Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

Looking back at India’s journey at the UN

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/indias-un-journey-from-outlier-to-the-high-table/article32932905.ece

Mains level : Paper 2- India's journey at United Nations

The article examines India’s journey at the UN as it enters it 75year. It also analyses the challenges India faced at the UN and tracks India’s transformation from being an outlier to the high table.

Three phases of India’s presence at the UN

  • Seven and a half decades of India at the UN may be viewed with reference to roughly three distinct phases.

First phase: From independence to 1989

  • The first phase lasted until the end of Cold War in 1989.
  • During this phase, India had learnt to explore and enhance its diplomatic influence in easing armed conflicts in Asia and Africa by disentangling them from the superpower rivalry.
  • India also leaned that the UN could not be relied upon to impartially resolve vital security disputes such as Jammu and Kashmir.
  • India strove to utilise the UN only to focus on common causes such as anti-colonialism, anti-racism, nuclear disarmament, environment conservation and equitable economic development.
  • India seemed to claim the moral high ground by proposing, in 1988 three-phase plan to eliminate nuclear weapons from the surface of earth.
  • But it resisted attempts by neighbouring countries to raise bilateral problems.
  • Defeat in 1962 war against China meant a definitive redesign of the country’s diplomatic style to privilege bilateral contacts over the third party role by the UN.

Second phase: 1990s

  • The 1990s were the most difficult decade for India in the UN.
  • The 1990s were marked by the sudden end of the Cold War, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the United States as the unrivalled power.
  • Besides, the uncertain political climate along with the balance of payments crisis constrained the country’s capability to be active in various bodies, especially in the Security Council (UNSC) and the General Assembly.
  • There was a change in India’s foreign policy: At the UN as India showed pragmatism in enabling the toughest terms on Iraq even after Gulf War or in reversing position on Zionism as racism.
  • At the same time, growing militancy in Kashmir in the early 1990s helped Pakistan to internationalise the dispute with accusations about gross human rights violations by India.
  • India to seek favours from Iran and China in the Human Rights Commission to checkmate Pakistan.
  • The violation of the sovereignty principle by NATO intervention against Yugoslavia in 1999 without the authorisation of the UNSC deeply disturbed India.
  • At the same time call for an end to aerial attacks on Yugoslavia did not garner much support in the UNSC.
  • India’s diplomatic difficulties was exposed when it suffered a defeat in the hands of Japan in the 1996 contest for a non-permanent seat in the UNSC.
  • India resolutely stood against indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1995.
  • India strongly rejected the backdoor introduction for adoption of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996.
  • It is against this background that India surprised the world in 1998 with its Pokhran nuclear weapon tests, ignoring the likely adverse reaction from the nuclear club.

Third phase: Rise in influence in 21st century

  • The impressive economic performance in the first decade of the 21st century due to economic liberalisation and globalisation policies, helped a great deal in strengthening profile.
  • This is only aided by its reliable and substantial troop contributions to several peacekeeping operations in African conflict theatres.
  • India has emerged as a responsible stakeholder in non-traditional security issue areas such as the spread of small and light weapons, the threat of non-state actors acquiring weapons of mass destruction, and the impact of climate change.
  • India has scaled up its contributions to development and humanitarian agencies, while India’s share to the UN assessed budget has registered a hike from 0.34% to 0.83%.
  • India’s successful electoral contests for various prestigious slots in the UNSC, the Human Rights Council, the World Court, and functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council indicates its growing popularity

Major unsuccessful initiatives by India

  • Two major initiatives India has heavily invested in are stuck:
  • 1) The draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism it drafted and revised with the hope of helping consensus.
  • It encountered reservations on provisions regarding definition of terrorist and the convention’s application to state armed forces.
  • 2) Second is the question of equitable expansion of the UNSC to enable India to attain permanent membership along with other claimants from Asia, Africa and Latin America.
  • The move has been stuck for more than 25 years because of a lack of unity among the regional formations.
  • It also includes opposition from some 30 middle powers such as Italy and Pakistan which fear losing out to regional rivals in the event of an addition of permanent seats.
  •  The only realistic possibility seems to settle for a compromise, i.e. a new category of members elected for a longer duration than the present non-permanent members without veto power.

Priorities at the UNSC as a non-permanent member

  • India’s future role will depend on its ability to deal  economic slowdown and a troubled relationship with China.
  • This is pertinent as India will soon begin its two-year term as a non-permanent UNSC member (January 1, 2021).
  • Its areas of priority will continue to be the upholding of Charter principles, act against those who support, finance and sponsor terrorists, besides striving for securing due say to the troop contributing countries in the management of peace operations.
  • It is reasonable to assume (based on earlier patterns) that India will work for and join in consensus on key questions wherever possible.
  • But it may opt to abstain along with other members including one or two permanent members.

Consider the question “Elaborate on the transformation in India’s role at UN. What are the challenges India may face as a non-permanent member of the UNSC” 

Conclusion

As a non-permanent UNSC member now, India needs to uphold the Charter principles in the backdrop of a turbulent world.

Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

At 75, the UN continues to preside over tussle between principle and power.

As the UN enters its diamond jubilee years, a review of its performance reveals several issues in its functioning. The article argues that it is the right moment for the global push for the reforms at the UN.

Assessing the role of UN

  • On the one hand, the UN represents hopes of a peaceful and just world order through multilateral cooperation.
  • On the other, the institution has been designed to privilege the most powerful states of the post-World War II dispensation.
  • These five powerful states possess undemocratic instruments of veto power and permanent seats in the Security Council (UNSC).
  • However, the collective command model of big powers built into the UNSC is one of the reasons why there has been no third world war.
  • Almost immediately after the UN’s creation, the Cold War left the UN little room to implement noble visions of peace, development and human rights.
  • It was only in the uncontested period post-Cold War that the UN could embark on a plethora of peacekeeping missions, nation-building interventions and promotion of universal human rights.

New Cold War

  • We are now past the unipolar moment and entering in the era of new Cold War.
  • The phrase ‘new Cold War’ is in vogue to depict the clash between China and the U.S. Tensions involving other players like Russia, Turkey, Iran and Israel in West Asia, as well as between China and its neighbours in Asia, are at an all-time high.
  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has labelled the present peaking of geopolitical tensions as a “great fracture”.

Issue of competitive vetoing by P-5

  • Habits of competitive vetoing by P-5 countries has prevented the UNSC from fulfilling its collective security mandate.
  • So dangerous are the divisions and their spillover effects that Mr. Guterres has lamented that “we have essentially failed” to cooperate against the immediate global threat of the pandemic.
  • He has also rekindled the old maxim, “The UN is only as strong as its memberscommitment to its ideals.”

P-5 blocking reforms

  • At the core of the paralysis of the UN is the phenomenon of P-5 countries blocking reforms.
  • Outmoded procedures based on the discriminatory superior prerogatives to P-5 countries have to be discarded.
  • If a simple majority voting method could replace the P-5 consensus method, the obstacles to UNSC reforms would reduce.

Consider the question” “The UN is only as strong as its members’ commitment to its ideals.” Comment.” 

Conclusion

On the 75th anniversary of the UN, there must be a global push against ossifying ‘rules’ which have privileged ‘rule’ of the few over the many. That is the only way to restore some balance between ‘power’ and ‘principle’ and ensure a renaissance of the UN.


Back2Basics: UNSC and P-5

  • The United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the United Nations’ principal crisis-management body, is empowered to impose binding obligations on the 193 UN member states to maintain peace.
  • The Security Council has five permanent members—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—collectively known as the P5.
  • The council’s five permanent and ten elected members meet regularly to assess threats to international security, addressing issues that include civil wars, natural disasters, arms control, and terrorism.

 

Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

UN and the retreat from multilateralism

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : U.N. and its organs

Mains level : Paper 2- United Nations and the challenges it faces

As the U.N. enters into 75th year of its existence, it faces several challenges. The article discusses such challenges.

Challenges to the multilateralism

1) Withdrawal of the main stakeholders: U.S. and the U.K.

  • The U.S. is withdrawing from multilateralism and so it the U.K.
  • Brexit has shown that nationalism remains strong in Europe.
  • Nevertheless, the most important development is the position of the U.S.
  • The U.S., which created the international system as we know today, is no longer willing to be its “guarantor of last resort”.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump stressed “America First” and suggested that others too should put their countries first.

2) China’s reluctance

  • China has stepped in to take advantage of the West’s retreat from multilateralism.
  • But China is not embracing the idea of multilateralism.
  • China’s Belt and Road Initiative consists of a series of bilateral credit agreements with recipient countries with no mechanism for multilateral consultation or oversight.
  • The European Union’s and U.S.’s sanctions against Russia have driven it closer to China.
  • Work of the UN Security Council has been affected by the lack of consensus between its permanent members.

3) Turkey’s interventions

  • Turkey has intervened in Syria, Libya, and the Eastern Mediterranean, which is a breach of international law.
  • The last was a reference to Turkey sending a drilling ship in Greek and Cypriot exclusive economic zones.
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a detailed reference to the Jammu and Kashmir issue.
  • As Turkey has assumed the position of UN General Assembly President, statement and its actions matters.

4) Paucity of resources

  • Over 40 UN political missions and peacekeeping operations engage 95,000 troops, police, and civil personnel. it suffers from a paucity of resources.
  • The UN peacekeeping budget, a little over $8 billion, is a small fraction of the $1.9 trillion military expenditure governments made in 2019.
  •  Most of the humanitarian assistance, developmental work, and budgets of the specialised agencies are based on voluntary contributions.
  • There are calls for increasing public-private partnerships. This is not a satisfactory arrangement.
  • The UN provides ‘public goods’ in terms of peace and development often in remote parts of the world.
  • There may not be enough appetite on the part of corporations. The UN remains an inter-governmental body.

5) Climate action

  • President Trump mentioned that China’s emissions are nearly twice of those of the U.S.
  • Despite its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, the U.S. has reduced its carbon emissions by more than any country in the world.
  • President Xi said that after peaking emissions by 2030, China will achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.
  • President Macron said that he was determined to see the EU agree on a target of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

Consider the question “As the world is facing the retreat from multilateralism, what are the challenges facing the U.N. in the current global order?”

Conclusion

What does the UN bring to the developing countries? It gives them greater political space. We need to support reform not only to expand the permanent members’ category of the Security Council but also to revitalise the role of the General Assembly. The retreat from multilateralism would undermine the UN’s capacity to face diverse challenges.

Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

Explained: Birth of United Nations

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : United Nations, Atlantic Charter

Mains level : Success and failures of United Nations

The United Nations completed 75 years this year. In order to commemorate the historic moment, world leaders have come together, at a one-day high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly.

Try this:

Q.Discuss the various success and failures of the United Nations. (150W)

Birth of United Nations

  • The United Nations was born out of the horrors of World War II.
  • At the time of its foundation, it was primarily tasked with the goal of maintaining world peace and saving future generations from the evils of war.

A historical backgrounder

  • The UN was born out of the ashes of yet another international organisation created with the intention of keeping war away.
  • The League of Nations was created in June 1919, after World War I, as part of the Treaty of Versailles.
  • However, when the Second World War broke out in 1939, the League closed down and its headquarters in Geneva remained empty throughout the war.
  • Consequently, in August 1941, American President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British PM Winston Churchill held a secret meeting aboard naval ships in Placenta Bay, located in the southeast coast of Newfoundland, Canada.

The Atlantic Charter

  • The heads of the two countries discussed the possibility of creating a body for international peace effort and a range of issues related to the war.
  • Together they issued a statement that came to be called the Atlantic Charter. It was not a treaty, but only an affirmation that paved the way for the creation of the UN.
  • It declared the realization of “certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they based their hopes for a better future for the world.”

The name ‘UN’

  • The United States joined the war in December 1941, and for the first time the term ‘United Nations’ was coined by president Roosevelt to identify those countries which were allied against the axis powers.
  • On January 1, 1942, representatives of 26 allied nations met in Washington DC to sign the declaration of the United Nations, which basically spelt out the war objectives of the Allied powers.
  • Over the next couple of years, several meetings took place among the Allied big four — The USA, the Soviet Union, the UK and China — to decide on the post-war charter that would describe the precise role of the UN.

Coming to existence

  • The UN finally came into existence on October 24, 1945, after being ratified by 51 nations, which included five permanent members (France, the Republic of China, the Soviet Union, the UK and the US) and 46 other signatories.
  • The first meeting of the General Assembly took place on January 10, 1946.

Its achievements

  • While at the time of its formation, the UN consisted of only 51 member states, independence movements and decolonization in the subsequent years led to an expansion of its membership.
  • At present, 193 countries are members of the UN.
  • It has also expanded its scope to resolve over a large number of global issues such as health, environment, and women empowerment among others.
  • Soon after its formation, it passed a resolution to commit to the elimination of nuclear weapons in 1946. In 1948, it created the World Health Organisation (WHO) to deal with communicable diseases like smallpox, malaria, HIV.
  • In 1950, the UN created the High Commissioner for Refugees to take care of the millions who had been displaced due to World War II.
  • More recently in 2002, the UN established the UN criminal court to try those who have committed war crimes, genocide, and other atrocities.

Various criticisms

  • The UN has also met with its share of criticisms. In 1994, for instance, the organisation failed to stop the Rwandan genocide.
  • In 2005, UN peacekeeping missions were accused of sexual misconduct in the Republic of Congo, and similar allegations have also come from Cambodia and Haiti.
  • In 2011, the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan was unsuccessful in eliminating the bloodshed caused in the civil war that broke out in 2013.

Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

Singapore Convention on Mediation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Singapore Convention

Mains level : Not Much

The Singapore Convention on Mediation has finally come into force.

Try this MCQ:

Q. The Singapore Convention recently seen in news is related to:

Climate change/ Arbitration and conciliation/ Foreign trade/ Marine Regulation

Singapore Convention

  • It is aimed to provide a more effective way of enforcing mediated settlements of corporate disputes involving businesses in India and other countries that are signatories to the Convention.
  • Also known as the UN Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation, this is also the first UN treaty to be named after Singapore.
  • With the Convention in force, businesses seeking enforcement of a mediated settlement agreement across borders can do so by applying directly to the courts of countries that have signed and ratified the treaty.
  • The harmonized and simplified enforcement framework under the Convention translates to savings in time and legal costs.

Its signatories

  • The Convention has 53 signatories, including India, China and the U.S.
  • Singapore had worked with the UN Commission on International Trade Law, other UN member states and non-governmental organisations for the Convention.

Significance of the convention

  • The Convention would boost India’s ‘ease of doing business’ credentials by enabling swift mediated settlements of corporate disputes.
  • Businesses in India and around the world will now have greater certainty in resolving cross-border disputes through mediation.

Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

[pib] India’s Voluntary National Review (VNR) of SDGs

The NITI Aayog has recently presented India’s second Voluntary National Review at the UN’s High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development, 2020.

Practice question for mains:

Q.Discuss the institutional approach adopted by NITI Aayog for the 2030 Agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.

About the UN Forum on SDGs

  • The HLPF is the foremost international platform for follow-up and review of progress on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • The HLPF meets annually in July for eight days under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN.
  • The VNRs presented by the Member States at the HLPF are a critical component of the review of progress and implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.
  • The reviews are voluntary and state-led and are aimed at facilitating the sharing of experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned.

India VNR 2020

  • NITI Aayog prepared and presented India’s first VNR in 2017.
  • The report is a comprehensive account of the adoption and implementation of the 2030 Agenda in India.
  • India’s VNR this year has undertaken a paradigm shift in terms of embodying a “whole-of-society” approach in letter and spirit.
  • Apart from presenting a review of progress on the 17 SDGs, the report discusses at length the policy and enabling environment, India’s approach to localizing SDGs, and strengthening means of implementation.
  • Leveraging science, technology and innovation for SDGs, and costing and financing of SDGs are the two levers of strengthening means of implementation which have been introduced this year.

Consultations made for the VNR 2020

From Global to Local -key steps of localisation of SDGs in India

 

Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

Multilateralism in the new cold war

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : G7 countries

Mains level : Paper 2- Challenges the current form of multilateralism faces and opportunity for India to shape the new multilateralism.

The world is going through turmoil. The new world that will emerge will be different from what we have known. This provides India with some unique opportunities. This article explains the changes that are taking place and gives the outline of the changing order. So, how can India set and shape the global response? And what should be the principles on which the new multilateralism should be based? Read to know…

Opportunity for India to set the global response

  • As chair of the Executive Board of the World Health Assembly – India can set the global response in terms of multilateralism, not just medical issues.
  • How can India set a global response in terms of multilateralism? Consider the following- a rare alignment of stars for agenda-setting.
  • 1) In September, the United Nations General Assembly will discuss the theme, “The Future We Want”.
  • 2) In 2021, India joins the UN Security Council (non-permanent seat).
  • 3) And chairs the BRICS Summit in 2021.
  • 4) Also hosts the G-20 in 2022.
  • New principles for international system: At the online summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, in May, Prime Minister Modi called for new principles for the international system.
  • His new globalisation model based on humanity, fairness and equality has wide support in a more equal world as, for the first time since 1950, everyone is experiencing the same (virus) threat.

Changing global context

  • China is losing influence and the dynamics in its relations with the United States.
  • And Asia again is emerging as the centre of global prosperity.
  • The global governance, economy, scientific research and society are all in need of being re-invented.
  • India should use this opportunity to recover our global thought leadership.

The US-China powerplay and its consequences for multilateralism

  • The clash between China and the U.S. at the just concluded World Health Assembly in May marks the end of the multilateralism of the past 70 years.
  • The donor-recipient relationship between developed and developing countries has ended with China’s pledge of $2-billion.
  • The agenda-setting role of the G7 over UN institutions and global rules has also been effectively challenged by WHO ignoring the reform diktat of the U.S. leading to its withdrawal, and characterisation of the G7 as “outdated”.
  • The U.S. has also implicitly rejected the G20 and UN Security Council, for an expanded G7 “to discuss the future of China”.
  • Important shift in the UN: After World War II, the newly independent states were not consulted when the U.S. imposed global institutions fostering trade, capital and technology dependence.
  • This was done ignoring the socio-economic development of these countries.
  • But social and economic rights have emerged to be as important as political and procedural rights.
  • Against this backdrop, China’s President Xi Jinping deftly endorsed the UN Resolution on equitable access to any new vaccine.

Emergence of Asia and China: Challenges for the US and the West

  • The U.S. faces an uphill task in seeking to lead a new multidimensional institution in the face of China’s re-emergence.
  • The re-emergence of China is based on technology, innovation and trade balancing U.S. military superiority.
  • At the same time, there is a clear trend of declining global trust in free-market liberalism, central to western civilisation.
  • With the West experiencing a shock comparable to the one experienced by Asia, 200 years ago, the superiority of western civilisation is also under question.
  • The novel coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the shift of global wealth to Asia suggesting an inclusive global order based on principles drawn from ancient Asian civilisations.
  • Colonised Asia played no role in shaping the Industrial Revolution.
  • But, the Digital Revolution will be shaped by different values.
  • It is really this clash that multilateralism has now to resolve.

World is questioning both U.S. and China’s exceptionalism

  • China has come out with alternative governance mechanisms to the U.S.-dominated International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organization with its all-encompassing Belt and Road Initiative.
  • The U.S., European Union and Japan are re-evaluating globalisation as it pertains to China and the U.S. is unabashedly “America First”.
  • The world is questioning both U.S. and China’s exceptionalism.
  • For India, the strategic issue is neither adjustment to China’s power nor deference to U.S. leadership.

Opportune moment for India to propose new multilateralism

  • The global vacuum, shift in relative power and its own potential, provides India the capacity to articulate a benign multilateralism.
  • It should include in its fold NAM-Plus that resonates with large parts of the world and brings both BRICS and the G7 into the tent.
  • This new multilateralism should rely on outcomes, not rules, ‘security’ downplayed for ‘comparable levels of wellbeing’ and a new P-5 that is not based on the G7.

India in a important role

  • China, through an opinion piece by its Ambassador in India, has suggested writing “together a new chapter” with “a shared future for mankind”.
  • The U.S. wants a security partnership to contain China.
  • And the Association of Southeast Asian Nations trade bloc — with the U.S. walking out of the negotiations — is keen India joins to balance China.
  • With a new template. India does not have to choose.

Three principles the new system should be based on-

1. Peaceful coexistence

    • First, the Asian Century should be defined in terms of peaceful co-existence, freezing post-colonial sovereignty.
    • Non-interference in the internal affairs of others is a key lesson from the decline of the U.S. and the rise of China.
    • National security now relies on technological superiority in artificial intelligence (AI), cyber and space, and not expensive capital equipment, as India’s military has acknowledged.
    • Instead of massive arms imports, we should use the savings to enhance endogenous capacity.
    • And mould the global digital economy between state-centric (China), firm-centric (the U.S.) and public-centric (India) systems.

2. New principles of trade

  • A global community at comparable levels of well-being requires new principles for trade, for example, rejecting the 25-year-old trade rule creating intellectual property monopolies.
  • Global public goods should include public health, crop research, renewable energy and batteries, even AI as its value comes from shared data.
  • We have the scientific capacity to support these platforms as part of foreign policy.

3.  Civilisational values

  • Ancient civilisational values provide the conceptual underpinning, restructuring both the economic order and societal behaviour for equitable sustainable development.
  • Which is what a climate change impacted world, especially Africa, is seeking.

Consider the question-“The global order is going through serious churn, and it provides India with an opportunity to shape the new multilateralism based on humanity, fairness and equality. Comment.”

Conclusion

In the new cold war, defined by technology and trade not territory, non-alignment is an uncertain option; India should craft a global triumvirate.

Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

Taiwan makes new push for inclusion in World Health Assembly

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : World Health Assembly , WHO

Mains level : China-Taiwan tussle

Following its successful containment of coronavirus outbreak, Taiwan has made a new push for inclusion in the World Health Assembly (WHA).

Locate the seas and straits around Taiwan using your Atlas.

What is World Health Assembly (WHA)?

  • The WHA, composed of representatives from all 194 member states, serves as the WHO’s supreme decision-making body.
  • The WHA convenes annually and is responsible for selecting the Director-General, setting goals and priorities, and approving the WHO’s budget and activities.
  • The first meeting of the WHA the WHO’s agency’s governing body, took place on 24 July 1948.
  • Its work began in earnest in 1951 following a significant infusion of financial and technical resources.

Why Taiwan must be included in WHA?

  • Taiwan has been praised over its handling of the pandemic, despite being just a short flight from China where the virus was first detected late last year.
  • Taiwan since then has been in a state of constant readiness to the threat of emerging infectious disease.
  • Hence, its exclusion from the upcoming World Health Assembly would harm the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Issues with Taiwan’s inclusion

  • Taiwan is claimed as part of Chinese territory by Beijing, which has excluded it from the United Nations and its subsidiary organisations.
  • China’s growing influence in the U.N. has made officials wary of crossing it, even while the U.S. has withdrawn from or suspended funding for some of its bodies, including WHO.
  • Beijing’s Communist leadership has increasingly shut Taiwan out of gatherings such as the World Health Assembly as part of a diplomatic and military drive to force Taiwan’s independence-leaning tendencies.

Also read:

[Burning Issue] World Health Organization (WHO) And Coronavirus Handling

Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

Private: World Health Organization (WHO) And Coronavirus Handling

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : WHO and its funding

Mains level : Fall of major global institutions amid COVID-19 outbreak

 

Context

  • US President Donald Trump has lashed out at the WHO by declaring he would “hold” their funding, and then said the decision is still under consideration.
  • Trump accused WHO to be China-centric and that it got every aspect of the coronavirus pandemic wrong.
  • The US, however, isn’t the only one criticizing the WHO. Several leaders, columnists, and others have also criticised the WHO’s handling of China — where the virus had originated

A brief history of the WHO

World Health Organization

  • The WHO is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health.
  • It is part of the U.N. Sustainable Development Group.
  • The WHO Constitution, which establishes the agency’s governing structure and principles, states its main objective as ensuring “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health.”
  • It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, with six semi-autonomous regional offices and 150 field offices worldwide.

Its establishment

  • The WHO was established in 7 April 1948, which is commemorated as World Health Day.
  • The first meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA), the agency’s governing body, took place on 24 July 1948.
  • The WHO incorporated the assets, personnel, and duties of the League of Nations’ Health Organisation and the Office International d’Hygiène Publique, including the International Classification of Diseases.
  • Its work began in earnest in 1951 following a significant infusion of financial and technical resources.

Composition of WHA

  • The WHA, composed of representatives from all 194 member states, serves as the agency’s supreme decision-making body.
  • The WHA convenes annually and is responsible for selecting the Director-General, setting goals and priorities, and approving the WHO’s budget and activities.
  • The current Director-General is Tedros Adhanom, former Health Minister and Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, who began his five-year term on 1 July 2017.

Mandate of the WHO

 

  • The WHO’s broad mandate includes advocating for universal healthcare, monitoring public health risks, coordinating responses to health emergencies, and promoting human health and well being.
  • It provides technical assistance to countries, sets international health standards and guidelines, and collects data on global health issues through the World Health Survey.
  • Its flagship publication, the World Health Report, provides expert assessments of global health topics and health statistics on all nations.

Focus areas

  • The WHO has played a leading role in several public health achievements, most notably the eradication of smallpox, the near-eradication of polio, and the development of an Ebola vaccine.
  • Its current priorities include communicable diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS, Ebola, malaria and tuberculosis; non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
  • It also focuses on a healthy diet, nutrition, and food security; occupational health; and substance abuse.

Achievements

  • Some of the WHO’s biggest achievements came in its early days.
  • In 1958, the erstwhile United Socialist Soviet Republic, or USSR, had proposed a WHO-led smallpox eradication programme. The disease was still endemic by 1966, especially in Africa and Asia.
  • The next year, in 1967, the WHO began its Intensified Eradication Program that focused on mass vaccinations, and it proved to be a huge success.
  • By 1980, small pox was declared as eradicated from the world — the only disease to be classified this way.

Other successes

  • In 1978, the WHO adopted the Declaration of Alma-Ata, calling on “urgent and effective national and international action to develop and implement primary health care throughout the world”.
  • The declaration was considered historic for identifying the role and necessity of primary healthcare in assuring health facilities for all.
  • The WHO has played a central role in global immunisation programmes against polio, measles and tetanus, among others.

Financing of WHO

  • The WHO relies on assessed and voluntary contributions from member states and private donors for funding.
  • It started off with $5 million and 51 member countries — all of whom signed its constitution.
  • Now, it has 194 member countries, with a budget of $4.8 billion.
  • The US is currently the biggest financial contributor to the WHO and has been its active member for many decades.

Handling of novel coronavirus pandemic

  • In December 2019, the WHO’s China office was informed about cases of pneumonia of unknown cause detected in the Wuhan city of Hubei province.
  • Ever since, the WHO has worked to inform the world about the illness — called the novel coronavirus — and even earned the praise of global health experts initially for its transparent and swift approach.
  • It was the WHO that announced a global emergency due to the spread of the virus and later declared it a pandemic.
  • It is raising $675 million to find a cure and spread awareness about the illness.

Why is WHO under Criticism?

1) Some unanswered questions

  • Questions were raised when WHO director praised China for the speed with which detected the outbreak and its commitment to transparency.
  • China has a history of keeping its data under wraps and it is said to have even concealed the extent of the outbreak during the early stages.
  • The WHO surprisingly maintained that masks only need to be used by those with symptoms, and travel bans are “ineffective” in curbing the spread of the virus.

2) Affinity with China

  • The WHO can certainly be criticized for giving China too much benefit of the doubt at the beginning of this pandemic.
  • The WHO is now being called “Chinese Health Organisation” even as it is at the forefront of fighting its worldwide spread.
  • Despite the criticism, the WHO has pledged to keep fighting against the current pandemic.

3) Delayed response

  • They accuse the WHO of simply reporting virus statistics given to them by the Chinese government, even though we now know China widely underreported and even tried to hide the extent of the virus.
  • For example, in mid-January, the WHO repeated that China said human-to-human transmission of the virus hadn’t been proved.
  • The WHO waited weeks to declare a public health emergency and only declared it a pandemic March 11, later than many countries would have preferred.

4) Trump being Trump

  • The US is trying to deflect the blame away from this catastrophe back onto China.
  • This fight between the US and China, with the world’s leading health organization in the middle, is a distraction.

Some of its failures:

  • It has come under fire in recent years for its heavy bureaucratic framework, which has led to inefficiencies, inertia, and even “over-reactions”.
  • During the 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic, the WHO was accused of overplaying the dangers of the virus and aligning with pharmaceutical interests.
  • As a consequence, member states bought billions of doses of vaccines that ultimately remained unused, leading to wastage of resources and money.
  • The organisation later admitted having failed in communicating about it properly.
  • During the Ebola outbreak in 2013-2015, the WHO failed to sound the alarm over the virus, despite knowing about it. Thousands of lives were lost before the WHO could act.

Why has WHO failed?

  • The WHO’s sprawling structure is an outcome of a vague mandate and global power imbalance.
  • WHO is facing the biggest pandemic in human history. For all the responsibility vested in the WHO, it has little power.
  • Unlike international bodies such as the WTO, the WHO, which is a specialised body of the UN, has no ability to bind or sanction its members.
  • Its annual operating budget, about $2bn in 2019, which is smaller than that of many university hospitals and split among a wide array of public health and research projects.
  • At the same time, the international order on which the WHO relies is fraying, as aggressive nationalism becomes normalized around the world.

Conclusion

  • Whatever the causes of this disaster are, it is clear that the WHO has failed in its duty to raise the alarm in time.
  • This shortfall of WHO is failure indicative of a deeper malaise: the global institutional framework is a pawn in the hands of the great powers, cash-strapped.
  • While the focus has been on what happened between China and the WHO, in epidemiological terms the crisis has moved on.
  • The WHO is battling against a breakdown in international cooperation that is far beyond its capacity to control.
  • States have been turning away from international institutions for a long time. And WHO has relied on the often unspoken norms of international collaboration that underlie it.

Way forward

  • The new world order is on the way. The spread of concepts like “before corona” and “after corona” will become commonplace.
  • The global institutional architecture of the 1940s cannot help humanity face the challenges of the 2020s.
  • India as a nation has an important say for fundamental reforms in the UN System, including the WHO to make it more transparent, competent, and accountable.
  • Nothing less than a new social contract between states and the international system can serve the purpose.

 




Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

UN Peacekeeping

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UN Peacekeeping

Mains level : Importance of the UN Peacekeeping

  • India has told the UN Security Council that peacekeeping currently is in a “no-man’s land” and called for next generation of reforms in peacekeeping based on incentivisation, innovation and institutionalization.

UN Peacekeeping

  • Peacekeeping by the United Nations is a unique and dynamic instrument developed by the organization as a way to help countries torn by conflict to create the conditions for lasting peace.
  • It is distinguished from peacebuilding, peacemaking, and peace enforcement although the UN does acknowledge that all activities are “mutually reinforcing” and that overlap between them is frequent in practice.
  • Peacekeepers monitor and observe peace processes in post-conflict areas and assist ex-combatants in implementing the peace agreements they may have signed.
  • UN peacekeepers often referred to as Blue Berets or Blue Helmets because of their light blue berets or helmets can include soldiers, police officers, and civilian personnel.

Need for reforms

  • UN peacekeeping is a unique innovation of multilateralism to respond to threats to international peace and security.
  • However, at the current stage, peacekeeping is in a “no-man’s land, between trying to keep the peace in fragile environments and trying to enforce the maintenance of peace, where there is none to keep.
  • Responses to new security environments require a willingness to adapt abilities to meet emerging realities.

Need of hour: Institutionalization

  • The institutionalization of an approach where all key actors, especially Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs), are associated in a consistent and predictable manner in the decision-making matrix has been now discussed for decades.
  • However, in practice, there is not effective improvement of the cooperation between TCCs, the Security Council and the Secretariat.
  • It necessary to move from pursuit of activism of individual member states to collective action by this Council to institutionalize this effort.

Incentivizing women

  • India also called for further incentivising women peacekeepers.
  • As of July 31, women peacekeepers constituted 6 per cent. There are 5,243 female peacekeepers, out of a total of 86,687 peacekeepers.
  • In 26 years, member countries have increased the share of women by 5 per cent. At this rate, it may not be possible to meet even minimum targets.
  • There need to be special incentives for women peacekeepers and priority deployment of all women- unit pledges. Otherwise, the targets will remain just targets.

Innovation

  • Innovation in capacity building of peacekeepers needs to be a priority, if nations are to move away from a culture of caveats that bedevils peacekeeping into a segmented activity.
  • Innovative options such as co-deployment of peacekeepers from different countries engenders a genuine spirit of partnership for peace and needs to be promoted.
  • Further, there is need for expansion of online initiatives to develop capacities of future commanders and managers so that they lead by example and raise awareness of UN standards.

Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

[pib] UN Convention on International Settlement Agreements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Singapore Convention

Mains level : ADR mechanisms

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the signing of the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements (UNISA) resulting from mediation by the India.

About UNISA

  • The UN gen. assembly adopted the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation on 20th December 2018.
  • It is referred to as the “Singapore Convention on Mediation” (the Convention).
  • The Convention provides a uniform and efficient framework for the enforcement of international settlement agreements resulting from mediation and for allowing parties to invoke such agreements.
  • It is akin to the framework that the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York, 1958) (the “New York Convention”) which provides for arbitral awards.
  • The Singapore Convention defines two additional grounds upon which a court may, on its own motion, refuse to grant relief.
  • Those grounds relate to the fact that a dispute would not be capable of settlement by mediation or would be contrary to public policy.
  • The provisions of the ‘Convention’ are in line with India’s domestic laws and the efforts made to strengthen Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms.

Benefit

  • Signing of the Convention will boost the confidence of the investors.
  • It shall provide a positive signal to foreign investors about India’s commitment to adhere to international practice on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

Back2Basics

Initiatives to promote ADR Mechanisms in India

  • In order to encourage international commercial arbitration in India, to evolve a comprehensive ecosystem of arbitration the GoI is establishing the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) as a statutory body.
  • The Commercial Courts Act, 2015, has been further amended and legislative exercise to further amend the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, is currently underway.
  • These initiatives are being taken with a view to encourage the settlement of commercial disputes, domestic and international, in India through ADR Mechanism of Arbitration, Conciliation and Mediation.
  • A new Chapter (IIIA) has been inserted in the Commercial Courts Act, 2015, for mandatory pre-institution mediation and settlement in certain category of cases.

Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

[op-ed of the day] At the UNSC, a three-point agenda

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNSC

Mains level : India's agenda at UNSC

Note- Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. Aspirants should try to cover at least this editorial on a daily basis to have command over most important issues in news. It will help in enhancing and enriching the content in mains answers. Please do not miss at any cost.

CONTEXT

  • India’s singular objective as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in 2021-22 should be to help build a stable and secure external environment.
  • In doing so, India will promote its own people’s prosperity, regional and global security and growth, and a rule-based world order. It could emerge a partner of choice for developing and developed countries alike.

Changing state of world

1.Dislocation in West Asia –

  • India finds itself in a troubled region between West and East Asia, a region bristling with insurgencies, terrorism, human and narcotics trafficking, and great power rivalries.
  • The Gulf is in turmoil.
  • Though the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Daesh) has been defeated, Iraq and Syria are not going to be the same as before.
  • Surviving and dispersed Daesh foot soldiers are likely preparing new adventures, many in their countries of origin.

2. Asia

  • The turbulence in West Asia is echoed in North and South Asia, a consequence of the nuclear and missile tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Afghanistan’s slow but unmistakable unravelling from the support, sustenance and sanctuary provided in its contiguity to groups such as the Haqqani network, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda.
  • Other problems in Asia include strategic mistrust or misperception, unresolved borders and territorial disputes, the absence of a pan-Asia security architecture, and competition over energy and strategic minerals.

Fear, populism, polarisation, and ultra-nationalism have become the basis of politics in many countries.

No wonder that five years ago, when Henry Kissinger completed his latest work, World Order, he found the world to be in a greater state of disorder than at any time since the end of World War II.

Record of UN

  • Even so, the world is in a better place today than when the UN was first established.
  • The record on maintaining international peace and security, one of the prime functions of the UNSC, has been positive, with or without the UN.
  • The world has been distracted from its other shared goals, especially international social and economic cooperation.

What should India aim to do?

There is no need for India to fritter away diplomatic goodwill in seeking an elusive permanent seat in the UNSC.

 Increase its financial contribution – India will have to increase its financial contribution, as the apportionment of UN expenses for each of the P-5 countries is significantly larger than that for India.

Even Germany and Japan today contribute many times more than India.

Although India has been a leading provider of peacekeepers, its assessed contribution to UN peacekeeping operations is minuscule.

Promoting well-balanced, common solutions – At a time when there is a deficit of international leadership on global issues, especially on security, migrant movement, poverty, and climate change, India has an opportunity to promote well-balanced, common solutions.

Agenda as a member of UNSC

1.‘Responsibility to Protect

First, as a member of the UNSC, India must help guide the Council away from the perils of invoking the principles of humanitarian interventionism or ‘Responsibility to Protect’.

Given the fragile and complex international system, which can become even more unpredictable and conflictual, India should work towards a rules-based global order. Sustainable development and promoting peoples’ welfare should become its new drivers.

2.Sanctions –

Second, India should push to ensure that the UNSC Sanctions Committee targets all those individuals and entities warranting sanctions. Multilateral action by the UNSC has not been possible because of narrowly defined national interest.

3.Rational internationalism – 

  • Having good relations with all the great powers, India must lead the way by pursuing inclusion, the rule of law, constitutionalism, and rational internationalism. 
  • A harmonised response is the sine qua non for dealing with global problems of climate change, disarmament, terrorism, trade, and development. India could take on larger burdens to maintain global public goods and build new regional public goods.
  • For example, India should take the lead in activating the UNSC’s Military Staff Committee, which was never set into motion following the UN’s inception. Without it, the UNSC’s collective security and conflict-resolution roles will continue to remain limited.

Looking at polycentrism

  • A rules-based international order helps rather than hinders India, and embracing the multilateral ethic is the best way forward.
  • India will be a rich country in the future and will acquire greater military muscle, but its people will remain relatively poor.
  • India is a great nation, but not a great power.
  • Apolarity, unipolarity, a duopoly of powers or contending super-powers — none of these suit India.
  • India has a strong motive to embrace polycentrism, which is anathema to hegemonic powers intent on carving out their exclusive spheres of influence.

Conclusion

Finally, India cannot stride the global stage with confidence in the absence of stable relations with its neighbours. Besides whatever else is done within the UN and the UNSC, India must lift its game in South Asia and its larger neighbourhood. Exclusive reliance on India’s brilliant team of officers at its New York mission is not going to be enough.

Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

India’s non-permanent membership of UNSC

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNSC

Mains level : India's bid for UNSC's permanent membership

  • India’s candidature for a non-permanent seat in the Security Council has been endorsed unanimously by the Asia Pacific group, which comprises 55 countries, including Pakistan.

How is a non-permanent member nominated?

  • Each year, the General Assembly elects five non-permanent members out of a total of 10, for a two-year term.
  • These 10 seats are distributed among the regions thus: five for African and Asian countries; one for Eastern European countries; two for Latin American and Caribbean countries; two for Western European and other countries.
  • Of the five seats for Africa and Asia, three are for Africa and two for Asia; there is an informal understanding between the two groups to reserve one for an Arab country.
  • The Africa and Asia Pacific group takes turns every two years to put up an Arab candidate.
  • The 55-member Asia-Pacific Group gets to nominate one of its members for the June 2020 elections to a non-permanent seat on the UNSC.

Why it’s special?

  • The endorsement means that India has a “clean slate” candidature – that is there is no other contestant from the group – for the elections that will be held for five non-permanent members next year, for the 2021-22 terms.
  • The development is particularly significant given that Pakistan and China, both countries with which India has had diplomatic challenges at the UN, supported the move.
  • Afghanistan, a potential contender, withdrew its nomination to accommodate India’s candidacy based on the “long-standing, close and friendly relations” between the two countries.

India and UNSC

  • India has already held a non-permanent seat on the UNSC for seven terms: 1950-1951, 1967-1968, 1972-1973, 1977-1978, 1984-1985, 1991-1992 and 2011-2012.
  • It has been keen to hold the seat in 2021-22 to coincide with the 75th anniversary of Independence in 2022.

Back2Basics

United Nations Security Council

  • The UNSC is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action through Security Council resolutions.
  • It is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
  • The Security Council consists of fifteen members. Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, and the United States—serve as the body’s five permanent members.
  • These permanent members can veto any substantive Security Council resolution, including those on the admission of new member states or candidates for Secretary-General.
  • The Security Council also has 10 non-permanent members, elected on a regional basis to serve two-year terms. The body’s presidency rotates monthly among its members.

Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

Masood Azhar’s listed as a designated terrorist by the UN Security Council

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Way forward to ensure UNSC's labelling of Masood Azhar as a global terrorist.

CONTEXT

Masood Azhar’s listing as a designated terrorist by the UN Security Council at long last closes an important chapter in India’s quest to bring the Jaish-e-Mohammad chief to justice.

Background

  • He eluded the designation for 20 years, despite his release in 1999 in exchange for hostages after the IC-814 hijack, and his leadership of the JeM as it carried out dozens of deadly attacks in India, including the Parliament attack of 2001, and more recent ones like the Pathankot airbase attack in 2016 and the Pulwama police convoy bombing this year.
  • China’s opposition to the listing has long been a thorn in India’s side, given the toll Azhar and the JeM have exacted, and Beijing’s veto of the listing three times between 2009 and 2017 had driven a wedge in India-China relations.
  • Despite the frustration over China’s last hold on a proposal moved by the U.S., the U.K., and France just weeks after Pulwama, the government has done well to approach Beijing with what the Ministry of External Affairs called “patience and persistence”.

Disappointments

  • No mention of Mr. Azhar’s role –There is much disappointment, however, over the final listing released by the Security Council, with no mention of Mr. Azhar’s role in any of the attacks against India, or directing the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Pulwama reference dropped – A specific reference to Pulwama, which was in the original proposal, was also dropped, presumably to effect China’s change of mind on the issue.
  • Pakistan’s claims of a victory in this are hardly credible; Masood Azhar is one of about twenty 1267-sanctioned terrorists who have Pakistani nationality, and more are based there, which is hardly a situation that gives it cause for pride.
  • It is necessary to recognise that India’s efforts and those of its partners in the Security Council have been rewarded with a UNSC designation at its 1267 ISIL and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee. The focus must now move to ensuring its full implementation in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Track record

  • Pakistan’s actions against others on the 1267 list have been far from effective, and in many cases obstructionist.
  • Hafiz Saeed, the 26/11 mastermind and Lashkar-e-Toiba chief, roams free, addresses rallies, and runs a political party and several NGOs without any government restrictions.
  • LeT’s operations commander Zaki Ur Rahman Lakhvi was granted bail some years ago despite the UNSC sanctions mandating that funds and assets to the sanctioned individuals must be frozen.

Way forward

  • It will take constant focus from New Delhi, and a push from the global community, to ensure that Masood Azhar is not just starved of funds, arms and ammunition as mandated, but that he is prosecuted in Pakistan for the acts of terror he is responsible for.
  • Azhar and his JeM must lose all capacity to carry out attacks, particularly across the border.
  • Global terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force will also be watching Pakistan’s next moves closely, ahead of a decision, that could come as early as in June, on whether to “blacklist” Pakistan or keep it on the “greylist”.
  • Both financial and political pressure should be maintained on Islamabad to bring the hard-fought designation of Masood Azhar to its logical conclusion.
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