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Need to press ‘refresh’ button on United Nations, says External Affairs Minister Jaishankar

At Carnegie’s Global Technology Summit, Jaishankar says the world is becoming more bilateral and plurilateral in the absence of reform of the multilateral UN.

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New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar Monday came down heavily on the United Nations, and even batted to push the “refresh button” on the multilateral body.

Speaking at the Global Technology Summit organised by the Ministry of External Affairs and Carnegie India, of which ThePrint is the digital partner, Jaishankar said it needs to be recognised that the world today is “politically very different”, more “multipolar” and “less structured”.

“For obvious reasons, we tend to equate multilateralism with the United Nations… Problem we have today at the narrow level of the leadership of the United Nations is a challenge to its credibility and to its effectiveness,” the minister said, adding that if more than 50 countries do not have a voice at the UN, it is a matter of serious concern.

Jaishankar also alluded to the fact that the P5 nations — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, that is the US, the UK, France, Russia and China — are beginning to lose elections in the UN, indicating that they are not thinking alike.

“You need to reform multilateralism, you need to make it representative… You refresh your phone regularly… Somebody needs to press the refresh button on the United Nations,” he said.

Also read: ‘Most difficult phase’ — Jaishankar says India-China ties ‘significantly damaged’ this year

‘World moving toward bilaterals, plurilaterals’

Talking about the significance of globalisation, Jaishankar said most of the politics that is playing out in the world today is the result of “unfolding of globalisation”, that has led to “inequalities” in societies.

“The politics of the world today is really a reaction to the unfolding of globalisation… In many societies, globalisation has sharpened inequality, it has created winners and losers and political consequences. But it has also led to unequal benefits among nations,” the external affairs minister said.

“So it is not just that societies have become more argumentative and less consensual on the subject of globalisation; I think so have nations,” he said, adding that the sharpening of positions and views by countries has created a gridlock of sorts in the world.

“A lot of discussions are taking place not in any kind of multilateral format but outside that. So, if multilateral drivers are broadened, then the gridlock will be less deep,” he continued.

Jaishankar also said there are countries that take their own particular issues, which is their national agenda, and make it international agenda without consulting others.

“Then it looks like multilateral formats are being used really to advance many narrow national goods. The behaviour of states has also raised questions on multilateralism… You had some gaming of the system, particularly in trade,” he said.

‘Our sense of national security has widened’

According to Jaishankar, India’s perspective of national security has widened due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Suddenly, Covid has made health security a part of national security. I would argue that pre-Covid and certainly post-Covid, data security is central to national security,” the minister explained.

Trade has also become an element of national security, he said.

“Globalisation, as we know it, is much more interdependent. But it is much more interpenetrative as well. So our sense of national security is no longer at our borders; it is right there in your homes,” Jaishankar pointed out.

ThePrint is a digital partner with Carnegie India for the Global Technology Summit 2020

Also read: Cross-border terrorism ‘perennial problem’, says Jaishankar on Parliament attack anniversary


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  1. There isn’t a “refresh button” on the UN that could be pressed. The UN wasn’t designed for equality among the member nations. Only the P5 had the real powers, including the veto power. You have to learn to live with the UN as it is. Of course you are perhaps free to leave it, but you wouldn’t want to do that.

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