Confidence crisis at UN, reforms needed: PM Modi
In a declaration adopted at the end of the day-long commemorative meeting, the General Assembly committed itself to “instil new life in the discussions on the reform” of the UN Security Council (UNSC), one the principal organs of the world body. India is seeking a permanent seat on the reformed and expanded UNSC.Updated: Sep 23, 2020, 04:17 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said the United Nations faces a “crisis of confidence” as it commemorated its 75th anniversary, and reiterated India’s long-standing call for reform at the world body to reflect “today’s realities” and “give voice to all stakeholders”.
In a declaration adopted at the end of the day-long commemorative meeting, the General Assembly committed itself to “instil new life in the discussions on the reform” of the UN Security Council (UNSC), one the principal organs of the world body. India is seeking a permanent seat on the reformed and expanded UNSC.
The Prime Minister was participating in a virtual high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly to commemorate the historic session. He is scheduled to deliver his speech at the high-level General Debate of the assembly on Saturday, as the first speaker for the day.
“We cannot fight today’s challenges with outdated structures,” Modi said in a short address.
He added: “Without comprehensive reforms, the UN faces a crisis of confidence. For today’s interconnected world, we need a reformed multilateralism that reflects today’s realities, gives voice to all stake holders, addresses contemporary challenges and focuses on human welfare.”
The Prime Minister recalled for listeners that India was a founding signatory of the United Nations that was born out of the “horrors” of World War II, and shared India’s own “philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’” (the whole world is one family).
“Our world today is a better place because of the United Nations,” Modi said. “We pay tribute to all those who have advanced the cause of peace and development under the UN flag, including in UN peacekeeping missions, where India had been a leading contributor.”
But, he added, “while much has been achieved, the original mission remains incomplete” — something acknowledged by the declaration the General Assembly adopted at the end of the one-day meeting to commemorate the anniversary. The declaration said more needs to be done towards preventing conflict, ensuring development, addressing climate change, reducing inequality and leveraging digital technologies.
There is a “need for reform of the United Nations itself”, Modi added.
The declaration did make a forceful case for it. “We commit to instil new life in the discussions on the reform of the Security Council and continue the work to revitalize the General Assembly and strengthen the Economic and Social Council,” it said.
India and many countries have called for reforming the UN arguing that it must reflect the changing world order and accommodate the aspirations of emerging powers. India itself has sought a permanent seat in an expanded Security Council.
The US, the UK, France and Russia — four of the five permanent members — have endorsed the country’s demand, but there has been no real progress in the process, called the Inter-Governmental Negotiations (IGN), which has been under way for a long time.
India has “accorded the highest priority to permanent membership”, the ministry of external affairs said on Monday in a parliamentary reply.
It has pursed this on both bilateral and multilateral platforms, especially in concert with countries that are also seeking a permanent membership of the council such as G-4 partners Japan, Germany and Brazil and with IBSA’s other two members Brazil and South Africa.
IBSA foreign ministers met last week virtually for their annual meeting around the UN General Assembly sessions, and expressed “frustration with the slow pace of progress” on Security Council reforms in the IGN process which, they complained, “lacked transparency in its working methods”.
“Expressed our collective frustration with the slow progress of reforms in the Inter-Governmental Negotiations,” external affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Twitter after the meeting. “Time has come for substantive negotiations in a formal setting on a single comprehensive text.”
Serving and former diplomats and experts are clear-eyed, however, about the challenges in the way. UNSC reforms will not be easy, and will require India to be persistent. “Global action to meet global challenges of today demands that the UN reforms to strengthen multilateralism in keeping with contemporary realities,” said Manjeev Puri, a former top Indian diplomat to the UN.
“Demanders for change, including India, need to be resolute and determined as reform is unlikely either easily or quickly but is a must for themselves and the world,” he added.
Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at Wilson Center, said that as long as China was standing in the way, it will be difficult for India. “India’s hopes of a permanent UNSC seat have long been dashed by the veto power of China. And given the trajectory of India-China relations, which are free-falling and are likely to remain in crisis for an extended period of time, it’s highly unlikely that Beijing will change its position anytime soon.”
He added: “India’s best hope is that UN rules eventually change so that a majority of votes, as opposed to unanimity, are required to have a new permanent member.”
India will begin a two-year term on the Security Council coming January as a non-permanent member, for the eighth time. It hopes to use the opportunity to further burnish its credentials for a seat as a permanent member. Its previous non-permanent terms were 1950-1951, 1967-1968, 1972-1973, 1977-1978, 1984-1985 and 1991-1992.