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Challenges Confronting World Due to COVID-19 Put Forth Global Governance Inadequacies: Akbaruddin

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The challenges confronting the world due to the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic have brought to the fore the inadequacies of the global governance structures, India’s former UN envoy Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin has said.

His statement came as the governments across the world struggle to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak which has infected over 3.5 million people and killed nearly 250,000, besides triggering a global economic slowdown due to the lockdowns put in place to contain the contagion.

As the world grapples with the health and humanitarian crisis unleashed by the coronavirus, Akbaruddin, who retired on April 30 from the post of India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, told PTI the challenges of confronting the global pandemic have brought to the fore the inadequacies of global governance structures.

Retooling to make them fit for the purpose for our times will be required, once the immediate concerns of addressing the multiple crises are addressed. Otherwise, the global governance crisis impedes the arrival of the new normal.

Even while facing unprecedented challenges on the domestic front, India has shown the ability to work cooperatively globally with a range of international partners at the regional, plurilateral, and multilateral levels in the delivery of global public goods to address the needs of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

In his address to the UNGA in September 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that “the face of the world is changing today. Modern technology in the 21st Century is bringing about sweeping changes in social life, personal life, economy, security, connectivity and international relations.

“In such a situation, a fragmented world is in the interest of no one. Neither do we have the option to confine ourselves within our boundaries”.

Modi underscored that in this new era, “we will have to give new direction to multilateralism and to the United Nations”.

Meanwhile, Akbaruddin said that the current disruption of the normal work of the UN is not expected to impede the election of India to a non-permanent seat as the sole candidate from the Asia-Pacific region.

The election for five non-permanent members of the 15-nation United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is scheduled for June 17 but in-person and large meetings at the world body have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic until at least the end of next month.

President of the UN General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad-Bande is discussing options, including online voting, to conduct the elections.

India’s seat as a non-permanent member on the Council for the 2021-22 term is assured as it is the sole candidate vying for the lone seat from the Asia-Pacific grouping.

New Delhi’s candidature was unanimously endorsed by the 55-member Asia-Pacific grouping, including China and Pakistan, in June last year.

From India’s perspective, any change in how the voting is conducted will not impact much since it is the sole candidate from the region and its term starts only in January next year.

Previously, India has been elected as a non-permanent member of the UNSC for the years 1950-1951, 1967-1968, 1972-1973, 1977-1978, 1984-1985, 1991-1992 and most recently in 2011-2012.

India has been at the forefront of the years-long efforts to reform the Security Council, saying it rightly deserves a place as a permanent member of the Council, which in its current form does not represent the geo-political realities of the 21st century.

Among India’s finest diplomats, Akbaruddin — a 1985-batch officer of the Indian Foreign Service — has had a distinguished diplomatic career and is credited with successfully presenting the country’s position at the global body on a range of key issues for the last several years.

Among his most prominent achievements during his tenure as India’s UN envoy was getting Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar designated as a global terrorist by the world body in May 2019, a victory achieved after 10 years of relentless efforts by New Delhi.

Seasoned diplomat T S Tirumurti has been named India’s new Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

Apart from the UNSC elections, the 193-member General Assembly is also scheduled to hold elections in June for members of the Economic and Social Council, the president of the 75th session of the General Assembly and the vice presidents of the 75th session.

Abaza said that the options prepared by the DGACM include elections requiring secret ballots where member states can cast their votes at a specific venue, taking into account requirements of social distancing, or by electronic means.

Each year the General Assembly elects five non-permanent members (out of 10 in total) for a two-year term.

The election is held by a secret ballot and requires all 193 UN member states to be present for the voting conducted in the General Assembly hall.

According to the medical advice recommendations, seen by PTI, on resuming normal operations at the UN headquarters, the UN Medical Director has recommended that telecommuting arrangements continue at the UN until June 30.

The official has also recommended that in-person meetings at the UN premises should continue to be avoided as much as possible and events should be held virtually.

The official said that maintaining the current arrangements until June 30 will allow stability during a period of great uncertainty as officials evaluate the COVID-19 transmission in New York City.

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