Posted by From Kabir Alabi Garba, Paris, France on
IT was a first-rate victory for Nigeria yesterday as it secured one of Africa's three slots in the 18-member intergovernmental committee.....
IT was a first-rate victory for Nigeria yesterday as it secured one of Africa's three slots in the 18-member intergovernmental committee for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
With 43 votes, Nigeria topped the list of 14 countries from across the world whose membership of the committee had to be decided through the ballot. China scored 40; Japan, 37; India and Senegal, 36 each; Mexico, 35; Gabon and Brazil 34; Peru, 33; Hungary, 32; Estonia, 31; Romania and Vietnam, 29 each and Bulgaria, 24. Four countries - Belgium, Turkey, Algeria, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were elected unopposed. The first two belonged to Group 1 that has only two seats on the committee. Originally, Group 5b had five countries jostling for the two seats allotted to it. But the trio of Egypt, Jordan, and Syrian Arab Republic withdrew from the election paving the way for Algeria and UAE as automatic members.
A total of 44 countries of the 45 official state parties to the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage participated in the election, meaning that only one country did not vote for Nigeria. Bhutan was absent.
The Group 5a, which is the electoral group of Nigeria eventually presented four countries for the election as Mali and Mauritius shortly before the election yesterday afternoon withdrew their candidatures. Ethiopia had earlier withdrawn owing to its appointment as the vice chairman of the executive council that presided over the General Assembly. And Seychelles, during one of the caucus meetings of the African Group withdrew too.
On Tuesday, when the meeting started, the African Group had attempted to reach a consensus of presenting just three candidates. That effort did not yield much result as Central African Republic (CAR) refused to step down. The argument then was that since Nigeria was the only Anglophone among the contestants, the other Francophone countries should be able to present two candidates from their fold to join Nigeria on the committee.
"But it was good that election was eventually used to resolve the matter,'' remarked an observer while reasoning that "Nigeria, with this result, has established itself as a force to be reckoned with in UNESCO."
A similar comment was made by the acting Chairman of the General Assembly, Luiz Filipe de Macedo Soares, who is also Ambassador of Brazil to UNESCO.
At the post-election session yesterday when the debate on the composition of the remaining six seats for the committee was on, India, Luxemburg, and Hungry proposed that each region should have a minimum of three seats to ensure equitable participation of all the electoral groups of UNESCO.
Nigeria supported this proposal, explaining that the intangible cultural heritage must always unite all peoples of the world. And that all members must carefully work towards building a consensus.
Responding, Ambassador Soares observed that delegates "must carefully listen to Nigeria which has just emerged as the champion at today's election, and respect the country's opinion."
The election, which was initially scheduled for 10 a.m yesterday could not commence until later in the afternoon as a hot debate ensued concerning the distribution of the remaining six seats when the figure of the members of the committee is increased to 24. Article 5.2 of the Convention stipulates that the number of the state members of the committee shall be increased to 24 once the number of the state parties to the convention reaches 50.
Fifty-two countries have already ratified the convention. But only 45 beat the deadline of April 20, 2006 when the convention came into force. They were the official state parties to the convention as participants at the General Assembly. The remaining seven countries will become official members three months after the General Assembly. Three African countries - Madagascar, Zambia and Zimbabwe are among those on the waiting list. By the time they become official members, it is hoped that Africa can gain an additional seat.
The election of the committee yesterday drew the curtain on the three-day meeting and participants dispersed with the hope that the new body would uphold the crucial task of preparing the first set of operational directives that would guide the implementation of the convention.
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