UN Secretary General Coming to Namibia

IT IS official. After three invitations by President Hifikepunye Pohamba, the eighth Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, is coming to Namibia.

After a third invitation, which Prime Minister Hage Geingob personally delivered, Ban Ki-Moon will finally be in the country on 24 and 25 June.

Ban Ki-Moon’s wife, Yoo Soon-Taek, is set to accompany him on the visit, which will be the second to Namibia by a Secretary General of the United Nations in 24 years. The first such visit was at Independence in 1990, when former Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar visited the country to witness its political independence.

Another notable member of Ban Kin-Moon’s entourage to Namibia will be ambassador Hailey Menkerios, the UN Under-Secretary General for the Great Lakes and Southern Africa. He is the man who is responsible for coordinating UN efforts for Peace and Security as well as democratic transition in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Great Lakes and the Horn of Africa.

Ambassador Musinga Bandora, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Namibia, told The Namibian that the UN boss is expected to hold official talks with Pohamba and meet development partners, the UN family in Namibia and some Cabinet ministers. He will also inaugurate the UN House in Namibia.

“The Secretary General is coming to consult, learn, and appreciate what Namibia has achieved as well as to see what the United Nations can do to strengthen its partnership with the country,” Bandora said.

The Namibian government built the UN House in Klein Windhoek to allow for better coordination of UN agencies working in the country. Although some countries, including Botswana, have built premises for the UN, observers say in terms of beauty and functionality, the UN house in Namibia stands out. Ban Ki-Moon’s visit comes at a time when Namibia has shown remarkable leadership in efforts to respond to HIV-AIDS and other socioeconomic issues. Bandora says thanks to political will and collaboration with development partners that include the UN, HIV prevalence rates in the country have fallen by 50% in the last decade while AIDS-related deaths have also fallen by 50% in the same period. Access to treatment has increased to almost 85% towards universal access.

Mother-to-Child transmission of HIV has dropped to 6% and the country is moving towards elimination, while funding by the government towards the national response has moved from under 50% to 60%.

With the end date for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) just months away, observers say Namibia stands tall among countries that are regarded as being on target in several MDGs although it is lagging in some.

For example, on the MDG on poverty, Namibia is lagging behind in terms of inequality but poverty rates have fallen to about 29% from about 59%, according to the UN. In education, enrollment of boys and girls is now almost at 100%. In terms of gender equality, the UN’s view is that the status of women in the country has improved with the governing Swapo party recently announcing a 50:50 gender policy.

With regard to drinking water, access is at about 85% but sanitation remains a big problem, with over 50% of Namibians practising open defecation. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is now developing a policy of reinvigorated action to address some of the MDGs, where, with a little more focus, capacity and resources, Namibia might meet the targets.

These remarkable successes notwithstanding, observers say Namibia, which is classified as a middle income country, still faces a plethora of challenges, not least among them eradicating statistical poverty and inequality.

Ban Ki-Moon’s visit is also being eagerly anticipated by members of the UN family in the country. The UN SG does not visit country offices often and certainly not when a country is not in a crisis.

Source : The Namibian