The United Nations has given Nigeria’s Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari what might turn out his toughest appointment in that system. UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has announced Gambari as one of the five members of the Independent Eminent Experts on the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
According to a statement signed by Ambassador Abdullahi Omaki, Executive Director of the Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development, (SCDDD), Professor Gambari’s new appointment takes effect from May 21st, 2018. It has been made in accordance with the UN General Assembly resolution 56/266 of March 27 March, 2002, which mandates the Group to, among others, follow the implementation of the provisions of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, assisting the High Commissioner in preparing annual progress report to the Commission and to the General Assembly based on information and views provided by states, relevant human rights treaty bodies, special procedures and other mechanisms of the Commission, international, regional and non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions; assist the High Commissioner in the assessment and evaluation of the existing international standards and instruments to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance with a view to preparing complementary standards, bearing in mind the recommendations of the (Intergovernmental) Working Group; emphasize the central role to be played by the group of independent eminent experts in mobilizing the necessary political for the successful implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
Intervention has no idea who the four other members of the Eminent Experts are vis-a-vis the contentious nature of the issues involved. As Professor Gambari’s appointment is both a recognition of his own stature as well as Nigeria’s, the way he goes about this task would be of interest to Africa in particular, being the continent with the most claims on other civilisations or races as well as the structural arrangement of the existing global order.
The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action remains a problematic piece of global governance because it contains all the most contentious issues in global inter-group relations such as compensation for slavery, Apartheid, the identity status of Zionism and the Diasporic dimension of human rights, among others. Unlike before the end of the Cold War when culture or civilisation, religion and norms were not considered as realms of ‘high’ politics, they are now the lenses by which meaning is established. Even the Realists for whom identity was a non-issue came back to it, with one of their spokesmen, Samuel Huntington, writing what has become the canonical text for global identity politics – The Clash of Civilisations and the Re-making of World Order. Critics say though that Huntington brought the zero-sum mentality of Realists to the book and was thus able to see only clash of civilisations even when civilisations were also converging as in the BRICS where Catholicism (Brazil); Orthodox Church, (Russia); Hinduism, (India); Confucianism, (China) and Africa’s ‘Triple Heritage’ of Christianity, Islam and Traditional Religion, (South Africa) cohabited.
Professor Gambari who has since melted into civil society activism as the founder of the Abuja based SCDDD is no stranger to the UN system and its dynamics, having served for a long time as Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN, serving in several capacities in that process. Aside from leading United Nations missions to countries such as South Africa, Burundi, Rwanda and Mozambique, he was also the Chair of the UN Special Committee on Peace-Keeping Operations from 1990-1999, establishing a Mediation Support Unit in 2006 when he served as UN under Secretary-General for Political Affairs. He was additionally the UN Special Representative in Angola and Myanmar as well as Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Africa, with special responsibilities for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). Before his retirement in 2012, Professor Gambari served as the Joint Special Representative of the UN/AU Hybrid Mission in Darfur, Sudan. He is currently the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth on Political Dialogue for the Zambian Elections as well as member of the Panel of Eminent Persons of the Africa Union’s African Peer Review Mechanism, the continent’s self-rating mechanism on the tenets of good governance.