New UN Secretary General: Nepal’s Expectations

Madhavji Shrestha

Recently appointed Secretary General of the United Nations, António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres is set to assume his responsibility from January 1, 2017. Experts on UN affairs and the international media have described him as an appropriately experienced and enriched person to perform highly complexity-ridden functions of the United Nations. They see in him a good accumulation of useful experience of a chief executive during his political leadership as Prime Minister of Portugal from 1997 to 2002. He has garnered much needed ability to handle global concerns of refugees’ plights as UN High Commissioner of Refugees from 2005 to 2015. These two qualities are thought to be of an immense value to resolve the global issues that have come up and will come up before the United Nations.

During his oath taking ceremony held in the presence of the representatives from 193 member-states at the General Assembly on December 12, António Guterres promised to work for peace, support sustainable development and improve internal UN management with focus more on delivery to people and less on process with the conviction that the UN must be ready for change.

Far more significant is the fact that Guterres vowed to “engage personally” in conflict resolutions. If his promise and experience work together, the image and efficiency of the United Nations would win much broader and larger trust and confidence of the global populace, especially of the suffering people of the Global South (previously called the Third World). The United Nations would become a symbol of hope and achievement for them.

To a great consternation, however, the global situation is not that the mega issues and problems are so easily tractable. Great powers relations pose a great concern that is not so easily manageable; and the weak and poor countries present a very different picture and, relations between the powerful countries and the poor ones remain as an unmanageable cleavage. Under such circumstances, the United Nations alone looks like a ‘United Notion’, which is unable to deliver what its Charter promises to ensure for the people of the world.

This is how someone with a deep and critical knowledge on UN performance for several decades has pointed out as a comment upon its lukewarm and stalled activities. A further critical comment is also pertinent to note here. “When the United Nations engages in a conflict between two small states, the conflict disappears, when it gets involved in a conflict between a small state and a great power, the small state disappears; but when there is a conflict between great powers, the United Nations disappears,” Stephen Ryan in his concluding lines observed in his write-up “The Great Powers and the United Nations”. This remark unmistakably gives the picture of the great powers game in the UN system and its role in the maintenance of peace and security, and prevention of conflicts at large.

Prominently notable is also the recent emergence of narrow nationalism in the developed West. The victory of Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom in June this year and the rising trend of nationalistic forces in Western countries especially in France, the Netherlands and even in Germany and Austria and other countries of the Western Europe are threatening the international system and regional integration process so continually built-up with political endeavours and diplomatic acumen of the visionary leaders to the point of disruption and disintegration. One person much addicted to superiority of whiteness of the United States has recently commented, “Globalisation is the poison; nationalism is the antidote.” To some extent, the victory of Donald J. Trump in the US election comes as the vindication of that comment.

What will be the course of political and foreign policy, and security actions after Trump takes the helm of power of the lone super power on January 20, 2017? The upcoming scenario is still a concern of guess, which may likely to be uncertain and unpredictable as to what sort of the international system will emerge. Observers are looking at the developing scenario with the concern of wait and watch

The time and situation is indeed testing, and challenges for the new Secretary General to cope with troubled regional and international environments are enormously great to meet with. Sagacity, skill and patience coupled with dexterity are  required to resolve any problem where the interests of great powers are involved either apparently or intrinsically. Peace to achieve and stability to establish are the matter that puts an enormous responsibility in the hands of the Secretary-General who is looked upon as the saviour, whenever and wherever peace is threatened.

The historical records of the UN performance during the past seven decades clearly shows that the United Nations is less achieving on the security affairs. However, on humanitarian concerns, its achievements are no less significant. Its contributions to the less and least developed countries come as an inducement to the facilitating process to the development programmes. The programmes of Millennial Development Goals have ended in 2015. Now the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals are in the offing since the beginning of 2016. The programmes of sustainable development have 17 goals with 169 targets to be achieved by 2030.

Some months before Guterres took the oath of office, he emphasised the importance of realising the goals relating to quality education, peace, justice and strong institutions among the 17 SDGs.

When we come down to the enforcement and implementation of the programmes of sustainable development, Nepal is very sensitively concerning with the point no.1 dealing with the elimination of poverty, the point no.2 regarding the obliterating of hunger, and the point no.3 relating to maintenance of good health and well-being of the Nepali people in addition to what the new Secretary-General has pointed out as important goals. No less significant are goals concerning gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, climate action and others closely connected with living standards of people en masse.

In the coming decade (if given second term) Guterres would be the single most international diplomatic personality handling not only global security and development affairs, but also the globally important person in frequent communication with national representatives of all member-states at the United Nations. Nepal’s Permanent Representative, whoever he may be, must be alert and active in achieving sustainable development goals with close contact and good cooperation with the enthusiastic and promising Secretary-General.

 Also very notable is the fact that Nepal has reposed faith in the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations along with adopting the principles and purposes as one of the guidelines of its foreign policy.

Albeit politically fragile and economically weak, Nepal has largely contributed to the maintenance of peace and security efforts of the United Nations with the supply of very sincere and brave peacekeepers at the call of the Security Council to keep stability and order in the troubled spots of the world, in particular in the developing and least developed countries of Asia and Africa. Currently, Nepal stands at the fifth position among 89 contributors of peacekeepers. This dedicated cooperation and contribution is the single point that the new Secretary-General needs to take note of to give deserving place to Nepal in the mechanism and activities of the United Nations on the question of the maintenance of peace and security, because the significantly pertinent point is that he has taken a personal vow in conflict resolutions.   

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