Category Archives: Op-ed

Time to say “for every child in Ghana, let’s be fair.”

Accra, 9 May 2017 – Walk past any school yard with a group of children playing their favourite game, and it won’t be long before you hear the phrase, “It’s not fair! It’s not fair!”

As adults, we hardly say this. Not because we see less injustice as we grow up, rather society teaches us to become more accepting of the fact that sometimes life is just not fair. The issue though, is that if we do not call out unfairness for what it is, we begin to tolerate it. Worrying, as unfairness – or inequity – can also have a lasting detrimental impact not just on one person but on the community and society at large.

Children at a UNIC Accra-led outreach

Unfortunately, the landscape is not equitable for children across Ghana.  Let’s take the example of six-year-old twins Ata and Ataa. Ata is given ten mangoes to eat while Akosua is given two.  Is this fair? Of course not. So what if we were not talking about mangoes, but about the number of times they are taken to the clinic when sick, or going to school? Say, then, on the day Ata and Ataa are at the right age to be enrolled into Primary One Ata is taken to the school and attends every day. Ataa meanwhile is told her time will come and stays home to help with chores instead. Fair?

Unfortunately, this scenario is a reality for too many children across Ghana.  Currently 90 percent of boys and girls are enrolled in primary level.  This means 10 percent of children – that’s one child in every ten – is not in primary school. This is a significant proportion of children denied the chance to reach their fullest potential. And that is not fair.

A child on a school compound

What if within that 10 percent of unschooled there was a child with the talent and ability to become one of Ghana’s most skilled surgeons competing with the likes of Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng?  Or the next Secretary General of the United Nations like HE. Kofi Annan? Turning a blind eye to these inequities does not just disadvantage the child who’s not able to get to school, it also obstructs substantial progress of the whole country.

It is not just education where we see these disparities.  So far not every child has access to good sanitation, in the form of household or school toilet facilities. Every child does not have easy access to adequate healthcare and not all mothers are given a chance to fully understand the benefits of feeding girls and boys well from birth.

How fair is it that a child born to a family in Accra can have up to 100 times as much an opportunity as a child born in Wa? Surely it should be that wherever a child lives in Ghana, she or he has a fair chance of achieving the same opportunities.

This imbalance of a fair chance for every child does not impact just the child, it can also affect the country’s entire economy. The economic costs of such inequity can be dramatic. Recent global data indicates that increasing a country’s average years of schooling by just one year can result in an 18 per cent increase in GDP per capita.

Because a child’s gender, family income, region where he is born and her ability or disability can play a significant role in determining the outcome in life, we need to level up the playing field. The starting line cannot be the same for everyone.  But substantial change can be achieved if the most disadvantaged are empowered to realise their own potential.

By investing more in education and implementing more equitable policies, we can reverse current trends in which the poorest and most marginalized miss out.

So, similar to children in a school yard, it’s time for us to start calling out unfairness. Together, we can say, ‘Let’s be fair. Let’s give every child in Ghana a chance to succeed.”

Let’s Be Fair, let’s even up the odds, so that every child has a chance to fully thrive and realise their fullest potential.  If we do, who knows what the landscape could be for Ghana’s next 60 years.

Written by: Susan Namondo Ngongi, UNICEF Ghana Representative

A Continent of Hope

An Op-ed by UN Secretary-General, António Guterres

New York, February 4, 2017 – Far too often, the world views Africa through the prism of problems.  When I look to Africa, I see a continent of hope, promise and vast potential.

I am committed to building on those strengths and establishing a higher platform of cooperation between the United Nations and the leaders and people of Africa.  This is essential to advancing inclusive and sustainable development and deepening cooperation for peace and security.

That is the message I carried to the recent African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — my first major mission as United Nations Secretary-General.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres

Above all, I came in a spirit of profound solidarity and respect.  I am convinced that the world has much to gain from African wisdom, ideas and solutions.

I also brought with me a deep sense of gratitude.  Africa provides the majority of United Nations peacekeepers around the world.  African nations are among the world’s largest and most generous hosts of refugees.  Africa includes some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

The recent resolution of the political crisis in the Gambia once again demonstrated the power of African leadership and unity to overcome governance challenges and uphold democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

I left the Summit more convinced than ever that all of humanity will benefit by listening, learning and working with the people of Africa.

We have the plans in place to build a better future.  The international community has entered the second year of implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an all-out effort to tackle global poverty, inequality, instability and injustice.  Africa has adopted its own complementary and ambitious plan: Agenda 2063.

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Violent extremism in prisons: Behind bars, but not locked up

By Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime

Violent extremism today presents a chilling challenge to the world’s prison correction communities.

Anis Amri, shot dead before Christmas by Italian police after killing 12 people in the Berlin terrorist attack, was allegedly radicalised in prison. His story follows a shocking trajectory that enables murderous terrorism due to the incitement and recruitment of vulnerable prisoners.

Security Council meeting
The situation in Afghanistan
Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security (S/2015/684)
Letter dated 15 September 2015 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council (S/2015/713)
General Assembly 69th session: High-level Forum on a Culture of Peace
Opening Statements by the Acting President of the General Assembly and the Secretary-General, followed by panel discussions

Cases such as Amri’s show that, today, for the small minority, prisons have become the first step towards committing horrific acts of mayhem and destruction. How can we get this minority back on the rehabilitation path and defeat the violent extremists. While no quick remedy exists, there are approaches that can make prisoners less susceptible.

Extremist recruiters are adept at spotting fragile inmates open to joining extremist causes and who can be convinced to commit terrorist acts upon release. Using the tedium of prison life, they exploit hatreds and frustrations and bend inmates towards a shared ideological commitment to using violence.

Prisons may not help by exerting their own coercive pressures encouraging prisoners to join groups due to violence, threatening behaviour, overcrowding and poor management.

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Why, more than ever, UN Peacekeeping needs global support by Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations

New York, 29 May 2015 – Eighteen months ago, Bentiu, like most towns in South Sudan, was bustling with the restlessness of markets, people trading and children going to school.  UNMISS, the UN Mission in South Sudan, was busy supporting development and growth in the world’s youngest nation.

Ghana Navy on parade to mark UN PKD 2015

Ghana Navy on parade at an event in Accra to mark UN PKD 2015

Today, a visitor to the UN Mission’s base outside Bentiu in Unity State, would see a sea of blue and white tarpaulin tents and hastily-erected stalls. The base has become temporary home to some 63,000 civilians seeking protection from the cataclysm of violence that has gripped the new state of South Sudan since the outbreak of the political crisis in December 2013. The town of Bentiu itself remains deserted, its main dirt road lined with the grim evidence of an ongoing war in the absence of a final peace agreement between Government and Opposition forces.

The story is repeated across the country. Today, more than 130,000 are being protected by UN peacekeepers in seven bases, with civilians continuing to arrive at UN protection sites as they flee unimaginable suffering and grave human rights violations.

The reality is that our peacekeepers are often the only hope for a better life for the civilians they are mandated to serve. In other places where peacekeeping missions are deployed today, there is little peace to keep. In some of the harshest conditions on Earth, UN personnel must negotiate complex threats each day amidst political instability, with large, often terrified populations to protect. They work to provide security in these places, while pursuing a political solution to ongoing conflict.

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“Declarations don’t feed people” IFAD President tells AU Heads of State in an open letter

Accra, June 19, 2014 – The African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government, during its 19th Ordinary Session, held in July 2012, declared the year 2014 to be the Year of Agriculture and Food Security in Africa, marking 10th Anniversary of the adoption of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).

The Year is being commemorated across the continent, in Member States, Regional Economic Communities, Continental organisations, and at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, under the theme Transforming Africa’s Agriculture for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods, through Harnessing Opportunities for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development. 

Kanayo F. Nwanze

Kanayo F. Nwanze

It is a Year that gives “opportunities to communities, state and non-state actors in Africa to interact, express their voices on what works and chart the focus and targets for the next decade towards setting the agenda for sustaining the CAADP momentum.

The 23rd AU Summit takes place from 20 – 27 June, 2014 in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea where Heads of State are expected to focus on agriculture and food security.

In an open letter to the AU Heads of States, Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of IFAD calls on African leaders to take concrete steps towards investing in Africa’s rural poor for economic gains and for ethical reasons. “Don’t just promise development, deliver it, make it happen now. Make real, concrete progress toward investment that reaches all Africans. Investments that prioritize rural people” he writes.

UN Peacekeeping: A Force for the Future

Accra, May 28, 2014 – It was a dark, February night in the hilly North Kivu province of Eastern Congo. At 02h45 a small, silent Unarmed Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, circled the sky around a village in Masisi territory and sent back live video of a group of armed men who had recently overrun a local military post. As the UUAV relayed pictures to a control room, senior military officers prepared to move their soldiers if the civilian populations in the area were directly threatened. The attack never materialized, but if it had, the band of marauders would have gotten a most unpleasant welcome. This scene isn’t from a Hollywood studio film — it’s happening right now with the UN Peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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South Sudan – from cease-fire to sustainable peace?

Written by Ivan Simonovic, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights

We were picked up at checkpoints or during house searches. They recognized us by our accents, or by the traditional marks on our faces. 200-400 of us were brought to a room of a police station, so small that we were suffocating. Suddenly they opened fire on us from two windows. I fell to the ground, and was protected by the bodies of dead and injured lying on top of me. Some of the wounded were moaning, and they opened fire twice again during the night.”

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