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July 10, 2024

Toward the “Summit of the Future” and Nigeria’s role in global governance, by Usman Sarki

Toward the “Summit of the Future” and Nigeria’s role in global governance, by Usman Sarki

“”Failure is the mother of success”- Chinese Proverb 

Multilateralism and the collective resolve of the international community to deal with the growing challenges facing the world today, will be put to the test, especially in ending conflicts and the suffering of vast numbers of people in Africa, in Palestine and the Ukraine. Other issues taxing humanity’s ability and readiness to find solutions to them will constantly arise, thereby requiring concrete frameworks to deal with them. Global governance institutions are seen as failing in meeting humanity’s expectations towards the amelioration of challenges that have now become existential issues. Egregious poverty, worsening living conditions, growing unemployment and hunger, widespread insecurity, as well as disparities in human development indices across countries and within nations, are some of the challenges that are today calling for desperate attention. Financial inclusion and partnerships have become critical to addressing some or many of these challenges.

Financing for development, FfD, and global partnerships driven by progressive and effective governance at the national level, are judged as the key factors in the realisation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs. The framework for financing the SDGs was negotiated by UN member-states in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in July 2015. The outcome document, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, became the instrument that established the financial aspects of the SDGs. I had the privilege to participate in the negotiations when Nigeria led the African Group in the process. Public and private sources of finance, national and international resource mobilisation, tax regime reforms, international trade, debt relief and cancellation, among other measures, were seen as critical to the successful realisation of the SDGs across the board.

Between 2015 and 2024, much of the expectations regarding financing the SDGs did not materialise. The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak had a telling effect in the setbacks experienced in many countries regarding the realisation of the SDGs. According to the UN’s “2024 Financing for Sustainable Development Report: Financing for Development at the Crossroads”, sustainable development financing gap had reached $4.2 trillion annually, up from $2.5 trillion before the COVID-19 outbreak. In human development terms, this will mean having 600 million people living in extreme poverty around the world by 2030 and beyond.

The world today is witnessing less emphasis on peaceful coexistence and conduct of relations among nations, with more attention being paid to the control of material resources and markets by any means necessary. Competition and rivalries among the big powers are leading to the polarisation of the world and heightening of regional tensions such as in some parts of Africa, South East Asia, Indo-China, the Pacific and Eastern Europe. These conflicts of interest and competitive postures have, to some extent, created conditions whereby global development targets and established priorities around climate change and global warming could not be met. With just about five years left to the expiry of the SDGs, a lot of soul searching needs to be done by countries with regards to their realisation of the globally determined development goals.

In Nigeria’s case in particular, the country’s performance towards achieving the 17 goals and their 163 targets should be carefully and diligently reviewed to determine how we have fared so far, and how much efforts are still required to improve our situation. State policies, especially at the national and the sub-national levels, are required to drive the successful implementation of the SDGs. Collective action on both policy initiation and programmatic frameworks are also necessary in the establishment of conditions towards the attainment of the SDGs. Since most of the programmes on social protection and human capital development are centred around the Presidency, a lot will be expected from this high office to show evidence of positive performance towards the attainment of the SDGs by their due date. 

States of course, will have the opportunity during the United Nations General Assembly, UNGA, meeting in September, to tell the world about their efforts and achievements with regards to the SDGs. Opportunity would be given to national leaders to acquaint the world of the distinctions that they have achieved and differences that they made in the lives of their people in the course of pursuing the SDGs. It is hoped that Nigeria’s President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, will have something to say in his statement to the august assembly, about Nigeria’s progress in the realisation of the SDGs such as in improving the conditions of women and children, persons with disabilities, elderly people and others prone to different types of vulnerabilities.

The 2024 UNGA will enable Mr. President to also participate in the “Summit of the Future”, SOTF, to be convened on September 22-23, by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, during which a global stock taking will be made of the SDGs and other matters. The Summit would seek to highlight challenges and opportunities around the issues of concern to the world, especially matters like climate change and demographics. Economic development and prosperity without social justice have impacted negatively in most cases, particularly with regards to disparities in income and opportunities that have been growing across the world, whereby the SDGs principle of “not leaving anyone behind” has been vitiated by default.

The SOTF essentially is aimed at getting the world back on track of sustainable development based on inclusion and taking into consideration the major challenges faced by the developing and least developed nations, including the so-called small island developing states, SIDS. A common thread that runs through the existential challenges faced by these countries is environmental sustainability and resilience to the impacts of climate change. Their ability to create or develop resilience and confront the challenges posed to them by a combination of these factors, will be a test of their capacity to adapt and overcome their problems.

The Summit therefore, hopes to highlight and give prominence to the conditions that are prevailing in such countries whose ability to deal with their perceived challenges is circumscribed by their limited resources and inadequate opportunities. That is where it is hoped that financing of programmes aimed at finding solutions will be readily agreed upon. Climate financing and creating global partnerships around the recommendations that have been arrived at in various processes such as COP 28, will be more meaningful in providing the needed solutions.

The Summit of the Future, therefore, would seek to assemble world leaders under one roof, so to speak, in order to forge a global consensus on common existential issues that affect all countries and the larger human family towards safeguarding the future for generations yet unborn. What the Summit hopes to achieve are two fold – meeting commitments already made by states and taking bold and concrete steps to confront emerging challenges and opportunities. Within these two frameworks, the scope of the Summit would comprise the following: sustainable development and financing for development, international peace and security, science, technology and innovation and digital cooperation, youth and future generations, and transforming global governance.

It is logical to suggest from the foregoing, that Nigeria should go to the Summit adequately prepared, especially by developing concrete positions on all the thematic areas and subject matters to be addressed at the gathering. National positions on each of the areas should be formulated, but this should be done with the possibility of partnership and cooperation with other players and stakeholders in mind. There should not be exclusive stance regarding the issues such that it may pose obstacles to collaboration and the achievement of desired outcomes along shared viewpoints and convergence of expectations.

It is especially important that one stone is used by Mr. President to kill two birds, so to speak, namely by aligning his statement at the UNGA with the main thrusts of his remarks at the Summit of the Future for maximum effect and convergence. Critical areas that may be alluded to in his speeches might include the sensitisation of the world to the situation in the Sahel about human development challenges and how they are driving instability and insecurity in the region. Mr. President may also highlight the efforts Nigeria is making towards attaining self-sufficiency in food and nutrition, as well as transition towards greater use of renewable energy. Healthcare and education are critical areas of interest and significance in achieving a prosperous future and secured environment for human development that he could also mention. Likewise, cooperation to address climate change and environmental challenges, especially in the Lake Chad Basin area, should be stressed as of particular concern to Nigeria and West Africa.