On Tuesday, President Peter Mutharika delivered the shortest of all his addresses at the United Nations General Assembly (Unga) in the past four years.
But this speech in New York, United States, turned out to be the most inspired and it delivered the deepest and cold-truth message.
Such is its impact that the United Nations (UN), which Mutharika weighed on the scales of inclusiveness and found it wanting, has described it as “the best”.
The UN evaluated the speeches on the basis of how they tackled the theme for this year’s General Assembly, Making the United Nations Relevant to all People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies.
In his address, the Malawi leader took global powers and the UN itself to account on their global leadership responsibilities.
He questioned them for favouring some States and excluding others in the decision- making organ of the UN, the Security Council.
The speech was delivered in just 15 minutes and the UN seems it felt the message.
So, in its evaluation of all the speeches, the United Nations concluded: “But it was Malawi’s President Arthur Peter Mutharika who perhaps best captured the true essence of the UN.
“Every nation is important and we all have something to offer,” the UN declared on its website news.un.org. “There are no minorities here. There are only nations in the United Nations.”
The speech has resonated around the world and is among the most referenced in global online publications.
Canada’s Vancouver Courier for instance quotes one of the most powerful lines in the speech where Mutharika underlines his argument that there are no minorities in the United Nations but equals.
“Let us admit that there will be economic inequality of nations. And yes, we all have something to offer to humanity. But those with more resources and power must step out to offer more. Let us remember—power is not status. Power is responsibility. Leadership is not prestige. Leadership is responsibility. We must define global leadership in terms of global responsibility.”
In both UN News and Vancouver Courier, Mutharika is referenced last— a clear measure of the authority and power of his message.
In this address, Mutharika passionately spoke for Africa and Malawi and their place in global affairs.
He also spoke for nations that the United Nations keeps away from the Security Council and for the vulnerable whom he suggested would better be served if the UN practised inclusion in some of its affairs.
Mutharika reminded the UN that Malawi and Africa have touched global humanity in no small measure.
He makes the case by referring to Malawi’s first ambassador to the UN, David Rubadiri, and first black African UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, as African citizens that served the world well.
They served humanity and promoted the work of the UN in different ways, Mutharika said.
He uses Rubadiri and Annan to exemplify Africa’s contribution to global progress and peace.
Mutharika then reminds the UN of Malawi’s role in the global effort to seek sustainable peace.
Malawi has contributed its men and women to UN peace-keeping missions in places such as Burundi, South Sudan and the DRC.
“We are prepared to fulfil our responsibility and obligations in the global community. Malawi remains committed to the ideals of the United Nations. Malawi ascribes to values of democratic governance, peace and security. We remain committed to participating in the efforts for maintaining international peace and security,” he said.
The Malawi leader also recounts the achievements his government is making to ensure welfare of the people of Malawi in keeping with UN’s ideals for global development.
He outlines all this to remind the UN that Malawi and Africa are delivering on their share of responsibility to serve global humanity.
But that it is the UN itself and other global powers that are frustrating such contribution by marginalising Africa from having representation in the decision-making organ of the global body.
“We cannot talk about shared responsibility while we marginalise Africans and deny them full participation in our decisions.
“We cannot talk about global leadership of the United Nations when African leadership is not on the decision-making tables. In any political system, we cannot claim relevance to the people that we deny,” he tells the UN.
In a way, Mutharika suggests, by denying Africa representation in the Security Council, the UN is reneging on the principles of democracy and equality that it preaches, therefore subjecting itself to criticism of hypocrisy and partial relevance.
And so Mutharika stresses the UN needs to change:
“A time has come to make the United Nations relevant to all people. A time has come to show global leadership that is inclusive of all nations. A time has come to pledge shared responsibilities together with Africa and the rest of the world.”
The recurrent message from the speeches of many leaders at the Unga has been multilateralism in confronting global challenges.
Actually, in the article where the UN rates the Malawi leader’s speech as “the best”, the UN describes US President Donald Trump as the only “discordant note” for his rejection of the ideology of globalism.
This clearly shows how the UN values multilateralism – but not meaning it.
And that is where Mutharika has carried the voice of the part of the world which subscribes to multilateralism as preached by the UN but are denied participation by the very body that preaches it.
In the address, Mutharika started at home, stayed in Africa and then burst into the global scene on the issues he touched on. But the centre of the message was clear— it is about time that Africa is given its deserved seats at the United Nations table.
The fight for Africa was not on its own, but integrated to the ethos and founding principles of the UN.
Mutharika punctuated his address by reporting on Malawi journey to development and recovery.
At the end of the day, UN’s analysis got it right in terms of the global leaders who managed to hit the nail on the head of this year’s theme.