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Reform of multilateral system, climate action, peace, security key priorities for India during UNGA

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New York, Sep 24 : Reformed multilateralism, climate action, sustainable development, peace and security will be the key priorities for India during the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly as the high-level week for global diplomacy kicks off Monday.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrived in the city Saturday to attend the high-level UNGA session and will address world leaders on September 29.

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, accompanied by Joint Secretary for UN Political in the Ministry of External Affairs Dinesh Patnaik, told reporters during a press briefing Sunday that priorities for India during the 73rd UNGA session will be reform of the multilateral system, climate action, sustainable development, peace and security.

“There are threats and challenges facing the multi-lateral system,” Akbaruddin said adding that India agrees with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres assessment that multilateral remains as important as ever.

“We are by tradition and inclination multilateralists and we would be articulating our position on how we need to strengthen the multi-lateral system and move towards a reformed multilateral system,” he said.

Responding to a question, Akbaruddin said it is quite obvious that multilateralism is not in good health. “The Security Council is unable to move decisively on a whole range of issues. It’s clear that great power rivalry has replaced great power cooperation,” he said.

Emphasizing that multi-lateralism is under stress and being challenged, Akbaruddin said significant actors on the global platform are “disassociating” on very important areas of global interaction, whether migration or human rights, a veiled reference to the US withdrawing from the UN Global Compact on Migration and the UN Human Rights Council. Further the finances of international organisations are becoming increasingly contested.

“All these are clearly indicators that multilateralism as was practiced previously is under stress, therefore we are  advocating reformed multilateralism.”

He added that one aspect of it is Security Council reform, which needs to be undertaken as otherwise there is no decision making in the 15-member body. “Once this reform takes place, India will find its rightful place on the Security Council table.”

Akbaruddin added that climate action and issues of health will be other focus areas for India, as the country has a “good story to tell and narrative to articulate” on both the issues.

As the General Assembly addresses several issues of global health through landmark events during the week, including on non-communicable diseases, tuberculosis and universal health coverage, Akbaruddin said the ambitious health coverage scheme Ayushman Bharat launched by the Narendra Modi government has the attention of the entire global health fraternity.

Heads of State will participate at the first-ever high-level meeting on tuberculosis (TB) on September 26 to accelerate efforts in ending TB and reach all affected people with prevention and care.

On September 27, the UN General Assembly will stage the third High-level Meeting on the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), which will undertake a comprehensive review of the global and national progress achieved in putting measures in place that protect people from dying too young from heart and lung diseases, cancers and diabetes. India is also among the early co-hosts of a high-level meeting organized by the US on counter narcotics.

“We are dedicated in this effort to combat the scourge of drugs,” Akbaruddin said.

On the priority area of development, Akbaruddin said sustainable development is integral to India’s approach to international cooperation. He added that South-South cooperation is increasingly emerging as a major area of India’s activity both in the UN but also in other areas, citing India’s cooperation with Africa, with Pacific Island nations as well as the India-UN Development Partnership.

“Development cooperation for us also encompasses digital cooperation…, which will be a major issue as we proceed during the course of this session.”

India’s other key priority area will be peace and security given that India is one of the largest troop contributing countries to UN peacekeeping missions and has also lost the highest number of its peacekeepers in the line of duty. India will be participating in a high-level meeting on Action for Peacekeeping convened by the Secretary General on September 25 to renew commitments to UN peacekeeping operations.

The objective of the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative launched on 28 March 2018, is to establish a shared understanding of the achievements and challenges of peacekeeping, as well as to renew the individual and collective commitments of Member States to strengthen peacekeeping operations on the ground.

The high-level event will serve as an opportunity to bring the international community together in pursuit of these goals. The Declaration of Shared Commitments on UN Peacekeeping Operations, part of this initiative, is an unprecedented effort by the Secretary-General to renew political support for UN peacekeeping operations.

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