Civil Service Essay –UN Reform and America’s attitude
Reform of the United Nations – long overdue
Due to some inexplicable reason, the United States has dragged its feet over the issue of reforming the world body. Today, almost everyone, including the countries with veto power, agree that the world has changed greatly in the last half century, and the structure of the United Nations looks outmoded and un-representative of the new world order.
It can be recalled that during the last visit to India, President Obama had assured that his administration would back India’s candidature to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Going back on this promise, America opposed any large-scale reform of the world body. India’s case for a seat in the UNSC, thus, remains frozen for a long time to come. It is a setback for India.
The American Ambassador to India Richard Verma has tried to do some damage-control exercise by reiterating that the United States remains committed to its earlier support for substantive UN reform that could pave the way for India’s elevation to the world’s apex decision making body. It is difficult to read what Washington really has in mind with regard to such a pressing issue of UN reform.
Sadly, the U.S. found common cause with Russia and China in stalling negotiations on reform of the United Nations. Russia and China routinely oppose America-led initiatives on global matters, no matter how well-intentioned they might be. Peculiarly, on this vital issue, the adversaries spoke with one voice. This is as amusing as is disgusting.
What is more intriguing is the insistence of these three major powers that in the event of any future reform, none of the five veto power countries of today would lose their veto privilege. Such caveat restricts the scope of reform, defeating the intent to make the world body, created in the aftermath of the WW2, truly representative.
The Cold War years are gone. Some countries have emerged as truly powerful economic and political powers. But, the UNSC remains static. To cite a paradox, Germany and Japan, the two economic powerhouses of modern day world are out of the UNSC, where as France, a decaying economic and military power is a permanent member of the UNSC with veto power. In the same vein, we can see how a large continent like Africa has no member in the UNSC. Obviously, something is grossly amiss in the world body’s decision making platform.
India’s economy has registered impressive growth as has its military prowess. Excluding this country with a billion plus population with a trillion dollar economy from the UNSC is a distortion that needs to be set right.
Closing the doors of the UNSC to new claimants undermines the moral authority and universal appeal of the UN as a neutral arbiter of world conflicts.
At the root of some dismal inaction of the United Nations in a few regional crises lies this un-representative nature of the UNSC. The 1994 genocide in Rwanda continued with the full knowledge of the UN, especially when it had an African Secretary General (Kofi Anan). In recent times, the insurgency in Libya and the interminable fratricidal strife in Syria have gone on causing mass suffering of innocent civilians. The UN has and can do little to stop these conflicts.
Clearly, the UN’s conscience has been numbed by certain western powers that have chosen to remain aloof to safeguard their own national interests. Selfishness has ceded ground to service. This blight has to be fought.
India has a fair case to lay claim for a place in the high-table of the UNSC’s big five members. Its economy continues to make strides, now rivaling China’s. Its political stability is enviable. It is the second most populous country in the world today. India has generously contributed men for UN’s many peace-keeping missions. From Nehru’s times till today, India has proactively advocated the cause of world peace. Scuttling India’s elevation to the UNSC’s league of permanent members is, therefore, an exercise driven by arrogance and arbitrariness.
Unfortunately, the big powers are distinctly unhelpful and unresponsive. Undaunted by this setback, India must persevere in its efforts to reform the UN to make it truly representative. It is a challenge for India’s diplomatic community to work towards a global consensus to achieve the desired objective. There is a long way to go.
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