Without comprehensive reforms reflecting today's multilateral reality, the UN faces a crisis of confidence - and that's why G4 countries including India, Japan and Germany have called for text-based negotiations within a fixed timeframe to urgently revamp the world body.
As the United Nations celebrated its 75thanniversary earlier this week, the sight of the vacant and forlorn chambers of the General Assembly looming over the East River was emblematic of how the coronavirus has crippled even the world's biggest multilateral organization. Instead of the expected bustle of presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and diplomats filling up the hallowed halls, speeches from world leaders were beamed on the internet and social media from around the world.
But in many ways, the emptiness at the UN is also deeply symbolic of the how several countries and organisations had begun socially (and politically) distancing themselves from the world body long before the pandemic struck - rebuffed and repulsed by the ever-widening chasm of policy and practice among dozens of key UN members, its chronic failure to undertake meaningful reforms, bring in fresh blood to the Security Council - its key policy-making apparatus, and battle corruption and nepotism.
One of the key achievements of the UN has been the deployment of the Blue Helmets or peacekeepers in containing violence around the world - and from South Sudan and Cyprus to Congo, Somalia, Rwanda and Kosovo, there have been dozens of successful missions that have helped avert bloodshed or prevented local conflicts from escalating into full-blown war.
With a contribution of more than 200,000 troops in 50 of the 71 peacekeeping missions in the last 60 years, India has played one of the biggest roles in that peacekeeping mission - and with its constant actions to uphold global peace and security, fight hunger and battle climate change, New Delhi has more than fulfilled the very promise of the UN Charter for decades.
Yet, there's no reflection of that reality in the various key pillars that make up the UN - such as the UNSC and the Economic Council. Instead, the UN remains a Cold War relic that has failed to resonate with contemporary realities, and without urgent reforms the agency risks fading into oblivion and irrelevance.
“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,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his special address marking the UN's 75thanniversary celebrations earlier this week.
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Noting that the UN Security Council needs to be immediately expanded in order to address contemporary challenges which a structure set up in 1945 may not be able to do, Prime Minister Modi said India strongly supported the reforms undertaken by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “We support ongoing reforms by the Secretary-General... We reiterate our call for reforms of three of the principal organs of the UN. We commit to instill new life in the discussions on the reform of the Security Council and continue the work to revitalise the General Assembly and strengthen the Economic and Social Council.”
Highlighting how India's own philosophies align with the goals of the United Nations, the Prime Minister said work still needs to be done towards reducing inequality, mitigating conflicts and addressing the threat of climate change.
As has been repeatedly highlighted by India in the past, the UN and especially the Security Council must be reformed to reflect the diversity and dynamics of the 21st century - and that's an area where India has received unstinted support from the US, Russia, France and the UK, the four existing permanent UNSC members barring China.
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It's therefore heartening that the Group of 4 (G4) countries - Brazil, India, Japan and Germany - have taken the lead to renew efforts for UN reforms and called for text-based negotiations within a fixed timeframe to revamp the world body. Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar joined his three counterparts from Japan, Germany, and Brazil in noting that the declaration adopted by all heads of state and government on the 75th anniversary of the UN reaffirmed the “common resolve to finally take decisive steps towards the early and comprehensive reform” of the Security Council.
“The world of today is very different from what it was when the United Nations was created 75 years ago. There are more countries, more people, more challenges but also more solutions. Our working methods need to keep pace and adapt. In keeping with this call, G4 ministers highlighted the urgency of reforming the United Nations and updating its main decision-making bodies, in order to better reflect contemporary realities,” the joint statement said.
In the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, the world needs multilateral agencies such as the United Nations more than ever before - whether for upholding international peace and security, thwarting unilateral geopolitical adventures and territorial ambitions, fighting poverty and inequality or raising the global standards of healthcare.
The UN can immensely benefit from the stellar record of countries such as India in handling all of the above - but for that meaningful reforms are increasingly urgent and necessary.