17 January 2018

Namibia: Gawanas Wants to Transform UN-AU Relationship

NEWLY appointed United Nations special adviser on Africa Bience Gawanas said one of the things she would like to do is to improve the relationship between the UN and the African Union.

Gawanas was appointed special adviser on Africa by UN secretary general Antonio Guterres on Monday. She succeeds Maged Abdelaziz of Egypt.

Gawanas is the current special adviser to the minister of poverty eradication, and was also the special adviser to the minister of health and social services. She is known as a champion for women's health and rights in Africa, and for her role in initiating far-reaching campaigns, such as the continental campaign on accelerated education on maternal mortality in Africa.

"I am thrilled to be nominated to fill such an important position for Africa, especially coming from a country called Namibia, the Land of the Brave, and I am really grateful for the opportunity to once again serve my country and the continent," she said in an interview with The Namibian yesterday.

"I am taking up a position that I have to study to know exactly what its mandate is, which is what I will do in the next few weeks before I take up my assignment."

She said one of her mandates will be to coordinate various activities dealing with development and security on the continent.

"You must remember that the UN is made up of various departments and agencies, while the secretary general also has his own special representatives around the world. At one or other time, the special adviser on Africa will have to work with all these institutions, but also has a mandate to initiate research on development issues, make recommendations accordingly, and work with the general assemblies," she observed.

Gawanas added that she would seek to promote the collaboration between the UN and the African Union in terms of how both organisations respond in a coherent way towards solving Africa's challenges because African countries are members of the UN as well as the AU.

"Also, there are different UN agencies that are interacting with African UN member states. The UN has been trying to work with this as one system within the countries, and that has been a challenge, and also something that the office of the special adviser on Africa will be tasked to do," she noted.

Gawanas said she will also work to improve the support of the UN towards the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad).

"Nepad has been the development programme, which is an agency of the AU, and the UN has committed to support its programmes, and that is also the responsibility of the office of the special adviser," she continued.

Describing herself as easy to work with, she said: "I set myself goals, I am a go-getter, I get my hands dirty, and I am a team player. Before I went to the AU, I was a public service commissioner and Ombudsman of Namibia. I have the leadership qualities."

Minister of international relations Netumbo-Nandi Ndaitwah yesterday congratulated Gawanas on her appointment, saying that she is eminently qualified for the position, having distinguished herself as AU commissioner for social affairs for eight years.

"We have full confidence in Gawanas' intellectual abilities and professionalism. She was the first African Union woman commissioner for social affairs, and was deservedly credited for having contributed significantly to the development of the AU."


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