orange the world’ campaign lands in Zaria

It was an onset of the harmattan season on a dusty December morning in Zaria, Kaduna State, North-West Nigeria. The students, all girls, arrived in droves, eager to participate and host an educational briefing on the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence in their school, Government Girls Secondary School, Fada Zaria City. The educational briefing was organised by the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Lagos in collaboration with UN Women and Arewa Women And Youth Empowerment (AWAYE) Foundation.

Excited by the gift of thousands of orange scarfs and a few branded T-shirts to ‘Orange the world’, the students, numbering over 2,500, assembled and carved out a space for their drama presentation on ending violence against women and girls. They set the ball rolling quickly and set the stage on fire as they highlighted, through drama presentation, issues of domestic violence, sexual harassment in school, girl-child labour, and challenges of girls’ health, among others. In all these, the importance of the traditional institution was emphasised as the Emir’s scene was constantly on the front burner.

“Women’s rights are human rights. When a woman’s rights are violated, then her human rights have been infringed upon. Today we bring the message of ending violence against women & girls.” The National Information Officer of the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Lagos, Dr Oluseyi Soremekun, took the cue from the drama presentations. He emphasised that domestic violence was not a family affairs but a human rights issue.

He noted that the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence started on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and would end on 10 December, the Human Rights Day. Explaining the 2017 theme, ‘Leave No One Behind: End Violence Against Women and Girls’, Dr Soremekun said that it ‘reinforces the UNiTE Campaign’s commitment to a world free from violence for all women and girls around the world, while reaching the most underserved and marginalized, including refugees, migrants, minorities, indigenous peoples, and populations affected by conflict and natural disasters, amongst others, first.’

According to him, leaving no one behind, specifically women and girls that are threatened by or are suffering violence, or have been subjected to it in the past, requires resources, policies, commitments and programmes that focus on reaching the most marginalized communities. To end violence against women and bring change, the National Information Officer urged the students to raise their voices and speak out against any act of gender-based violence.

Speaking, Ms Iris Nxumalo, representing UN Women, highlighted the need for determination to speak out and bring change. She urged everyone, “Let’s Say ‘NO’ and UNiTE to End Violence Against Women and Girls during and after the 16 days of activism period.”

Addressing the students, the Principal of Government Girls Secondary School, Fada Zaria, Hajiya Safiya Abdul, thanked the UN team for the educational programme and informed the students that all women and girls deserve to live a life free from violence and fear. She implored them to report any act of gender-based violence directed at them.

In her remarks, the Founder of AWAYE, Hajiya Laila Muhammad urged the students to speak out against gender-based violence. The 16 days started on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and ends on 10 December, the Human Rights Day.