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SOURCE: PTI

President of the UN General Assembly Dennis Francis has commended India for its engagement on UN Security Council reform, even as he acknowledged that progress on the issue has been “too slow”.
“Well, I am acutely aware that India together with its G4 negotiating bloc on Security Council Reform, are clearly for a much more ambitious timeline to conclude the process within a period of two years,” President of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly Dennis Francis told PTI in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

Francis is on an official visit to India from January 22 to 26 and will hold bilateral discussions with the leadership and representatives of the Indian Government, and engage with civil society, leading think tanks, embark on field visits and participate in events related to sustainability, multilateralism, accessibility, and digital public infrastructure, among other engagements.

Francis agreed that progress on the issue of reform has been too slow.

“Ultimately, however, the intergovernmental negotiations are driven by Member States. It is up to them to demonstrate the political will to advance the reform process and the kind of change they wish to see. True political commitment is key to rebuilding trust and reviving the spirit of international cooperation to nurture our multilateral system.

“I commend India for its engagement on the matter,” he said.

Francis noted that during the General Debate of the General Assembly last September, world leaders from every region across the globe stressed the need to modernize the UN, including revitalising the General Assembly and reforming the Security Council.

“As President of the General Assembly, I approach the question of Security Council reform within the context of wider UN reform, and I remain steadfast in my determination to help overcome divisions,” he said.

He said that to facilitate the ongoing intergovernmental negotiations, he has re-appointed the two co-chairs Austria and Kuwait to lead the process – and they are doing so admirably, thus offering the General Assembly much-needed guidance to advance this long overdue process.

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

Francis added that as a founding member of the United Nations, India has shown “exceptional leadership” through its indelible legacy of contributions – encompassing endeavours such as championing democracy, promoting women-led development, and being among the pioneers in adopting the Sustainable Development Goals.

“As part of India’s contribution to the reform of the Security Council – an issue that remains a critical issue on the UN agenda”, Francis said he had the honour to participate in a roundtable discussion on Security Council reform organized by the Permanent Mission of India to the UN in December.

He said this was a “good example of India’s exemplary leadership in addressing global challenges and remaining a strong voice in multilateral affairs.” The top UN official stressed that India, as a diverse democracy that is home to one-sixth of humanity, plays an “unparalleled role in our global mission” to create a safer, more equal, and sustainable world.

“India’s recent G20 Presidency marked a historic milestone, not only for the country but in ensuring that the benefits of such a unique opportunity are equitably shared with fellow developing countries; as evidenced by the ushering in of the African Union into the G20 as a permanent member, for the first time – a strong symbol of solidarity and cooperation across the Global South,” he said.

From bolstering digital public infrastructure and innovative capacity-building to strengthening existing supply chains and addressing the debt crisis, and assistance offered to many developing countries during COVID-19, India is “setting an example”.

He noted that on innovation, India’s successful space missions showcase the power of science and technology and what can be achieved when all countries have equal access to these resources.

“These efforts bolster innovative, inclusive, and sustainable development, benefiting the entire Global South, and I commend India’s pioneering role in these successes,” he said.

He further described it as “very encouraging” that India has registered a significant decline in multidimensional poverty, with nearly 250 million people having escaped multidimensional poverty in the last nine years. “This reflects India’s commitment to spurring inclusive growth and transformative change within its economy.” The UN remains a proud partner of India in these respects, Francis said adding that the India-UN Development Partnership Fund has supported 76 projects in 54 countries.

“This is no small feat, especially in this age of shrunken fiscal spaces compounded by the impacts of the pandemic and other global shocks,” he said.

The fact that the beneficiaries of the Partnership Fund cut across the membership of the Global South – of which India remains an integral and dynamic part – and that the Fund supports all geographic regions while maintaining a strong emphasis on SIDS and LDCs, speaks volumes about India’s vision of development and indeed, its ability to channel funds where they are needed most.

Francis also appreciated that India stands firmly committed to assisting the UN in the maintenance of international peace and security, building on its legacy of support to UN peacekeeping.

India has contributed well over 250,000 troops – the largest number from any single country – regrettably, with many Indian peacekeepers having paid the supreme sacrifice while serving in UN missions.

“India’s policy of gender equality has resulted in the country becoming the third-largest troop contributor, and the first country to deploy a Female Formed Police Unit – which was for the UN Mission in Liberia. The high standards of performance maintained by Indian troops and police officers deployed in UN peace Missions under challenging circumstances are highly regarded worldwide,” he said.