UN at 75: India Must Insist on Structural Reforms in Global Body

India, Brazil, Japan and Germany have been vociferous in calling for much needed reforms in the UN.

5 min read
Plaque bearing the United Nations logo above the podium of the General Assembly Hall.

A global body with 193 states as its members, septuagenarian United Nations turns 75 on October 24. It wasn’t an easy task for the world to group together after the failure of the League of Nations and when the nations were only thinking of war-time alliance. Horror succeeded horror until in 1945 the world was brought face to face with the terrible tragedies brought by wars, fascism, nuclear bombing and attempted genocide, Hiroshima and the holocaust. Had things gone on like that, the future of the human race would have been extinct by now!

There was a significant effort by stalwarts like Franklin D Roosevelt and Winston Churchill who held a secret meeting where they discussed the possibility of starting an international peace effort through Atlantic Charter.

Winston Churchill waving to crowds in Whitehall 
Winston Churchill waving to crowds in Whitehall 
Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

This document helped converting into a peace time alliance in the form of United Nations.


Relevance of the UN in Today’s World

Amidst the global pandemic, the role and importance of this great global body has increased manifold. The preambular words of the UN Charter
“save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”,
“to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations” and
“to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom”
are so promising and set a high expectations towards global peace, security and fraternity.

The true spirit behind envisioning such a great institution was indeed preventing yet another war. The establishment of the UN along with other two Bretton Woods Institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, helped in fostering dialogue and diplomacy as well as provided a platform, other than the battlefield, for countries to hash out disagreements.

Even after seven decades of its existence, UN is the single global body sought after by the nations around the world. Every newly independent state seeks entry into the UN almost as its first order of government business. Its seat in the UN is its most fundamental confirmation of its membership in the committee of nations.

UN’s Role in Building a Better World

With its multitude of agencies, the UN is endeavouring to build a better world.
It has

  • brought humanitarian relief to the millions in need,
  • helped people to rebuild their countries from the ruins of armed conflict,
  • challenged poverty in many third world countries,
  • contributed in the sphere of healthcare,
  • fought apartheid,
  • protected the rights of millions of children,
  • promoted de-colonisation, and
  • placed environmental and gender issues at the top the world's agenda and continuing to do so.

It was also instrumental in proving a forum for brining in landmark treaties among the nations, harmonizing internationally acceptable norms from space to deep see including cyber space. Indeed, the UN exists to find better solutions for most of the problems through the common endeavor of all states. Therefore, UN is the one indispensable organization we have in our globalizing world.


Yes, UN Is Imperfect But What Isn’t?

The global body is evidently representing various communities, cultures, linguistic diversions, religious, ethnic people consisting of divisions and disagreements. Built on the core democratic values of equality, freedom, human rights and so on, it is thriving to bring new global order.

In its pursuit, it has indeed fallen short of expectations especially of the global south. According to an international survey, conducted by Ipsos in 2019, 7 in 10 respondents from 28 countries think that the UN will continue to be a positive force in the world over the next decade.

However, isolated conflicts, hegemony of few countries, ultra nationalism, disregard for human rights, advancing self interests, nuclear threat, obsession with trade, global pandemic and the world’s unpreparedness to face it, a few among many causes, pose threat to the existence of global institutions like the UN.

Mushrooming of regional or opportunistic alliances also indicate weakening of the faith in the UN.

Its structural reforms are long overdue. Such reform brings in effectiveness as a multilateral organisation, bring more transparency to the institution and enhance its credibility among the nations. India, along with its G-4 partners viz., Brazil, Japan and Germany have been vociferous in calling for much needed reforms, including a permanent seat for them in the UN Security Council. Many scholars also criticise the veto power of the P-5 (Permanent members of the UNSC-US, Russia, China, UK and France) which has often been used to advance the self interest.

India’s Role in Encouraging Structural Reforms in the UN

Demanding for the structural reforms, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his latest address to the UN General Assembly, highlighted that “India is the largest democracy of the world, a country with more than 18% of the world population, a country, which has hundreds of languages, hundreds of dialects, many sects, many ideologies, a country, which was a leading global economy for centuries and also one which has seen hundreds of years of foreign rule” truly deserves a UNSC permanent membership. He also questioned the rationale behind long delay in the process of UN reforms.

India has been once again elected as the non permanent member of the UNSC for the 2021-22 term. India’s contribution to the UN has been phenomenal. According to a statement, India has contributed nearly 195,000 troops, the largest number from any country, participated in more than 49 missions and 168 Indian peacekeepers have made the supreme sacrifice while serving in UN missions.

India has contributed USD 23,396,496 in 2020.

There are significant contribution in every other area as well.

Despite of several shortcomings, in reality, UN is an indispensable organisation to the world. To borrow the words of Dag Hammarskjold, the UN's great second Secretary General, the United Nations was not created to take humanity to heaven but to save it from hell. Hence, let’s wish many more happy birthdays to the UN in the coming years to come. Hope that the much awaited UN reforms turn into a reality sooner than later.

(The author is the Legal Officer at the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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