On 18 November 2014 the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a historic draft resolution tabled by Somalia. The resolution is about declaring 13 June of each year as International Albinism Awareness Day.
The adoption of this resolution stunned the whole world particularly the members of the United Nations, as Somalia is still emerging from years of conflicts and multifaceted challenges.
Ambassador Yusuf Mohamed Ismail Bari-Bari, Somalia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Office at Geneva and other specialized international organisations in Switzerland, led the presentation and negotiation of the draft resolution.
On 27 June 2014 under the leadership of Ambassador Yusuf Bari-Bari, Somalia’s delegation succeeded to secure the unanimous backing of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council for this resolution which recommended to the UN General Assembly to proclaim 13 June the International Albinism Awareness Day in order to commemorate the adoption on 13 June 2013 of the first UN resolution on the attacks, violence and discriminations against the Persons with Albinism worldwide. The General Assembly is the sole body at the UN that can proclaim an international day.
Ambassador Yusuf Bari-Bari in close collaboration with his colleagues of the Permanent Mission of Somalia at the UN Headquarters in New York carried out a massive diplomatic campaign for the adoption of the draft resolution. In particular the Deputy Permanent Representative of Somalia in New York Mr. Awale Kullane, together with Ambassador Yusuf Bari-Bari engaged in successful discussions with the representatives of the UN member states in order to galvanize support for Somalia’s led resolution.
On 18 November 2014 Ambassador Bari-Bari delivered a powerful and very moving speech at the plenary session of the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly when he introduced the draft resolution which was meant to highlight the plight of the Persons with Albinism worldwide.
“The draft resolution under consideration has undergone through a process of extensive informal consultations spanning 7 hours cumulatively and contains no Programme and Budget Implications” Ambassador Yusuf Bari-Bari told the world delegates.
The distinguished Ambassador of Somalia, Yusuf Bari-Bari, appealed to UN Member States to support this resolution, and said “it is the hope of my delegation that the International Albinism Awareness Day will provide groups of Persons with Albinism around the world and other stakeholders, a platform to raise awareness, visibility and understanding of the human rights challenges faced by Persons with Albinism, thereby eliminating global discrimination, stigma and physical attacks”.
“Stigma against persons with albinism currently supports the violation of their most fundamental human rights including the rights to life, security of person and the right not to be subject to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment” added Ambassador Yusuf Bari-Bari.
Before the call for a vote Somalia’s led resolution enjoyed the co-sponsorship of 47 countries, namely: Canada, Israel, Morocco, Nigeria, Norway, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South-Africa, Malaysia, Mali, Congo, Panama, Austria, Bulgaria, Poland, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, The Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Slovenia, Thailand, France, Belgium, Ukraine, Uruguay, Lebanon, Burkina Faso, Croatia, Hungary, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Chile, Bosnia Herzegovina and Former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia.
However, the world was outraged when the Permanent Mission of Tanzania mounted a campaign against the draft resolution from Somalia. A considerable number of Persons with Albinism live in Tanzania. In fact this is the largest population in Africa with Albinism. Persons with Albinism are severely victimized in Tanzania and their rights are regularly violated and abused by some politicians and wealthy businessmen.
The night before the adoption, Tanzania’s Permanent Mission sent an email to all the Permanent Missions accredited to the UN HQ saying: “The United Republic of Tanzania holds the view that it is inadequate to merely call for a proclamation of a day of awareness without further providing for measures to enhance capacities and capabilities meant to address and combat the tragedy and misfortunes facing people with albinism. It is in this regard that the Permanent Mission of the United Republic of Tanzania will propose an oral amendment from the floor. The proposed amendment received consensus among many delegations from the African Group. Also the language was further negotiated and agreed by the representatives of the European Union, Canada, Somalia and Tanzania.”
Ambassador Yusuf Bari-Bari strongly and swiftly refuted this insertion as a baseless since Somalia and other member states cited in the Tanzanian email never agreed to Tanzania’s proposed paragraph.
In accordance to the procedures Somalia’s delegation requested a recorded vote for the Tanzanian oral amendment which were devastatingly defeated (66 voted against, 17 in favour and 75 abstained). In what seemed to be a retaliatory move, Tanzania requested a recorded vote for the whole resolution from Somalia.
Somalia resolution was adopted by vote. 160 countries voted in favour, 16 abstained and not a single country including Tanzania voted against. Please check the official voting sheet from the UN website.
Many diplomats have noticed with particular interest the position taken by South Africa. The latter voted against the oral amendment of Tanzania as well as in favour of Somalia’s led resolution. South-Africa is SADC’s regional power. Some analysts also singled out the lack of argument and consistence of the Tanzanians diplomats during the lively negotiations on the draft resolution as well as during its consideration by the plenary of the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly.
Somalia despite its tremendous shortcomings including the ongoing political bickering between the President and the Prime Minister that have polarized the legislative and executive organs has led the proclamation of an International Day on an ever neglected issue which is the most horrific human rights violation and abuse worldwide.
18 November 2014 is an historic day for Somalia because never before its name got attached to the proclamation of an International Day.
Ambassador Yusuf Bari-Bari distinguished himself in the UN Human Rights Council since 2008 and now in the UN HQ in New York thanks to his tremendous leadership and courage on issues pertaining the protection and promotion of human rights in his country, in the horn of Africa region and worldwide both on countries and thematic issues. He voices on behalf of the voiceless. He earned a lot of respect for his integrity and coherent stand from across all the regional groups of the UN member states.
On 21st November in the aftermath of International Albinism Awareness Day’s proclamation, Ambassador Yusuf Bari-Bari delivered a key note speech at the 5th annual end-of-year banquet organized by the Federation of African Organizations in Ohio, the US on the themes “Women in African Development” and “Mobilizing against Ebola”. At the margin of the event the City Council of Columbus awarded Ambassador Yusuf Bari-Bari in “recognition of his work in Human Rights at the global level and for being a pioneer in these efforts”
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