Hama Arba Diallo: the universal man

Guest blog by
10 October 2014

Youba Sokona pays tribute to his fellow Least Developed Countries Independent Expert Group member Hama Arba Diallo, who passed away in late September

Hama Arba Diallo (Photo: Global Water Partnership)

Hama Arba Diallo – the herder, the farmer, the Mayor of Dori, the African and the universal man – is gone on a no-return journey.

Arba was my friend. I met him for the first time back in the 1980s when he was at Unies Soudano-sahélien (UNSO). We started working together after this first encounter, during the Rio preparatory process and later while he was leading the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

Over the past 20 years, and despite working in different institutions and geographies, we found that we shared perspectives on how to advance the African development agenda using whatever entry point was at hand.

His passion was consistently focused on how to get the continent out of poverty and enjoy the wellbeing that progress and development can generate.

All those who had the privilege to know Arba feel the huge loss of not only a unique, charming, stubborn and calm personality, but also a man of good humour, humility and sense of sacrifice.

When many of us are trying to use our scientific and technocratic approaches to explain some very complex issues such as development, poverty alleviation, desertification or climate change, and how to adequately face them, Arba's inspirational approach always managed to cut straight to the chase and use the daily struggle of people in Dori to get his point across.

He always convinced without raising his voice and expressed hard truths with a gentle humour and eloquence.

Tom Bigg, who leads on the International Institute for Environment and Development's (IIED) work on international engagement for a sustainable planet, added: "We are very sad to hear of the death of Hama Arba Diallo.

"Arba was a member of the LDC Independent Expert Group and has been an inspirational friend to IIED over many years. As recently as July he took part in the LDC Ministerial Conference on Productive Capacity in Benin, and his wisdom and good sense enriched all those who heard him."

About Hama Arba Diallo

Elected to the National Assembly of Burkina Faso in the May 2007 parliamentary election as a candidate of the Party for Democracy and Socialism (PDS) in Séno Province, Diallo was the Fifth Vice-President of the National Assembly. He also sat as part of the Alternance-Démocratie-Justice Parliamentary Group in Burkina Faso.

Prior to this, Diallo served as the Director of the United Nations Sudano-Sahelian Office (1979-83), Minister of Foreign Affairs of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso, 1983-84), Ambassador to China, India and Japan (1988-89), Special Representative of the Secretary General for the UN Conference on Environment and Development (1990-92), and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (beginning in 1996).

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