Caesar Zvayi at the UNITED NATIONS—
The United Nations General Assembly’s annual high-level grand debate officially opened here yesterday with world leaders taking to the podium to tackle a broad agenda centred on the theme “Delivering on and Implementing a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda”. The theme couldn’t be more apt given that there are less than 470 days left to the deadline to achieve the eight anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set at the turn of the millennium.
Since 2000, the world agreed targets to reduce poverty, increase access to improved drinking water sources, improve the lives of slum dwellers and achieve gender parity in primary school.
For Zimbabwe, however, while others were fighting poverty, it has been a battle for survival against a ruinous economic sanctions regime that the West has admitted was designed “to make the economy scream”, with deleterious effects on Government’s attempts to achieve the MDGs.
This year, 2014, is the 14th straight year the General Assembly convenes with Zimbabwe reeling from the illegal economic sanctions regime that was imposed outside the purview of the UN system.
The sanctions are estimated to have cost Zimbabwe over $42 billion in revenue, shrinking the economy by over 40 percent with crippling effects on livelihoods and jobs over the past 14 years.
Zimbabwean companies continue to lose funds to the US State Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control that has been intercepting revenue accruing to Zimbabwean companies, most of them reeling from sanctions-induced hardships. Cases in point are the Industrial Development Corporation, which lost over $20 million to Ofac, while a Zimbabwean resident in Botswana had his $1 000 frozen.
The Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company and Olivine Industries, two of IDC subsidiaries, also had their $5 million and $2.1 million frozen by Ofac as part of the US sanctions law, the Zimbabwe Transition to Democracy and Economic Recovery Act while the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe also lost over $30 million in revenue to Ofac. Officially opening the Grand Debate yesterday, the president of the General Assembly, Mr Sam Kutesa, appealed to world leaders to improve the livelihoods of all people and set them on a path to achieving sustainable development.
UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon, concurred as he warned that the world’s “fasten seat belt” light was illuminated as he called for decisive leadership to tackle the multi-faceted challenges confronting the world.
“This year, the horizon of hope is darkened. Our hearts are made heavy by unspeakable acts and the deaths of innocents,” Mr Ban said.
“Not since the end of the Second World War have there been so many refugees, displaced people and asylum seekers. Never before has the United Nations been asked to reach so many people with emergency food assistance and other life-saving supplies,” he said.
“It may seem as if the world is falling apart, as crises pile up and disease spreads.
“But leadership is precisely about finding the seeds of hope and nurturing them into something bigger. That is our duty. That is my call to you today.”
President Mugabe is scheduled to address the General Assembly today.
Over the next six days up to October 1, the renovated General Assembly hall will host 196 speakers drawn from all 193 UN member states, as well as the Observer States of the Holy See, and Palestine as well as the delegation of the European Union.
Mr Ban today convenes a session to focus on a more robust international response to the Ebola crisis afflicting parts of West Africa for which the world body has committed $1 billion over the next six months.
Among the high-level meetings held yesterday was a Security Council summit that was chaired by US President Mr Barack Obama, whose country holds the body’s presidency for the month, to draw international attention and action to the growing and dangerous phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters; most of whom are ironically created and sponsored by his country, the likes of Al Qaeda and ISIS.