The late prime minister also sponsored a UN General Assembly Resolution that resulted in the recognition of April 5 of every year as the International Day of Conscience… An enthronement of good conscience is necessary in having a safer world and environment as well. The world owes the innovation of a day to push for the role of conscience to HRH Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, as one of his legacies.
The death of His Royal Highness Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa marks the end of a long era in governance in Bahrain. None of us took a personal decision to be on earth. Others, by their actions, resulted in our being here. Our departure from planet earth is a given. We certainly must depart one time or the other. For most, we would not know how and when. On Wednesday, November 11, a unique day in figures occuring as 11-11-2020, a unique individual was one of those who departed planet earth. His Royal Highness, Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the prime minister of Bahrain over the years, took a bow out of our existential reality. We only have his too many legacies left. I have chosen to highlight a few in this tribute.
I had the privilege of being in the company of HRH Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa twice in 2018. I had been invited to Manama, Bahrain, from September 9-13, as senior adviser to H.E. José Ramos-Horta, former president of East Timor and Nobel Peace Laureate. I had a warm reception from a sage who remembered my country and some of his relationships with Nigerians before he started talking about peace. The other meeting was at a beautiful state banquet that was given to our team by HRH, the prime minister.
This visit resulted in a warm relationship with the Court of the Prime Minister, led by Shaikh Hussam bin Essa Al-Khalifa. Within this relationship has been my service on the Board of the Bahrain Visions Forum (BVF). The BVF is a major visionary contribution of HRH Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa to the world. So far, we have had three BVF meetings on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly. On September 27, 2018, the Kingdom of Bahrain and Global Security Institute hosted the “Bahrain Visions Forum: Shared Vision Towards a Successful, Sustainable Future: National, Regional and Global Challenges and Opportunities.” The most recent BVF was held virtually on September 29. This year’s BVF attracted the secretary-general of the United Nations (the deputy secretary-general and the then president of the UN General Assembly jointly opened the maiden edition), who sent a recorded message, and participation by several high ranking members of the international community, including the directors general of World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), and foreign ministers. It is important that the theme of the third BVF was on ensuring that COVID-19 pandemic does not undermine the Social Development Goals (SDGs) that are crucial for the progress of humanity.
The highlight of this year’s event is a major legacy of the late prime minister of Bahrain, if well nurtured. In his opening address, HRH had put forth the idea of setting up an informal association to be called, “Group of Friends of the Secretary General on the Amelioration of the Negative Effect of Covid-19 Pandemic.” This would be a major step in controlling the drawback effect in the pursuit of the SDGs, which have been identified as the only path to a better future for all humanity. The Forum has become an opportunity for world leaders to look at the developments in the global system, and consider ways of responding to the changes and challenges to peace and sustainable development by sharing values, in a very interconnected global system.
The late prime minister also sponsored a UN General Assembly Resolution that resulted in the recognition of April 5 of every year as the International Day of Conscience. Owing to COVID-19 realities, a virtual event was observed, with the message shared worldwide. The central message was the promotion of the culture of peace with love, through the constant nurturing of the inner guide within all of us, which leads us to doing good. An enthronement of good conscience is necessary in having a safer world and environment as well. The world owes the innovation of a day to push for the role of conscience to HRH Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, as one of his legacies.
The Bahrainis, under the leadership of King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa and his late prime minister, were much interested in the SDGs and they have used it as guide for state planning and policies. For them, it is not just a UN mantra for lip service. On July 2, 2007, His Royal Highness Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, the late prime minister of Bahrain received the Habitat Scroll of Honour Award from the then secretary-general of the United Nations, H.E. Ban Ki-moon in recognition of his role in the transformation of the Kingdom of Bahrain largely from a collection of rural villages into a thriving and diversified economy with social welfare support, educational opportunities and employment for all. On that day His Royal Highness Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa instituted the bi-annual Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa Sustainable Development Award, to promote good governance with the consideration of ecological, economic and all round social development that is inclusive, equitable and, more importantly, sustainable. The award, with a prize money of $200,000, was first made in 2008 to The Green Brigade Project in Burkina Faso. The second award, in 2010, went to the Brazilian Bento Rubiao Foundation. The Selection Committee of the Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa Sustainable Development Award searched for people and institutions but did not make any award in 2012 and 2014. However, Professor Anna Tibaijuka, former under-secretary-general of the United Nations and executive director of UN-Habitat, won in 2016. The fourth winner was none other than Ban Ki-moon, who received the award in Manama, Bahrain last year. This Foundation is a great legacy that could be well managed to continue to make a difference in our world.
Under HRH Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, Bahrain faced many major challenges. The challenge of modernisation and building on religious tolerance among his people required an unparalleled liberal orientation in sea of conservatism within the Kingdom and the Gulf. Religious and cultural tolerance easily strikes any visitor to Bahrain. There were economic and political challenges like the conflict on control over the Island of Hawar and the Arab Springs fervour. These issues, like many others, were deftly handled by the late prime minister. Knowing that preventing the scourge of conflicts, and specifically wars, through the waging of peace is not for the United Nations alone, he pushed for peace in the Gulf. The spirit of Ramadan had inspired an unexpected call by the late prime minister on May 6, 2019 to the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, in spite of the cold war between Qatar, on one hand, and the alliance of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain on the other. Still, there is the recent rapport between Israel and Bahrain that one hopes would result in a final solution on the inalienable rights of the Palestinians and peace in the Middle East.
Babafemi A. Badejo was former deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia.