Leonardo Santos Simao, Special Representative of UN Secretary General: a great BRICS philosophy could finance the Sahel at global level



Leonardo Santos Simao, Special Representative of UN Secretary General: a great BRICS philosophy could finance the Sahel at global level

In an exclusive interview with TV BRICS, the diplomat highlighted the importance of focusing efforts on mobilising resources to combat the effects of climate change

Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) and President of the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission, Leonardo Santos Simao, is recognised as an outstanding and experienced leader in international affairs and public administration.

With more than 30 years of experience in various high-profile positions, Leonardo Santos Simao has brought a wealth of experience to these roles. Between 2021 and 2022, he served as the Special Representative of the government of Mozambique for the country’s candidacy for non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council, to which Mozambique was elected. Previously, he held important positions in the Mozambican government, including Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (1994-2005) and Minister of Health (1988-1994).

In an exclusive interview with TV BRICS, he spoke about the main challenges and directions for development in the African Sahel region.

What areas of work does the UN intend to focus more on in the Sahel region in the coming months?

Among the United Nations in the Sahel region, they continue to work first on mobilising resources for the fight against terrorism, as this is the main challenge for the whole region. The second priority is to provide humanitarian support to populations that are both victims of terrorism and of climate change, which affects agriculture and animal production in particular.

The causes of terrorism, including poverty, have to be tackled through development. Africa’s development can no longer be postponed.

That’s why every effort must be made to make this development happen. In this way, we will ensure that there is peace and stability in our region in the future.

According to the UN, the rate of climate change is quite high in the Sahel region. What do you think needs to be done to combat the effects of climate change in this region?

The main reason for climate change in the Sahel is the redefinition of water supply sources. So there is less and less water in the Sahel for human consumption, animal consumption and much less for agriculture. That’s why the main effort in the fight against climate change in the Sahel is the supply of water underground in the Sahel.

Studies show that there is plenty of water. It is therefore a challenge to bring this water to the surface so that it is authorised for consumption. Because this lack of water creates conflicts between the community and, above all, between farmers and livestock breeders.

By supplying water to these populations, the conflict between farmers and livestock breeders will end. The water also has to be used for large-scale agriculture, which will create jobs, especially for young people. They’ll have jobs and won’t need to emigrate across the Mediterranean to Europe, because they’ll have the means to farm. And this agriculture will need not only water, but also technical science and funding mechanisms for different types of scales.

So these three elements: water, technical science and funding must be present in the Sahel countries, precisely so that they can create jobs and employment. And also with the development of value chains. And this agricultural production will also bring greater food security in order to solve the humanitarian problem.

How do you assess the current level of co-operation between the BRICS countries and the countries of the Sahel and West Africa?

BRICS is still in its infancy, so there are no practical actions that are taking place in terms of cooperation between this organisation, which is new, and each of the Sahel countries. But there is internal work to organise the system itself in the BRICS system and once this phase is included, I think there will certainly be room for cooperation between BRICS and each of these countries.

How can the entry of five new countries into the association contribute to co-operation between the Sahel region and BRICS, two of which are located on the African continent?

I think it’s a good start, because these are countries that have great geographical diversity, but they are all harmonised on the need to find alternative sources of funding for development. I think that this great BRICS philosophy is going to finance both development at a global level, but with special attention to Africa.

I hope that the means and resources that these new countries have will be very useful for financing development in Africa.

You’ve worked in the field of health. What areas of development in the field of medicine and pharmaceuticals are now most relevant to African countries?

I think that before health, it’s improving people’s living conditions. By improving living conditions, a large proportion of diseases disappear, firstly by improving access to drinking water, access to good nutrition, access to good housing that protects people from vectors such as mosquitoes, for example. And these elements will greatly improve the population’s state of health.

As for medical interventions, the first priority is vaccines, which will prevent people from catching diseases. There are vaccines against already known communicable diseases, but now there is also a new vaccine against malaria. Malaria is responsible for high rates of illness and death, especially among children and pregnant women.

Therefore, improving living conditions and the application of vaccines will greatly improve the population’s standard of living. The third element is to have a network of primary healthcare centres that are close to the population so that they can receive preventive healthcare.

Technologies today are becoming an integral part of various spheres of life: from education to industry. What priority areas for technological development do you see for the Sahel region and the African continent?

All areas of technological development are useful, but I think the priorities are those that promote better levels of knowledge to improve people’s living conditions. Any knowledge that can improve people’s hygiene, improve their knowledge of negotiation, even of small businesses, so that there is a source of income for the population, and also information that allows citizens to make choices about their own lives, is useful knowledge.

What impressed you most in Russian culture? What did you like most in Russia?

I’ve been familiar with Russian culture since the classical writers of Russia. I think they are appreciated and continue to be a source of inspiration. The contribution of Russian culture to the world has been quite strong and there are also Africans who have been exposed to this culture because Russia has welcomed it over the years. Thousands and thousands of African students who have had this interaction with Russian culture help them to understand the world and also to develop as human beings. So this cultural relationship is also very strong between African citizens and Russia.





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