Community Development

Sirak Gebrehiwot outlines UN systems and operations in Zimbabwe


United Nations Communications Specialist, Sirak Gebrehiwot outlined an overview of the UN System in general and the UN operations in Zimbabwe to help journalists understand the work of the global body in advancing development issues.

He alluded to the fact that the UN was established in 1945 in the aftermath of World War II in order to prevent another such conflict. There were 51-member states at its founding. Seventy-three years on, there are currently 193 Member States. Zimbabwe was the 153rd nation to join, on 25 August 1980. The latest member to join was South Sudan, in 2011.

The UN Charter is the constituent treaty of the UN, which means that it is binding to all members. The UN Charter calls for the maintenance of peace and international security and respect for human rights. It sets out the purposes of the UN as follows:

  • to maintain international peace and security;
  • to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of sovereign equality of all its members;
  • to achieve international cooperation in solving international problems and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights for all; and,
  • to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations

Guided by the UN Charter, Gebrehiwot said there are largely five areas of work that the UN does:

First is to maintain international peace and security. The UN works to prevent conflict; to help parties in conflict to make peace; to engage in peacekeeping activities; and, to create the conditions to allow peace to hold and flourish – or sustaining peace.

Second is to promote sustainable development. The UN works towards improving the lives of people, by addressing economic, social and environmental dimensions of development.

Thirdly, promotion and protection of human rights. The term “human rights” is mentioned seven times in the UN Charter alone, and it is really at the core of everything the UN does.

Fourthly, upholding international law. The UN develops and respects international laws, through the International Court of Justice, tribunals, multilateral treaties and by the Security Council.

Finally, delivery of humanitarian aid. To respond to large-scale and complex natural and man-made disasters that cannot be dealt by national authorities alone, the UN steps in to play a coordinating role in humanitarian relief operations. This was the case, for example, in 2016, when Zimbabwe and the entire southern Africa region was affected by the worst drought in 35 years. The UN supported the Government in coordinating the drought response efforts, to jointly meet the multi-sectoral needs of the 4.1 million food insecure people in the rural areas.

“The UN System is quite complex and evolved over time: some would say it is a system that was never created as a system. For simplicity, the UN has six distinct organs: General Assembly; Security Council; Economic and Social Council; Trusteeship Council; International Court of Justice; and United Nations Secretariat. The UN System is, therefore, made up of the UN Principal Organs and many affiliated programmes, funds, and specialized agencies, all with their own membership, leadership, and budget.

“As a matter of fact, the first international organisations were International Telegraph Telecommunication Union – established in 1865 – and the Universal Postal Union – established in 1874 – both of which were later subsumed to the United Nations, and both of which have programmes in Zimbabwe,” Gebrehiwot said.

The Communications Specialist clarified that globally, the UN has programmatic presence in over 180 countries and physical presence in over 160 countries. Concurrently, he said, the UN Peacekeeping mission operates in 16 countries with workforce drawn from 125 countries including Zimbabwe. There are currently over 87,000 troops and military observers; over 12,000 police personnel; over 5,000 international civilian personnel; and over 11,000 local civilian staff; Approximately 2,000 UN Volunteers with annual budget close to USD 10 billion.

Gebrehiwot said the UN discharges its role through United Nations Country teams, which have long experience in the country or region. The UN operates based on a number of key principles.

First and foremost is the principle of national ownership and national leadership. The national government has the ultimate responsibility for the country’s development and accountability to its people. The Government is on the driver’s seat, and the UN’s role is to support the Government and its people. Other principles that guide UN’s effective development cooperation include: focus on results; partnership; and transparency and accountability.

He made reference to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is transformative in that, unlike its predecessor MDGs, is a universal agenda. This means that SDGs are applicable to all nations, regardless of their stage in development. The universality of the new agenda gives it increased legitimacy.

The 2030 Agenda is also focused on addressing inequalities and leaving no one behind. This is based on the recognition that inequalities have risen over the past years and now over 70% of the world’s poor actually live in Middle-Income Countries. The new agenda therefore strives to meet the needs of the most vulnerable and the marginalised.The 2030 Agenda is an integrated agenda: the SDGs are interlinked that no one SDG can be achieved in isolation to another. The inter-connectedness of the SDGs require that that UN provides an integrated support to the Government of Zimbabwe and its people.

Gebrehiwot said advancing human rights (Economic, Social, Cultural and Political rights) is at the centre of the UN System support to Zimbabwe. The UN System in Zimbabwe is jointly supporting the Government to implement the 151 recommendations that it accepted during the UPR second cycle in November 2016.

Zimbabwe has ratified six core international human rights treaties (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR), The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women ( CEDAW) , Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the Optional Protocol.

“Zimbabwe has not yet ratified three core international human rights treaties namely the Convention against Torture, and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families (CMW) and the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED).”

The UN works with Government to critically examine the three-core international human rights treaties yet to be ratified, with a view to ratifying them as tools to augment Zimbabwe efforts in human rights promotion and protection and overall sustainable development.

He said key development challenges in Zimbabwe include tackling poverty in all its forms, turning around the economy to bridge the rural-urban divide as well as provision of quality social services and strengthening governance and institutional capacity.

The UN is fully engaged with Government in support of the implementation of Transitional and Stabilisation Programme and the ongoing economic, social and democratic reforms will bear results. The implementation of such initiatives with concrete results will pave the way to Zimbabwe poised to achieve its vision 2030 to be upper middle-income country and its prioritised Sustainable Development Goals.

In support of national efforts to address the above-mentioned challenges and UN’s commitment to assist Zimbabwe to achieve its commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UN operated under the 2016-2020 Zimbabwe UN Development Assistance Framework, or ZUNDAF for short.

Over the past three years (2016-2018), the UN has been delivering on average USD 400 million of development assistance annually bringing total delivery to USD 1.2 billion (75% of the total resource planned to be mobilised).

The 2016-2020 ZUNDAF supports six national priorities: Food and Nutrition Security; Gender Equality; HIV and AIDS; Poverty Reduction and Value Addition; Public Administration and Governance; and, Social Services and Protection.

UN’s joint efforts in the country under the current ZUNDAF and beyond aims to support Zimbabwe’s achievement of the SDGs and advance the country’s human development.

“Official Development Aid (ODA)makes up more than two thirds of external finance for least-developed countries and the DAC is pushing for it to be better used as a lever to generate private investment and domestic tax revenues in poor countries, and in turn to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The top 10 ODA providers to Zimbabwe are: US, Global Fund to fight AIDS, Malaria and TB; UK; EU; Germany; Sweden; Japan; Norway; Bill and Melinda Foundation; and Denmark.

“UNGA Resolution A/RES/72/279 of 31 May 2018 aims to reposition the UN development system to deliver on the 2030 Agenda. Considering the UNGA resolution, the Secretary General has rolled out a full-fledged building blocks segmented in seven pillars to reposition the UN development system, to make it fit-for-purpose to support the 2030 Agenda,” Gebrehiwot added.

He underscored the fact that through continued support and partnership, the UN will continue to deliver concrete results under the current five-year ZUNDAF to support Zimbabwe fulfil its development aspirations and its international commitments.



About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende