The Trump administration is leading a high-profile effort this year for UN reforms. In his remarks at a UN “Management, Security and Development” meeting convened by UN secretary general António Guterres, the US President said that “in recent years, the UN has not reached its full potential due to bureaucracy and mismanagement”.
What is the issue today?
- Trump had also earlier accused the UN of causing problems than solving them.
- Reforming the UN is big on the Trump administration’s agenda and this reforms agenda is largely based on two principles: sovereignty and accountability.
- The US is also keen that the management of the UN becomes more accountable and transparent as it remains the largest contributor to the UN budget (it pays 25% of the UN’s regular operating budget and over 28% of the separate peacekeeping budget).
Challenges to UN reform –
The challenge, of course, remains of how to operationalise these reforms. The UN is structured in such a way that the decision-making process is distributed among a wide range of countries and constituencies with often competing and contradictory views and interests. Russia and China, for example, did not attend the UN meeting on reforms.
India’s stance on UN reforms –
- India has suggested that the UN reforms need to be “broad-based and all-encompassing” and the changes should not be restricted to its secretariat only. India has made it clear that reforms cannot sidestep issues related to the governance of UN bodies.
- India has extended its support to Trump’s efforts at UN reforms, saying it should include the expansion of the world body’s permanent and non-permanent members to keep pace with the changed times.
- Since the end of the Cold War, India has been spearheading a move for reforms at the UN to make the world body more representative of the changing global realities while enhancing its credibility and effectiveness.
- India remains one of the largest contributors to the UN peacekeeping operations, providing almost 200,000 troops in nearly 50 of the 71 peacekeeping missions mandated over the past six decades.
Why India wants reform of the UN?
- New Delhi has been concerned about the post-Cold War international acceptance of the UN’s questionable “right to intervene” where it believed it to be necessary, allowing the UN to act with little debate.
- The UN peacekeepers were deployed to environments in which the belligerent parties were not entirely on board with the deployment, thus seriously threatening the safety of the troops under the UN flag. India has repeatedly underlined the dangers inherent in such a rapid transformation from traditional UN missions to these new operations.
UN reforms – past record –
Since the cessation of the Cold War there have been attempts to reform the international legal system to reflect the rights of the individual over and above those of the state. But India, along with other largely non-Western nations, has remained sceptical of these attempts at reforms, believing that any such reforms would afford the privileged few with the means to intervene, the moral justification to do so.
As India continues to expend its diplomatic capital on finding a seat at the UN Security Council, it will also have to articulate new ways of how the UN can be made more effective and efficient. There is a need to create a new balance between India’s pursuit of its narrow national interest and its responsibility as a rising power to maintain global peace and stability.
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