(Delayed for technical reasons.)
Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s video message to Osun State University panel on “Social cohesion, equity and sustainability: Time for unity in action”, in Nigeria on 14 July:
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to address this distinguished panel at Osun State University. It is especially gratifying to do so on the occasion of Folorunsho Alakija’s seventieth birthday celebrations. As the first female University chancellor, Ms. Alakija has been an inspiration to Nigerian women and girls.
The theme of “Social Cohesion, Equity and Sustainability: Time for unity in Action” is especially relevant at a time when all countries in the world including Nigeria are strained by the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing grievances, strained the social contract, unfolded governance deficiencies and aggravated drivers of conflict and insecurity across the country. The pandemic has pushed 11 million people into poverty increasing the total number of poor people to 95 million. One third of our labour force is now unemployed. Individuals, families and societies are under severe stress leading to violence and conflict.
Threats to peace and security have also widened in recent years, ranging from Boko Haram insurgency, banditry to farmer-herder clashes. According to a recent report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the conflict in the north-east has already reduced the economic output of the region by two thirds. It is likely to result in 1.1 million conflict-attributable deaths by 2030, 94 per cent of which are children below 5 years. Prevailing gender inequalities are reinforced by the pandemic with a 30 per cent increase in sexual and gender-based violence globally. Just like the pandemic, prolonged conflicts could reverse decades of development gains.
Deepening social cohesion and enhancing community resilience are fundamental conditions for improved welfare of citizens. Cohesive societies are politically stable and focus on sustainable development. However, social cohesion itself is not built overnight but built over years from policies that allow everybody in society to share its prosperity.
“Social Cohesion and Community Resilience” is one of the five pillars of the United Nations Framework for the Immediate Socioeconomic Response to COVID-19. In Nigeria, the United Nations has been supporting to address the challenges of social cohesion, equity and sustainability in diverse ways.
Several ongoing initiatives by the UN are notable:
- The Support to Reconciliation and Reintegration Project led by UNDP helps people rebuild intercommunal trust, heal from the effects of the conflict, and cultivate tolerance.
- The United Nations Support for Early Recovery and Social Cohesion aims at meeting needs of conflict-affected populations and strengthening community cohesiveness, equity and sustainability in BAY [Borno, Adamawa and Yobe] states.
- The Nigeria window of the Lake Chad Stabilization facility led by UNDP aimed at promoting stability in the North East region.
- Initiatives by United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) in diverse policies and programmes that have the potential to transform the gender equality landscape of the country.
These reflect our commitment to help address the challenges to social cohesion, equity and sustainable development, for a better future for all Nigerians.
On this note and to kick off your discussions today, I’d like to pose three questions:
- How can we strengthen the social contract between the State and people, and between different communities in a multi-ethnic, multicultural society like Nigeria? What can we do as one people?
- What if women took a central role in Nigeria’s peacebuilding dialogues? Studies indicate that peace processes that include women as mediators or negotiators are 35 per cent more likely to last 15 years. The latent peacebuilding capacities of women in local communities remain an untapped reservoir in Nigeria.
- What if men led the way in redefining masculinity? Peer-to-peer dialogues on gender equality led by men can help to redefine traditional gender roles and to create opportunities for all of society to benefit from gender equality.
These questions speak to the power in each and every one of us, irrespective of gender, irrespective of roles or status, to bring about change together. I hope they help spark fruitful discussions that bring you closer to maximizing your own contributions — as an educational institution and as individuals — to achieving sustainable development, social cohesion and equity in Nigeria.