News Analysis | U.N. draft declaration for 75th anniversary goes soft on India’s demand for reform

Process of expansion of UNSC membership is expected to slow down

July 19, 2020 11:13 pm | Updated July 20, 2020 05:29 pm IST - NEW DELHI

FILE PHOTO: A United Nations logo and flag are seen during the U.N. General Assembly at U.N. Headquarters in New York September 25, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Thayer/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: A United Nations logo and flag are seen during the U.N. General Assembly at U.N. Headquarters in New York September 25, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Thayer/File Photo

Despite India’s repeated demands for reform of the U.N. Security Council, the process of the expansion of the membership is expected to slow down this year with the final draft of the Declaration on the Commemoration of the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the U.N. favouring a softer approach to the issue.

“We reiterate our call for reforms of three of the principal organs of the United Nations. We commit to instil 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. The review of the peace-building architecture has our full support,” states the final draft. The Declaration is a powerful reiteration of the U.N.’s founding principles that brought a new world order 75 years ago in the backdrop of the World War II.

Mention of ‘discussions’ in this key anniversary document is being interpreted by Indian diplomats as dilution of progress made on the path of reform of the principal organs of the U.N. during the 122nd plenary meeting of the General Assembly.

Editorial |At the high table: On India’s U.N. Security Council win

Question of equitable representation

At the 122nd plenary meeting on September 15, 2008, the General Assembly on the basis of previous resolutions had ‘decided’ to proceed with the “modalities in order to prepare and facilitate intergovernmental negotiations on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and other matters related to the Council”. The final draft for the upcoming UNGA is also a step down from the Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on September 16, 2005 when the call for reform was demanded in the backdrop of widespread unilateral decisions as seen during the Iraq war of 2003 and the “war on terror”.

The 2005 Resolution had expressed strong global will to stop misuse of military power and said, “We are determined to reinvigorate the intergovernmental organs of the United Nations to adopt them to the needs of the twenty-first century”.

Mention of just ‘discussion’ in the draft final statement in place of ‘negotiations’ shows the Security Council’s expansion and reform have received a textual setback even as India’s diplomatic machinery repeatedly urged for strengthening of the UNSC by including new members. As of now developing or emerging economies are not adequately represented in the highest organs with only one developing country, that is China, participating in the global high tables of the U.N. on an equal basis armed with the right of veto.

Modi’s call for reformed multilateralism

India became a non-permanent member of the Security Council on June 17 for a single year term of 2021-22. This move was seen as a boost for its demand for the actual reform and expansion of the UNSC. This was also highlighted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s keynote address at this year’s High-Level Segment of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on 17 July.

Mr. Modi had reiterated India’s call for a “reformed multilateralism” which is likely to be more necessary in the post-COVID19 world. India’s 2021-’22 tenure will end as it will take over presidency of G20. Despite some multilateral gains in outfits like the G20, the dilution of the in-text language has cast a shadow over the real goal of India and other developing countries that aspired for a permanent membership of the UNSC.

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