NEW YORK—Some Zimbabweans, who have been vocal about President Robert Mugabe’s foreign trips saying he is spending too much time away from home, are supporting his presence at the United Nations General Assembly in New York saying as head of state he should be there.
But they are worried that at 91, the strain of attending such huge events may just be too much for him. His recent gaffe in parliament where he read a wrong speech in parliament left many Zimbabweans worried as to whether the President remains fully in control.
Harare resident, Ras Chanakira, though supporting Mr. Mugabe, to attend what is billed to be the largest gathering of world leaders in the years, is worried that another gaffe may not be too far away given the president’s advancing age.
“He is the head of state and by right should be there to represent our country just like all the other presidents are doing,” says Chanakira.
“My only concern is that may he be extra careful that he’s not given the wrong speech again, otherwise I totally have no bone to chew with him on this one.”
Another Harare resident, Wakefield Mlilo, says Mr. Mugabe must be in America for the UN meeting because Zimbabwe is part of the global community.
“The only concern I have is about his health. Maybe he should from time to time send his deputy or the minister of foreign affairs or someone else to reduce stress and protect himself since he’s not as young as he used to be and active,” said Mlilo.
Political commentator Takura Zhangazha agrees with the ordinary Zimbabweans on this one.
“The UN is a very important institution which cannot be ignored. No matter we have complaints about SADC, about other extra trips to south-east Asia, this one is a necessary one,” said Zhangazha.
“You have to demonstrate solidarity with the global community and understand that historically we owe a lot to the United Nations as Africans and Zimbabweans.”
Zhangazha says Mr. Mugabe as head of state and chairman of the African Union has some business to discuss with the world body and other institutions that would be represented during the general assembly.
The 70th Regular Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 70) opened at UN Headquarters opened on 15 September with civil society and other crucial meetings.
Pope Francis addressed the general assembly Friday and the Summit for the Adoption of the Post-2015 Development Agenda has also started convening.
The general debate in which Presidents give their speeches begins Monday until 6 October. President Mugabe will speak Monday and leave for Harare the following day.
World leaders on Friday pledged to end extreme poverty within 15 years, adopting an ambitious set of UN goals to be backed up by trillions of dollars in development spending.
Pope Francis welcomed the new global agenda as an “important sign of hope” in his speech to the UN General Assembly and urged leaders to deliver on their promise to transform the world by 2030.
Making his first address to the United Nations, the pontiff sounded a note of warning, saying even the most ambitious pledges were worthless without the determination to follow through.
“Solemn commitments however are not enough, even though they are a necessary step toward solutions,” the pope said as he urged leaders to take “concrete steps and immediate measures” to protect the environment and end exclusion.
Billed as the most ambitious anti-poverty plan ever, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets were adopted at the start of a summit that capped three years of tough-going negotiations.
They will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that expire this year, but apply to both developing and developed countries.
The new UN agenda aims to end poverty, ensure healthy lives, promote education and combat climate change, at a cost of between $3.5 and $5 trillion per year until 2030.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the plan as a “to-do list for people and planet” that laid out a “universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world.”
“The true test of commitment to agenda 2030 will be implementation,” Ban told leaders. “We need action from everyone, everywhere.”
Teenage Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai urged leaders to zero in on promoting education which she described as “the real investment the world needs and what world leaders must do.”
Taking time away from Europe`s refugee crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel applauded the new goals, but stressed that peace was a “key prerequisite” for development.
Millions of refugees and migrants are fleeing “raw terror and violence”, Merkel said, before adding: “We must tackle the causes of flight.”
Immediately after their three-day summit, world leaders open a General Assembly debate on Monday with the war in Syria and Europe`s migration crisis set to take center stage.Much attention has focused on ending extreme poverty for an estimated 836 million people still struggling on the margins of survival, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
Billions of dollars in development aid will be redirected to meet the targets but the United Nations also wants to tap into local sources of financing through improved revenue collection.
But the new goals have come under criticism for being ill-defined in some instances and far too broad in scope, undermining prospects for achieving measurable success.
The goals are non-binding, but the United Nations is planning to roll out 300 indicators to track progress and pile pressure on governments that fail to make the grade.
It is unlikely that all countries will achieve all of the goals, but aid groups say they will provide benchmarks for governments in every area of development.
Jamie Drummond, executive director for global strategy at the ONE campaign, described the global goals as a “citizen`s scorecard, to hold governments accountable for delivery.”
“The key missing ingredient is political will,” said Drummond. “We have a great history of promise-making at the UN, but the question is whether the promise is ever kept.”
The global goals call for improved transparency in oil-producing countries to clamp down on corruption and ensure that revenues from natural resources are used to improve the lives of citizens.
International financial institutions such as the African Development Bank and the World Bank will step up with financing support for major infrastructure projects that would have a knock-on effect in combating poverty.- voa and AFP