Recently, world leaders assembled for the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly. Interestingly, the date coincided with Eritrea celebration of the 56th anniversary of the commencement of its armed struggle. Fifty-six years ago, when the UNGA celebrated its 16th birthday, Eritreans launched an armed struggle in what was to become Africa’s longest war.
It has now been twenty-four years since Eritrea became a member of the UN, an organization founded after the Second World War. Its establishment was based on the premise of collective security where the diverse nations could cooperate with each other. The reality before us, however, is far from this noble vision. Instead, rather than “be called the United Nations…the reality is that we are divided nations and societies” (Minister Osman Saleh).
Eritrea joined the organization after the attainment of its hard won independence some fifty-two years after the first meeting of the organization in San Francisco. Since then, Eritrea has remained an active participant in the United Nations. Eritrea’s commitment to maintaining friendly and a cordial relations with all the countries and peoples of the world was well observed in her engagements in regional, continental and global matters. Time and again, Eritrea reiterated its wishes to deal with the rest of the world on an equal basis and to see an international body that represents all people. Eritrea has a firm belief that without equality and mutual trust, it is impossible to expect peace and prosperity. The 72nd session of the UNGA witnessed the reception of the long held views of Eritrea by many heads of state. Eritrea has always adhered to the principles of sovereignty, abstaining from meddling into others’ internal affairs, equality, mutual respect, and the observance of the rule of law. Many heads of states shared and pronounced similar views that Eritrea was well-known for long, in cases like migration, sustainable peace, respect of law, sovereignty of states and others. As but one example, the Russian speaker noted the importance of dialogue, suggesting the need for “strengthening of peace and security through intercultural and interreligious dialogue.”
The UNGA creates a platform through which countries can share their challenges with the rest of the world so that a common solution can be reached. Minister Osman Saleh in his address to the stated: “We live in an increasingly fragile, unjust and unequal world. A small minority holds the reins of power and wealth between nations and, for the most part, within nations.” In this session, a general concession has been reached among many world leaders that the global order bears a major responsibility in many of the crises that threaten international peace and stability. Many leaders also expressed their dissatisfaction with the existing arrangement of the international system and called for reform. The Cuban representative presented the prevailing inequality and injustice in the world through numerical data, noting that “the wealth owned by eight men altogether is equivalent to the wealth shared by 3.6 billion human beings. In terms of turnover, 69 of the 100 biggest entities of the world are transnationals, not States. The turnover of the world’s ten biggest corporations is higher than the public revenues earned by 180 countries combined…21 million are victims of forced labor. In 2015, 5.9 million children died of preventable or curable diseases before reaching the age of 5. A total of 758 million adults are illiterate.”
The UNGA is usually defined as the “chief deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations.” It is deliberative because it is free to discuss and make recommendations on any questions or matters within the scope of the UN Charter. Accordingly, world leaders tabled many issues including human trafficking, nuclear crisis, climate change, terrorism, and development. US President Donald Trump sought to assure the world that one of his purposes is to promote the prosperity of nations. In his address to the UNGA he reiterated his stand to respect the sovereignty of nations, before directly threatening several countries.
An important undercurrent of the UNGA is the idea of interdependence and cooperation. Minister Osman Saleh noted that “we share a common home, a small planet in a vast universe, a tiny boat in a vast ocean. Whatever calamity happens anywhere in our world – epidemics, poverty, violence, mass displacement, war, terror- it will eventually catch up with all of us.”
People around the globe are faced with unfulfilled promises and hollow words. We are longing for political courage, honest deliberation, and strong declarations. Many cases remain unresolved and many decisions suspended due to lack of enforcement. The final and binding decision of Ethiopia Eritrea Boundary Commission (EEBC) was a classic example of an unreasonable suspension of decision and continues to be the source of embarrassment for the UN. This breach of law and act of aggression not only harms Eritrea, it has far-reaching consequences for global peace and sustainability. Forcing Ethiopia to accept the EEBC decision and facilitate its implementation on ground will contribute a lot to the credibility of UN and help restore regional and international peace and security.
Eritrea’s address called for the removal of the unjust and unfair sanctions and an end to the 15-year occupation of sovereign Eritrean territory by Ethiopia. Notably, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi of Egypt plainly stated that “settling disputes in our world today can only be achieved through respect for the principles of international law, and negotiation on the basis of legal, historic, and moral principles, as well as the respect of the sovereignty of states.” It is time now to respect the principles of international law and sovereignty of Eritrea. It is time for the entire world to join Eritrea’s call demanding an end to the illegal occupation of Eritrean territory by Ethiopia. It is time to lift the unjust sanctions imposed on Eritrea so that order, peace, and security be restored in the Horn of Africa.
Currently, Eritrea holds immense promise. It has broke the wall of isolation and managed to overcome covert and overt subversion. The Eritrean people have demonstrated their strength and resilience and they emerged from these hostilities more determined and experienced. Eritrean people are currently carrying out a colossal effort of nation-building, assuming their responsibility to lift their country to new heights. Although faced with challenges and sustained hostility, the long tradition of the Eritrean people and the revolutionary culture of the EPLF does not allow the country to sing to the tune of any foreign power.
Despite its various challenges, Eritrea is confident that it will meet the Sustainable Development Goals ahead of time. The country is committed to eradicating poverty and inequality, eliminating hunger, improving the quality of education and health, providing clean water, decent work, enhancing economic growth, innovation and infrastructure, developing strong institutions, and promoting sustainable peace and justice. The hard work and sacrifice of the people tell us that Eritrea will be neither a victim nor a pawn and will shed its coats of poverty and become wealthy. Many indicators are telling the economy is growing and opportunities are opening. No longer will Eritreans be tricked into crossing the Sahara or drowning in the Mediterranean, in the hope of better future in Europe. Our hearts, as always, are beating the national rhythm and we loudly sing unending hymns to the glory of our gallant fighters, development workers, and improvement of our nation.