The Business Year

Tijjani Muhammad-Bande

SPAIN - Diplomacy

75 Years of the UN

President, United Nations General Assembly


Tijjani Muhammad-Bande earned a Bachelor of Science, a Master of Arts and a PhD in political science from Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria, Boston University in the United States and the University of Toronto in Canada (1987), respectively. As Permanent Representative (from 2018 to 2019), he worked with colleagues from all regions of the world in pursuit of common objectives. He served as Vice-President of the Assembly’s seventy-first session and was active in several other forums, including as Chair of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, member of the Advisory Board of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Center and Chair.

“The General Assembly is the space for dialog and consensus building.“

The UN will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2020. What are the primary goals for your presidency of the General Assembly?

As we look forward to the 75th anniversary of the UN’s founding, it is important to acknowledge the challenges that confront us, as well as the opportunity for the UN as a multilateral institution to highlight its key role in tackling complex global problems. As president of the 74th session, I will focus on promoting peace and security, with a special emphasis on conflict prevention. Strengthening global action to tackle climate change is integral for the effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that will naturally receive my attention. I shall also give high priority to inclusion, human rights, and the empowerment of youth and women, respectively. Above all, my presidency will adopt measures to strengthen partnerships for the purpose of advancing the achievement of the SDGs, in general, and for poverty eradication, zero hunger, and quality education, in particular.

The UN will hold its ‘biggest-ever global conversation’ on the future of the planet to address issues such as climate change. What is the strategic plan in terms of addressing the outcomes of this conversation?

The General Assembly is the space for dialogue and consensus building. The Biodiversity Summit, also known as the Nature Summit, is an important opportunity and milestone to highlight the planetary emergency and to accelerate action for people and the planet. According to the 2019 World Risk Report, biodiversity loss and other climate-related factors are among the top ten global risks for 2019. Yet, 10 of the 21 targets of the SDGs set to mature in 2020 are related to biodiversity, so 2020 will be a critical moment for environmental decision making. The global biodiversity framework for post-2020 is expected to strengthen the linkages between and among diverse initiatives, notably, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and other relevant processes adopted under the biodiversity-related conventions. Member states are still making their final decisions on the timing for the 2020 Biodiversity Summit, its modalities, and the specific issues it will tackle. Ultimately, the Biodiversity Summit will build on the political momentum from the climate and SDG summits in New York in September 2019 to accelerate action. As president, I will call on world leaders to set ambitious commitments for nature and find robust nature-based solutions. It is my hope that this would make nature and climate change mainstream in all key political, economic cultural and social decision, more so, as environmental pollution and climate change pose grave threats to humanity as a whole and to agriculture, food and economic security. Ensuring the long-term resilience of the world’s most vulnerable people warrant making hard choices about the ecosystem. I hope that world leaders will send the strongest signal at the summit on the need to reverse the loss of biodiversity and to protect and restore nature by 2030.

During the 74th session of the General Assembly, Spain recommitted to tackling security within the UN’s framework to face growing global security concerns including cybersecurity, nuclear non-proliferation, and terrorism. What is the role of collaboration and legislation in addressing these threats in the near future?

When it comes to global security threats, it is essential to have dialogue and build agreements based on consensus. Collaboration among countries and within the entire international community is crucial for a successful fight against security threats. The threat of a nuclear war still exists and cannot be ignored. Any use of nuclear weapons would be a humanitarian and ecological catastrophe and will cause irreparable damage to communities and livelihoods. Nuclear disarmament is therefore one of the UN’s top priorities. The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) remains the cornerstone of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime, including the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Next year, the 2020 NPT Review Conference will take place, and I hope that these discussions will provide momentum for a stronger commitment towards a nuclear weapons-free world. When it comes to terrorism, what affects one country affects all. There is a need for all states to adopt and stringently implement counter-terrorism laws at a national level. Furthermore, implementation should not end at countering terrorism, but should place high emphasis on prevention, that is, counter-terrorism strategies that address the very conditions that give rise to the menace in the first place. The UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy that was adopted by consensus in 2006 has in it four pillars: addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism; preventing and combating terrorism; building states’ capacity and strengthening the role of the UN; and ensuring human rights and the rule of law that capture the indispensable role of multilateralism in countering terrorism. The reviews of the strategy so far undertaken by the UN General Assembly have urged all countries to provide full coordination and afford each other the greatest measure of assistance, at all stages in the fight against terrorism. Finally, the impact of rapidly developing new technologies has a security dimension that must be seriously considered to mitigate risks and prevent conflicts. I have in mind the issue of cybersecurity. “Do no harm” should be the first and foremost principle governing the internet. To make it a reality, all states and stakeholders in the digital world must refrain from any malicious activity contrary to international law. They should take reasonable steps to further exchange information, secure services, improve collaboration to promote inclusion, reduce inequalities, and eliminate potential threats. The General Assembly now has two parallel processes to discuss developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security: the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) and the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE).

*Contribution facilitated at The International Economic Forum of the Americas (IEFA).



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