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Our message is clear, it’s zero tolerance for terror: Modi to UN

Concerted action is not always easy but we must remember that the cost of inaction can be high; on the other hand, collective action can impart a new momentum to the United Nations and help us to shape a better future for our world.

analysis Updated: Jul 15, 2015 11:47 IST
Narendra Modi,Letter to United Nations,United Nation
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2014. (Getty Images)

On June 21 -- the day of the summer solstice -- millions of people in hundreds of cities, towns and localities in 193 countries celebrated the First International Day of Yoga. It was an extraordinary display of global unity that sent a powerful message of universal brotherhood. It demonstrated our ability to look beyond our narrow boundaries to pursue our greater good and seek solutions together to the challenges of our times. I wish to thank all the Member States of the United Nations, including the 177 co-sponsors, for the spontaneous and overwhelming support that made this event possible in such a short time.

Seventy years ago -- almost to the day on June 26, 1945 -- the United Nations Charter was signed in San Francisco to protect succeeding generations from the scourge of war and collectively promote economic and social advancement of all peoples. And for seventy years, the world has remained a better place because of the United Nations. But the world has changed dramatically since 1945. The number of United Nations Member States has grown four-fold. Threats to peace and security have become more complex, unpredictable and undefined. In many ways, our lives are becoming globalized, but fault-lines around our identities are growing. Trends in demography and urbanization are posing a multitude of new challenges. The character of the global economy is being transformed because of the internet, the emergence of new engines of growth and more widely dispersed economic power, with the underside of widening wealth gaps. Cyber and Space are entirely new frontiers of threats, opportunities and challenges.

Yet, our institutions, approaches, and often mindsets, reflect the wisdom of the century we have left behind, not the century we live in. This moment in time -- the 70th anniversary year of the United Nations -- presents us with an opportunity to celebrate our journey so far, reflect on the past, define the road ahead, and adapt the institution to the realities and requirements of the new century.

My purpose in writing this letter to you is to remind ourselves that we need to seize this moment to rethink how the multilateral system can be made more inclusive, more effective and, ultimately, better fit for the purpose it was conceived. We should ask if the United Nations is adequately equipped to deal with the times we live in. Drawing lessons from the past, including policy failures, and keeping in view today’s global priorities, we must challenge our existing thinking on each of the three fundamental pillars of the United Nations -- peace and security, human rights and development.

Eliminating poverty by 2030 should unquestionably be at the heart of the post-2015 Development Agenda. The most acute forms of poverty still remain the most pressing problem and require direct, urgent and sustained interventions. Addressing the needs, concerns and human rights of 1.3 billion poor people in the world is not merely a question of their survival and dignity, but also a vital necessity for an enduring peaceful, sustainable and just international order. The post-2015 Development Agenda should ensure that no one is left behind. We must rekindle the strength of international support and partnership that had characterized some of our social missions in the past for tackling poverty. This would mean drawing upon existing research on poverty alleviation, providing enhanced access to technology and finance for the developing world, and adopting innovative approaches. In India, our governance touchstone remains inclusive growth — Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas, or participation of all and development for all.

In the new age, inclusiveness would imply taking concrete action for reducing the digital divide between and within nations. Beyond traditional strategies, we should examine how technology and digital networks become effective tools in our fight against poverty. We in India are using Digital India to improve targeting of benefits to the needy, make the delivery of services more efficient, catalyse development and increase citizen participation in governance, and, to promote financial inclusion and empowerment through universal access to banks, credit and social insurance against disease and accidents.

We all agree that climate change is one of the most formidable global challenges. Nations around the world are already facing its consequences; and for many, especially small Island nations and those with low-lying coastal areas, it is an existential issue. Combating climate change is our collective obligation to our planet. In India, among the many initiatives, we have started pricing carbon, incentivizing afforestation and, crucially, have set a target of generation capacity of 175 GW of solar and wind energy by 2022.

When we meet in Paris later in the year, we must craft a global agreement, in accordance with the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities, to limit the rise in earth’s temperature. We should go beyond targets and focus also on the need for provision of the finance and the technology to give developing nations the capabilities and the resources to mitigate climate change, as also to adapt and adjust to its impact.

The United Nations must be made more effective for dealing with the new security challenges. The United Nations was born out of the ashes of the Second World War when conflict was an inter-state phenomenon. However, we are now living in an era when non-state military actors are a major factor. Terrorism and violent, intolerant extremism did not exist earlier as a primary threat to nations and societies at large. Indeed, with expanded geographical spread, vast resources and new instruments to spread its ideology and draw recruits, the menace of terrorism and extremism has acquired a new dimension that requires a comprehensive global strategy. We must use this historic year to jointly send an unambiguous message of zero tolerance against terrorism. An important step in this direction would be adopting the Comprehensive Convention against International Terrorism at the United Nations this year.

We should examine if the traditional peacekeeping missions of the United Nations are adequately equipped to deal with the new international security environment and the evolving nature of conflicts, especially at a time of continuing resource constraints and the consequent demands placed on the existing machinery.

Finally, whatever we seek to do as the United Nations, from dealing with the transformed security environment to ensuring the effective implementation of the post-2015 Development Agenda, our relevance and effectiveness will depend in large measure on the internal reform of the United Nations, especially its Security Council. This is one of the most urgent and important, even if difficult tasks before us.

The United Nations Security Council, as constituted currently, is the product of circumstances of a bygone era. It must now reflect the realities and needs of the 21st century. A Security Council that includes the world’s largest democracy, major locomotives of the global economy, and voices from all the major continents, will carry greater credibility and legitimacy and will be more representative and effective.

We are at a moment when we must close the endless debates of the past two and a half decades, and agree in a democratic manner in the United Nations General Assembly to set into motion the long needed reforms in the United Nations Security Council to be implemented with the broadest possible support and within a fixed timeframe.

India’s faith in the United Nations is rooted in our ancient belief of the world as one family — Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam — and the sense of responsibility that comes from representing one-sixth of humanity. We are prepared to work with all Member States to accomplish the key tasks before us. Concerted action is not always easy but we must remember that the cost of inaction can be high; on the other hand, collective action can impart a new momentum to the United Nations and help us to shape a better future for our world. Only the Member States can empower the organization; in turn, the organization can only be as effective as the Member States wish and collectively allow it to be.

Indeed, in a few months from now, the world will gather in New York for the 70th General Assembly of the United Nations. Posterity should remember the 70th anniversary not as a missed opportunity but as a moment when the world collectively honored its covenant with the poor of our world, with its women, with its youth, with nature, and with the voiceless unborn. I am confident that we will, as we have so often done, rise to our responsibilities.

This is an excerpt from the letter written by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the heads of 193 member states on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations

First Published: Jul 14, 2015 22:33 IST