March 3, 2024

Gains, lessons, costs of hosting NAM, G77+China

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KAMPALA

After hosting two prominent international summits – the Group of 77 (G-77) plus China and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) – Uganda has emerged on the global stage with enhanced stature and potential for substantial benefits across various sectors.

This dual role in hosting and leading these significant forums represents a pivotal moment in Uganda’s diplomatic and economic trajectory. By assuming the chairmanship of both G77 plus China and NAM, President Yoweri Museveni has positioned Uganda at the forefront of crucial global dialogues.

This leadership role is particularly significant in addressing issues that affect the developing world, allowing Uganda not only to voice its concerns but also to actively influence policies and decisions that could yield benefits for the nation and the broader Global South.

Uganda’s chairmanship in these forums serves as a strategic platform to advocate for policies that resonate with its national interests, including the promotion of the 2030 Agenda for poverty eradication, climate change action, and digital collaboration. Hosting these summits has also spurred economic opportunities for Uganda.

The influx of international delegates has bolstered local businesses, especially in the hospitality and tourism sectors, showcasing Uganda’s capability as a host and potentially attracting further foreign investment and aid. This economic boost is seen as a direct consequence of Uganda’s enhanced visibility and perceived importance in international development circles.

Moreover, the summits have underscored the importance of South-South cooperation, aligning with Uganda’s foreign policy objectives. This principle fosters stronger ties with other developing countries, paving the way for collaborative projects, shared technological advancements, and mutual support, which are crucial in a globalized world.

Another significant aspect of these summits is the focus on combating global challenges such as climate change, terrorism and transnational organized crime. Uganda’s participation in these discussions aligns with its internal struggles in these areas, offering an opportunity to leverage collective approaches for more effective solutions.

The summits also provided a platform for Uganda to engage in the global conversation on human rights and multilateralism. This participation aligns with Uganda’s efforts to improve its human rights record, and strengthens its role in the international community. In hosting these summits, Uganda has also had the opportunity for inward introspection and alignment of its national policies with the broader goals discussed.

This could lead to more effective governance and policymaking within the country, aligning national objectives with global trends and needs. Uganda’s role in hosting and leading the G77 plus China and NAM summits has not only enhanced its international image but has also opened doors for economic, diplomatic, and policy-related advantages.

The country is now positioned as a key player in addressing global challenges, particularly those affecting the Global South. This role provides Uganda with a strategic platform for advocating its national interests on the global stage, marking a new chapter in its international engagement. However, these accomplishments come with challenges and potential drawbacks that merit attention.

Organizing large-scale international summits is a costly endeavor, especially for a developing nation like Uganda. The financial implications of such events are vast, encompassing security, logistics, infrastructure enhancements, and hospitality. If these costs are not judiciously managed, they could place a considerable strain on Uganda’s national budget.

The need to balance these expenses with other critical areas of national development is a delicate task. The conference facility, Speke Resort Convention Centre, which accommodated over 3,000 delegates, was established at a cost of $47 million (Shs 179.7 billion). The facility is a collaborative venture between the government of Uganda and Meera Investments Limited (MIL), which contributed Shs 38.1 billion to the total cost.

According to the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, the upgraded passenger terminal at Entebbe International Airport was constructed at a cost of Shs 42 billion. The terminal is designed to handle 930 arriving and 820 departing passengers during peak hours. The two summits, the Non-Aligned Movement and the G77+ China Summit, were hosted at a combined cost of Shs 53 billion.

Security is a paramount concern during high-profile international gatherings, necessitating increased measures that can disrupt the everyday lives of local residents. The reallocation of security resources to these events might also affect other areas that require attention, creating a temporary imbalance in resource distribution.

The economic implications of hosting such summits extend beyond the immediate influx to the hospitality and tourism sectors. There’s the possibility of temporary economic displacement for local businesses and informal traders, who might be adversely affected by the heightened security measures and altered traffic patterns.

Environmental concerns are also paramount. The increased pollution and waste generation resulting from large gatherings and construction activities related to the summits can undermine the environmental sustainability goals these meetings often promote. Balancing the ecological impact with the benefits of hosting such events is a challenge that requires careful planning and execution.

Uganda’s diplomatic ties could also face risks due to its alignment with specific international groups or agendas. Its leading role in the summits might strain relationships with countries or groups holding different views, particularly on sensitive issues like the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Navigating these diplomatic waters requires astute foreign policy strategies. Public perception and the prioritization of resources are another area of concern. The decision to allocate significant resources to host these summits might draw public scrutiny, especially if there are pressing domestic issues such as poverty, unemployment, or healthcare that demand urgent attention and funding.

Moreover, Uganda’s leadership position in these international groups brings with it high expectations. The global community may expect significant progress and effectiveness from Uganda in addressing the issues discussed during the summits. This pressure to demonstrate tangible outcomes can be immense.

Finally, there’s always the risk that the commitments and goals set during these summits may not be fully realized. Failure to effectively leverage Uganda’s leadership position to achieve tangible outcomes could lead to criticism and question the overall impact of hosting these events.

In summary, while Uganda’s role in hosting the G77 plus China and NAM summits has undoubtedly boosted its diplomatic stature and opened doors for potential economic and policy benefits, it has also introduced a range of challenges and risks. Managing these effectively is crucial to ensuring that the overall impact on the country is positive and aligns with its long-term development goals.

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