– Madhu Raman Acharya
Former Foreign Secretary, Nepal
& Ambassador to Bangladesh
Future of the implementation of the SDGs:
Among other things, the corona virus pandemic has undermined the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It is also likely to affect the funding commitments that is required for implementing the SDGs globally.
The G20 had come up with a debt suspension initiative to relieve developing countries of their unsustainable debt that could help them finance and implement the SDGs.
That remains to be implemented. More innovative ways of financing SDGs including the fulfillment pledges for partnerships should be upheld by the developed partner countries.
The UN should help steer dialogue to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs in the remaining period.
The high-level event on energy and food at the UN assembly is expected to support the implementation of the SDGs. Nepal should take part in this event and press for more sustained financing for food security and other SDGs.
Situation in Afghanistan:
The situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover of that country following the U.S. withdrawal will be in the agenda of the UN this year, as many world leaders and delegates are expected to dwell on the matter.
The foremost concern should be on the safe exit of foreign and Afghan nationals trapped in the situation and on the humanitarian crisis impinging in the embattled country after the Taliban takeover.
The UN Security Council statement on the situation in Afghanistan, though inadequate, covers for safe passages of foreigners, and urges Taliban to respect human rights and rights of women, to provide humanitarian access in the country, not to provide safe haven to terrorists and not engage in terrorist activities itself.
The UN and the international community must remain vigilant that Afghanistan does not become a failed state and a centre for exporting extremism and terrorism.
Neither should be allowed to remain a hot spot of world security.
The UN must do its part in stabilizing that country including through its peacekeeping and political support, though UN has been forced to relocate its mission to Kazakhstan temporarily.
The UN must continue to play life-saving role in Afghanistan. As a fellow member country of SAARC, which it is chairing, Nepal should explore ways to assist the people of Afghanistan though the sideline meeting of the SAARC foreign ministers in New York, if that can be held, or through the UN if that cannot take place.
Peacekeeping: We should continue to highlight our unwavering commitment to UN’s international peace and security agenda through our continued participation to the UN peacekeeping, in which we have secured the position of the second largest troop-contributing country this year.
Leveraging this elevation as the second largest troop-contributor, Nepal should ask for more leadership positions including at the level of the Secretary General’s Special Representative (SRSG) and their deputies in the UN peace missions.
Nepal should also showcase its inclusive appointment in the Nepali Army and security forces and stive to increase female participation in army and police forces in UN peace missions, for which UN has attached high priority for gender equality.
Nepal’s graduation from the LDCS:
This is the final year of the Istanbul Program of Action (IPOA) for the decade 2011 21 adopted by the Fourth UN Conference on the LDCs, when Nepal was chairing the Global Bureau of the LDCs at the UN.
Though that agenda remains unfinished and needs to be pushed forward in the Fifth UN conference on the LDCs due to be held in March 2022, Nepal itself qualified for graduation from the category of the world’s poorest countries meeting two three criteria in the three consecutive reviews held by the UN’s Committee on Development Policy (CDP) in 2015, 2018 and 2021, and has been recommended for graduation in 2026 with a transition period of five years.
Though Nepal has not met the Income Criterion in terms per capita Gross National Income (GNI), it has comfortably met the Human Assets Index and Economic Vulnerability Index.
In the UN assembly, Nepal should highlight this milestone achievement in its development trajectory, while reiterating need for continued international support during the five-year transition period and beyond, mainly because Nepal has not met the Economic Criteria, as the country’s per capita GNI at the time of the last review stood at $ 1,027 against the threshold of $ 1224.
Nepal should also highlight its goals of becoming a Middle-Income Country by 2030 and need for a supportive international environment for that.
Follow-up on the LLDCs issue:
The UN Secretary-General’s mid-term report of the subject has showed mixed progress and shortfalls in the implementation of the Vienna Program of Action for the Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) for the decade 2014-24.
Nepal should press for sincere implementation of the Vienna commitments in the remaining period of the global compact for the LLDCs.
Just as it did in the group of the LDCs, Nepal should strive to play leadership role for the cause of the landlocked developing countries and enhance its “transit diplomacy” in multilateral format at the UN.
Human rights and humanitarian issues:
Nepal has put significant premium on human rights at the UN agenda.
With this credential, Nepal has been elected member of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) twice.
As a sitting member of the HRC, Nepal’s voting pattern at the UN resolutions has been a matter of concern of the international human rights community.
For example, Nepal’s vote on resolutions on Myanmar does not promote its image as a sitting member of the HRC, for we are not there to defend human rights violating regimes.
If Nepal’s consistent position is to remain away from country-specific resolutions it to be pursued as a matter of principle, Nepal should do the same in the case of Israel as well.
Perhaps Nepal needs to explain its vote with a condition that its abstention in country-specific resolutions does not purport to the human rights violating regimes as such.
Nepal should be able to leverage its position as a member of the HRC to dispense with the pending issues of its own domestic transitional justice matters, in which the attention of the international human rights community continues to persist, as the status of the commissions on truth and reconciliation and enforced disappearances have yet to be settled conclusively.
Nepal should also highlight its implementation of the recommendations adopted at the last Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the HRC, while reiterating its commitments to the international agenda on human rights.
On bigger humanitarian problems, Nepal should speak up for meeting he funding gaps between what is needed ($ 35 billion) and what is raised ($ 18 billion) annually to meet the humanitarian assistance needs to 235 million people affected by conflicts and disasters and refugees and internally displaced people worldwide.
Nepal must continue to highlight its positions on global disarmament agenda at the UN, especial because the annual global military spending has reached a whopping $1,981 billion, as a fraction of that amount could be help resolve many of the world’s multilateral problems and global financing for development if there was sincere global will for disarmament.
Nepal should also support the implementation of nuclear ban treaty adopted at the UN a few years ago.
We must also push for the activation of the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament (UNRCPD) that is located in Nepal’s capital and the Kathmandu Process of regional disarmament.
Though Nepal itself is not a party to negotiations, Nepal should continue to call for reactivation of the stalled disarmament agenda at the UN.
The adoption of the Global Compact on Migration (GCM) in 2018 was an important milestone in the global migration agenda.
Even though the compact was very weak in its entirety, the implementation of the GCM has been sidelined and there has been marked rise of racial discrimination, xenophobia and hate crimes against migrant communities cross the world.
Nepal should continue to reiterate for sincere implementation of the GCM for safe, orderly and well-managed migration that will serve as a win-win for both countries of origin and countries, as was stated in the global compact itself.
Other miscellaneous agenda items:
Many other agenda items of the General Assembly that have been carried over from the previous years have some relevance to Nepal.
That includes matters related to peace and security, international law, development, human rights, humanitarian issues and other miscellaneous issues.
Nepal should continue to dwell on those agenda with a view of advancing its national interest and comparative advantage and niche in the respective issues.
Reform of the UN:
Nepal has been consistently supporting reforms in the UN, in which progress has remained pending.
The reform process at the UN should take into account the challenges in multilateralism including the corona virus pandemic experiences for promoting global public goods.
In his report Our Common Agenda, UN’s Secretary General has floated some ideas some of which are mostly abstract and need to be concretized.
Some other ideas such as the proposal for the revival of the Trusteeship Council with a new mandate is unrealistic.
We need “inclusive multilateralism” and to revive the stalled multilateralism and weak multilateral diplomacy at the UN.
The UN needs to reform itself taking into account recommendations and experiences gathered after its 75 years in existence with a view to making it a truly global institution that can help steer global solutions to many global and multilateral problems that we confront today.
The UN’s assembly each year also provides an opportunity for its Member States to promote their bilateral and sidelines contacts and businesses.
As the chair of SAARC, Nepal should seek to convene the ministerial meeting of the foreign ministers of eight SAARC countries with a view to finding ways to explore to convene the stalled summit of the regional association.
If held, it should also explore discussing ways to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan to show solidarity to the people of that country in the recent aftermath of the country’s humanitarian crisis.
As usual, Nepal should seek to arrange bilateral meetings with the leader of Nepali delegation with the counterpart delegations as much as possible.
There will be ministerial meetings of the NAM, G77, the LDCs etc. in which Nepal should participate to advance its interests and positions.
Nepal should also take benefit from many side events and make prudent use of its delegates to the UN assembly, including through written guideline for their conduct during the session.
To conclude, for Nepal, participation at the UN’s annual general assembly is a big opportunity to advance its interests and priorities in multilateral diplomacy and in the agenda of international peace and security, development, human rights, international law and many other issues. Among other things,
Nepal should prioritize in highlighting the importance of better cooperation on COVID-19 response, including building back better, enhancing access to vaccines including through the UN’s COVAX facility.
Nepal should remain careful in not being dragged into sides in political rivalry, politicization and controversy over investigations etc. on the corona virus pandemic.
Nepal should stress the attainment of SDGs through sincere implementation which should not be dragged by the COVID situation.
Nepal must highlight the importance of climate change action including access to global funds available for adaptation and for raising ambitions in climate action in the CoP26 to he held in Glasgow.
We should leverage our second position in the troop-contributing countries to UN’s peace operations and to take benefits including in senior appointments in them.
Nepal should highlight its development gains on graduation from the LDCs while reiterating the continued international support for its transition period of five years.
As sitting member of the HRC, we should reiterate our commitment to human rights, correct our voting pattern at the UN and dispose the conflict era cases as soon as possible.
Stabilization of Afghanistan and solidarity with the people of that country in humanitarian need should be our priority with regard to situation in the war-torn country.
We should continue to claim that the UN reforms should suit the present challenges and that the activities and programs of the UN’s agencies, funds and programs benefit us.
We must continue to press for UN reforms for revival of multilateralism and international cooperation.
We should maximize the UN forum in bilateral, informal and regional formats as well.
Text courtesy: Association of Former Career Ambassadors of Nepal (AFCAN), Volume 2, 2021.
Thanks the AFCAN and the distinguished author Mr. Acharya: Ed. N. P. Upadhyaya.
Our contact email address is: [email protected]