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Rwanda’s Good Day At the UN

by Edmund Kagire
8:37 am

It is not often that two headlines on the same country, come out of the United Nations on the same day. Well, Monday was exceptional –two Rwandan women emerged on top of things at the world body and here is how.

First, Rwanda’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Amb. Valentine Rugwabiza was elected as the Vice President of the Executive Board of UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS for 2020, representing the African Group.

The Executive Board provides intergovernmental support and supervision for the activities of UNDP, UNFPA, and UNOPS in accordance with the policy guidance of the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, and the United Nations Charter.

The body also ensures that UNDP, UNFPA and UNOPS remain responsive to the evolving needs of programme countries, and supports UNOPS efforts to share expertise in infrastructure, procurement, project management, financial management and human resources.

Accepting her election, Amb. Rugwabiza said that it is an honour for Rwanda to be elected to the body which saw new members elected to the board, with Antigua and Barbuda as President representing the Caribbean’s while Bulgaria, Sweden and Kuwait were also elected to the board as co-vice presidents.

“Rwanda is honored to be entrusted to represent Africa on the Bureau of UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board in 2020; the year of UN@75. We look forward to working with all to optimize partnerships for implementation as we embark on a decade of #SDGs accelerated delivery,” Rugwabiza tweeted tagging African Union at the UN.

In the 2019 board, Africa group was represented by Collen V. Kelapile, the permanent representative of Botswana to the UN.

The Executive Board has provided UNOPS with support and oversight functions since UNOPS separated from UNDP in 1995 and became an independent, self-financing organization.

The Executive Director of UNOPS reports directly to the UN Secretary-General and the Executive Board, and has the authority to sign host country agreements and appoint UNOPS representatives in the field.

Members of the executive board are elected by Economic and Social Council. The Board is comprised of representatives from 36 countries who serve on a rotating basis.

The Executive Board Bureau is comprised of one President and four Vice-Presidents, Rugwabiza being one of them, elected from the members at the first regular session each year, taking into account the need for equitable geographical representation.

Prior to being appointed to the UN as Permanent Representative, Rugwabiza was the Minister of East African Community, a docket she occupied after serving as the CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB). Previously she was the Deputy Director of World Trade Organisation (WTO).

In a similar development on Monday, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres appointed Dr. Agnes Kalibata as his Special Envoy for the 2021 Food Systems Summit.

Dr. Kalibata is currently the President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) since 2014.

In 2021, the Secretary-General will host a Food Systems Summit with the aim of maximizing the co-benefits of a food systems approach across the entire 2030 Agenda and meet the challenges of climate change.

“As a key contribution to the Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, the objectives of the Food Systems Summit are to generate momentum, expand the knowledge and share experience and approaches worldwide to help countries and stakeholders unleash the benefits of food systems for all people,” the UN said in a statement.

The Summit will also offer a catalytic moment for global public mobilization and actionable commitments to invest in diverse ways to make food systems inclusive, climate adapted and resilient, and support sustainable peace.

Dr Kalibata, as the Special Envoy, will be working with the United Nations system and key partners, providing leadership, guidance and strategic direction towards the Summit.

“Ms. Kalibata will be responsible for outreach and cooperation with key leaders, including governments, and other strategic stakeholder groups, to galvanize action and leadership for the Summit,”

“She will also support the various global and regional consultative events focused on food system transformation, planned during 2020 and 2021,” the UN statement said.

At AGRA, Kalibata lead’s the organization’s efforts with public and private partners to ensure a food secure and prosperous Africa through rapid, inclusive, sustainable agricultural growth, improving the productivity and livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers in Africa.

Prior to joining AGRA, Dr. Kalibata was the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources from 2008 to 2014, where she is credited for key reforms and programs that moved Rwanda to food security, helping to lift more than a million Rwandans out of poverty.

She has records of accomplishments as an agricultural scientist, policy maker and thought leader, awarded the Yara Prize, now the Africa Food Prize, in 2012, Honorary Doctorates from the University of Liège (2018) and McGill University (2019).

Kalibata was also the 2019 recipient of the National Academy of Sciences prestigious Public Welfare Medal for her work to drive Africa’s agricultural transformation through modern sciences and effective policy, thereby improving livelihoods of stallholder farmers.

She holds a Doctorate in Entomology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is fluent in English, with working knowledge of French.

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