Nigerian to represent Africa on UN rights panel

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By Prudence Arobani

Nigeria’s candidate, Amb. Peters Emuze has been elected to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in a keenly-contested election held at the UN Headquarters, New York.

The Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Emuze was elected for a four-year tenure.

He would be representing the African continent on the panel from 2019 to 2022.

His victory, in clinching one of the two Africa’s seats on the board of the committee for at least four years, is seen as a ‘feather’ for Nigeria.

Apart from signalling “prestige”, a member of the commission would also improve Nigeria’s future “diplomatic leverage”.

CESCR is the body of 18 independent experts that monitors countries’ compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of citizens by its States parties.

The committee was established under ECOSOC Resolution 1985/17 of May 28, 1985, to carry out the monitoring functions assigned to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Emuze, who entered the race at the last minute, beat candidates of six other countries’ to clinch the first of the two seats for Africa.

While other countries and candidates had been campaigning for upward of one year, Nigeria’s candidate just jumped into the ring barely two months to the election.

The seats were keenly contested against Nigeria by Algeria, Sudan, Niger, Uganda, Cameroon and Mauritius.

However, Cameroon withdrew at the last minute while Mauritius’ candidate defeated Algeria’s in a run-off to clinch the second seat for Africa.

Fielding candidates for CESCR would require the country’s permanent mission to the UN.

In this instance, the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the UN at New York and Geneva, in conjunction with all the 54 Nigerian missions in ECOSOC member states, coordinated the process and canvassed for votes for the position.

Nigeria’s Ambassador/Permanent Representative to the UN, Prof. Tijjani Bande, personally wrote to all the 54-Member States of ECOSOC, seeking their support for Nigeria’s candidate.

He also followed with reminders to the countries.

Nigeria’s Ambassador/Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Samson Itegboje, said it became impossible to get countries to step down for Nigeria, as all of them wanted to “go for broke”.

“The victory has raised our profile on the international stage.

“I don’t think there are many countries that can pull such outing, two months to the election.

“We can call it a miracle but it was a result of hard work, strategy and good relations.

“Also, we presented the best, as our candidate has got the required experience including being the former Charge d’Affaires at the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the UN Offices in Geneva,’’ Itegboje said.

Emuze, a retired career diplomat for 33 years, rose to become a Special Grade Director at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and served as Head of Mission at Nigeria’s Permanent Mission in Geneva.

Speaking with NAN after the election, Emuze pledged to ensure that Nigeria complies with its treaties on economic, social and cultural rights of the citizens.

“Nigeria long signed the treaty and that means Nigeria is ready to comply with various international human rights instruments as a responsible member of the international community.

“It is also fulfilling one of its foreign policy options.

“Nigeria is also in tune with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Charter and the African Human Rights Charter.

“So, Nigeria cannot be aloof to these issues of human rights because they are contemporary, modern times.

“Nigeria has always believed in the covenants of the United Nations with regards to human rights,’’ he said.

Emuze had also served in Nigeria’s diplomatic missions in Zambia, the Netherlands, Italy, Hong Kong, and proficient in human rights issues.

He was President, Conference on Disarmament and Coordinator of the African Group of Ambassadors on World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), leading to the establishment of WIPO offices in Nigeria and Algeria.

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