UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide

Adama Dieng is the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. As a legal and human rights expert, Mr. Dieng has a distinguished career in contributing to the strengthening of rule of law, fighting impunity and promoting capacity-building in the area of judicial and democratic institutions. Further, he contributed to the establishment of several non-governmental organizations in Africa. Mr. Dieng began his career as Registrar of the Regional and Labour Courts in Senegal, and served as Registrar of the Supreme Court of Senegal for six years. He joined the International Commission of Jurists in 1982, serving the organization in different capacities, including as Legal Officer for Africa and Executive Secretary till 1990. He served a further 10 years as its Secretary-General, a period during which he was appointed as the United Nations Independent Expert for Haiti (1995-2000).

In addition to his accomplishments behind the establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights as well as the draft of the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, Mr. Dieng has lectured on international law and human rights and acted as a consultant for many organizations, including the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Ford
Foundation and the African Union.

Event Title: Inclusive Social Development in Achieving the Global Goals 2030    Date: September 25, 2019


In 2015, the international community adopted an ambitious, comprehensive global development agenda that promised to leave no one behind. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was not only a well-developed document, but it also reflects what humanity can achieve whenever they decide to collectively tackle most pressing challenges. Through this declaration, member states, solemnly agreed that Sustainable Development Goals should become the basis for international development cooperation.

This framework provides the international community with the golden opportunity to position social justice and economic development for all at the center of global agenda. -both as an important end in itself and as an essential means to achieve peace and prosperity for all. SDGs offers a real opportunity to drive lasting change and to bring universal, comprehensive and transformative change in people’s lives. The new agenda is based on 17 goals which are interrelated but also complementary. From SDG 1 on the eradication poverty to SDG 17 on alliances to achieve the goals, each one of them is closely linked to inequality and inclusion.

However, it is equally true that, our commitment to build an inclusive society, raises the question of inclusion in what? in what type of society are people to be included? It requires us to ask in what type of society we want to live and more importantly, how we achieve that society. We need to consider what the values of an inclusive society are and what the institutional arrangements that would embody these would be. Social inclusion is a process that aims to create a ‘society for all’, a society in which everyone is an integral part and at the center of what is to be achieved.  

Social inclusion focused development, is about guaranteeing human rights and promoting social justice for all, increasing the quality of life of citizens and improving individual wellbeing. An inclusive society is one that rises above differences of race, gender, class, generation and geography to ensure equality of opportunity regardless of origin. In an inclusive society, social interaction is governed by an agreed set of social institutions. The capability of all citizens to determine how those institutions function and relate to their day to day lives, is indeed a hallmark of an inclusive society.

Inclusion requires five dimensions to be effective and indeed meaningful to a society concerned. Roughly it would include; Visibility – to be recognized as a member of the society; consideration – that the needs and concerns of all individuals and groups in society are taken into account by policy planners; access to social interactions – that everyone has the same rights to participate; equal rights – that the human rights set out in wide range of international and regional instruments are domesticated and all members of society are able to claim them; and access for all to resources necessary to participate fully in society. Yet we all agree that these five goals are indeed aspirational, as no country can claim to have achieved them all. However, despite this reality, it is always useful to aspire to something positive whose realization can always enhance the future and wellbeing of humanity.

It is true that a nation’s most valuable resource, far greater than anything in its possession, is its people – its human capital – and how well it performs in productivity and raising living standards depends critically on how available legal and institutions framework responds to their needs and wellbeing. Inclusive development requires people to be at the center of development. Unfortunately, we continue to witness how extreme poverty and inequality continue to be a badge of shame and hopelessness to millions of our fellow citizens. Despite this reality, we must be candid enough to admit that this situation is not and should not be the way it is. It can and should change.

Most people in this room will agree with me that, many people around the world don’t die because of lack of hospitals or clinics. They die because of lack of access and coverage of health care system. FAO has shown that while hunger is claiming millions of victims annually, the truth is a third of all the food produced worldwide is wasted. The gap between rich and poor continues to grow, leaving a trail of exclusion, injustice and undermining the social fabric. What is evident from this sad revelation is that, inequality, violence, and injustice threaten both short and long-term social and economic development and harms not just those who are excluded but also has the potential to undermine the fabric of the society. To reduce inequality, we must broaden access to services, to opportunities and to resources.

Kofi Annan, an indisputable champion of people centered development, once noted, “It is not realistic to think that some people can go on deriving great benefits from globalization while billions of their fellow human beings are left in abject poverty. We have to give at least a chance to share in our prosperity to our fellow citizens, not only within each nation but in the global community”. I sincerely believe that, injustice thrive when human rights are violated, rule of law is considered an inconvenient barrier to those in power, political space is shrunk, legitimate aspirations of citizens are ignored or crushed altogether and many people especially youths lack positive prospects and meaning for their lives.

In many countries I have visited throughout the world, one of the most common explanation given by those who have taken up arms against their respective governments is exclusion and marginalization. The perception of or actual exclusion of certain communities or groups of people is a key driver to armed conflicts. It is important that governments distribute resources and provide social and economic opportunities to ensure equitable participation of all citizens in the development agenda.

As I conclude, let me reiterate my conviction that, if we are to achieve inclusive development and sustainable peace, we must reaffirm our commitment to the primacy of human dignity and agency of human in development itself. We must put humanity at the center of development. The central objective of any development pursuit should be to uplift humanity from the misery of poverty and injustice. As underscored by the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace.” It is our fundamental duty that we continue to solemnly honour and apply these words. But also use the very words as standard to hold accountable those who violate them. Irrespective of who they are.


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