At the core of India’s call for reformed multilateralism lies the reform of the UN Security Council, said Shringla

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has cited lack of a coordinated global response as the reason behind the weaknesses of the multilateral system.

Speaking on Friday at the UNSC high-level meeting on “Maintenance of International peace and security: Upholding multilateralism and the United Nations-centered international system,” he said pressing the need of hour is “comprehensive reform” of the multilateral system.

“While the pandemic exposed the fault lines from unreliable global supply chains to inequitable vaccine distribution, it has also underlined the need for global solidarity and strengthened multilateralism. The re-imagined post-pandemic world will make profoundly different demands from the multilateral system, which must evolve accordingly so as to be fit for purpose and capable of inspiring confidence in its ability to effectively meet those demands,” the Foreign Secretary said.

In no uncertain terms, he reminded the international community that “at the core of India’s call for reformed multilateralism lies the reform of the UN Security Council, reflective of the contemporary realities of today.”

“When power structures continue to reflect the status quo of a bygone era, they also start reflecting a lack of appreciation of contemporary geopolitical realities. Multilateral institutions must be made more accountable to their membership, they must be open and welcoming to a diversity of viewpoints and cognisant of new voices,” Foreign Secretary Shringla asserted.

Snubbing those who are votaries of the UNSC’s status quo, he said, “The Council must be made more representative of developing countries if it is to continue to engender trust and confidence in its ability to provide leadership to the entire world. It can deliver effective solutions only if it gives a voice to the voiceless rather than zealously guarding the status quo of the mighty.”

Today, the UN has 193 Member States, nearly a fourfold increase from 1945, but “the narrow representation and privileges of a few in the primary decision-making organ of the UN poses a serious challenge to its credibility and effectiveness.”

“How can we explain the contradiction of Africa not being represented in the Security Council in the permanent category, even though African issues dominate its agenda?,” he asked.

He quoted Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the UN last year had given a clarion call for UN reform.

“For how long will India be kept out of the decision-making structures of the United Nations? Reform in the responses, in the processes, and in the very character of the UN is the need of the hour. It is a fact that the faith and respect that the UN enjoys among the 1.3 billion people in India is unparalleled,” Prime Minister Modi had said last year.

The Foreign Secretary said as a founding member of the UN, India has consistently displayed its commitment to uphold the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.

“We remain committed to upholding the rules-based international order, underpinned by international law, premised upon respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all Member States, resolution of international disputes through peaceful negotiations and free and open access for all to the global commons,” he said.

The Foreign Secretary added that India has contributed immensely to maintaining international peace and security as a leading troop contributing country towards UN Peacekeeping Missions, having sacrificed the highest number of lives in this noble endeavour.

Over the past year alone, he said, “We have provided COVID-19 vaccines, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment to more than 150 countries across the world. In that same spirit of friendship and solidarity, we extend deep appreciation to those that have come forward to provide us with some priority requirements to battle the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that we are currently facing.”

Then India has worked with South Africa and other partners in the World Trade Organisation to seek a relaxation in the norms of the TRIPS agreement to ensure quick and affordable access to vaccines and medicines for developing countries during the COVID pandemic.

This waiver will be an important step for enabling the rapid scaling up of manufacture and timely availability of affordable COVID-19 vaccines and essential medical products on a global basis, he said, adding that a renewal of vows towards a reformed UN-centered multilateral system will require genuine efforts on behalf of all member states.