Strengthening the Multilateral Order
By Dr Srimal Fernando
The foundation of the United Nations was laid 76 years ago through the San Francisco Charter. India, as a founding signatory was among 50 countries to sign the UN Charter. As one of the founding members of the United Nations, India has held numerous historic and significant positions in the UN.
As a nonpermanent member of the powerful UN Security Council for the current term; 2021-22, India assumed the Presidency of the 15-nation UN organ. This year India began its eighth term as a non-permanent member of the UNSC, which will run for two years.
During its presidency India’s agenda will be to focus on UN reforms for a more equitable representation of the new global order. India is driving for a broad range of amendments to the UN Security Council.
It is also a part of the G4 allies that include Brazil, Germany and Japan who uphold each other’s bids for permanent seats in the council. The UNGA is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations, serving as the main deliberative, policymaking, and representative body of the UN. India has constantly been an unwavering ally of the Maldives.
Presently as a nonpermanent member of the UNSC, India has strongly backed Maldives for the post of the UNGA presidency. This is the first time that the Maldives will be occupying the office of the President of the General Assembly.
India and the UN
The UN was the second multipurpose international organisation formed in the 20th century. As the UN marks over seven decades of its existence, India is amongst its founding members that now has 193-members in the UN General Assembly. India joined the United Nations after ratifying the UN Charter and was among 50 countries to sign the UN charter on June 26, 1945. India was a leading voice in the negotiations on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In addition, India played a lead role for the collective adaptation of the Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Since its inception, India has also participated in UN peacekeeping missions.
India at the UNSC
India joined the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the eighth time holding two-year terms as a non-permanent member. This is the first time that an Indian prime minister has chaired the UNSC. As it assumed the presidency of the UNSC, India is set to focus attention on three major areas: maritime security; peacekeeping; and counter-terrorism. India will decide the agenda of the UN’s highest decision making body as part of its new role as the president of the UNSC that all 15 members get in rotation.
The UN Security Council is composed of 15 members, including five permanent member states. India’s bid for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council had the support of four out of the five P5 nations; the US, UK, France and Russia. The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution by consensus which was sponsored by India and supported by over 70 nations to declare 2023 as the International Year of Millets, aimed at raising awareness about the health benefits of the grain and its suitability for cultivation under changing climatic conditions.
Maldives’ UNGA Presidency
Maldives has been a firm believer of multilateralism and international cooperation to address global challenges. India backed the candidature of the Maldivian Foreign Minister, Abdulla Shahid for the Presidency of United Nations General Assembly for the period 2021-22. While cooperating on the issue of terrorism at the bilateral level, both India and Maldives are hoping to cooperate at the UN too at the international level.
The Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid was elected as the 76th president of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). His election is significant.
Since Maldives became a member of the United Nations, he is the first Maldivian and the sixth person from amongst the 52-member Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to hold the prestigious post in the UN’s history. The rise to the top post in the UNGA by the Maldivian Foreign Minister will boost the standing of Maldives in global affairs providing the opportunity to focus on issues such as climate change and sustainable development.
During his victory speech as the President of the UNGA, the Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid referred to his upcoming term as “Presidency of hope” and that “we have always worked for a better tomorrow”. For the first time in the history of the United Nations (UN), Maldives will hold the office of President at the UNGA. The Maldives is a vital partner in India’s neighborhood policy.
India’s campaigning for the Maldives at the UNGA reflects the importance that India has given to the Indian Ocean Island. On its agenda, India is expected to push forward key global issues affecting South Asian states. In the past India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have held the UNGA presidency. The UNGA presidency rotates annually between the five geographic groups: Africa; Asia-Pacific; Eastern Europe; Latin American and Caribbean; and Western European and other States. The President of the General Assembly (PGA) is responsible for chairing the UNGA sessions during their elected term.
UN in Sri Lanka
A main characteristic of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy has been the synchronising of its policies with the multipolar system in the South Asian region. India identifies its neighbourhood states to be vitally significant. Reshaping Indo-Lanka ties is a major role of this ‘Neighbourhood First’ Foreign Policy. Being in a win-win situation, Sri Lanka must try its best to play a productive role with India and the UN Security Council.
With the Maldives presidency of the 76th UNGA providing the opportunity to pursue matters with the United Nations together with being a member of SAARC, the Maldives is a another key player in this multilateral UN organization. Going back to Sri Lanka’s long ties of seven decades with the multilateral organization, the United Nations commenced its work in Sri Lanka in 1952.
Three years later, on 14 December 1955, Sri Lanka became a UN member state. A number of Sri Lankan professionals have held vital positions in the UN .Just five years after joining the UN, Sri Lanka then Ceylon, had the distinction of serving in the UN Security Council.
Sri Lanka’s first contribution to a United Nations peacekeeping mission was in 1960 when it deployed six peacekeepers to the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC). Presently, Sri Lanka is a member of the United Nations Special Committee on Peace Keeping Operations and is a committed partner with thousands of men and women from the three Armed Forces and the Police deployed in missions abroad.
76th session of the UNGA
The United Nations, as partners in multilateralism maintaining international peace and security, promoting cooperation, saving millions of lives and helping countries reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development has turned a new chapter in 2021 with the Asia Pacific.
Through the activities of United Nations 76th session , India, Maldives, Sri Lanka and other South Asian nations envisage a new and more inclusive and equitable economic system and possibly a peaceful political future for South Asia.
About the Author: Dr. Srimal Fernando received his PhD in the area of International Affairs. He was the recipient of the prestigious O.P. Jindal Doctoral Fellowship and SAU Scholarship under the SAARC umbrella. He is also an Adviser/ Global Editor of Diplomatic Society for South Africa in partnership with Diplomatic World Institute (Brussels).
He has received accolades such as 2018/2019 ‘Best Journalist of the Year’ in South Africa, (GCA) Media Award for 2016 and the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) accolade. He is the author of ‘Politics, Economics and Connectivity: In Search of South Asian Union