UN and the retreat from multilateralism

  • IASbaba
  • September 29, 2020
  • 0
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Topic: General Studies 3:

  • Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate. 

UN and the retreat from multilateralism

Context: The United Nations commemorated its 75th anniversary on September 21, 2020.

Challenges to UN are

  1. Leadership withdrawal from West
  • The challenge to multilateralism is coming not from the have-nots, but the main stakeholders of the system.
  • The U.S., which created the international system as we know today, is no longer willing to be its “guarantor of last resort”.
  • U.S. President Donald Trump has stressed repeatedly on “America First” and suggested that others too should put their countries first.
  • The U.S. is not alone in withdrawing from multilateralism. Brexit has shown that nationalism remains strong in Europe
  1. China not poised to occupy the space left by US
  • China’s assertion of a role on the world stage is not an embrace of the idea of multilateralism. 
  • Its flagship Belt and Road Initiative consists of a series of bilateral credit agreements with recipient countries with no mechanism for multilateral consultation or oversight
  1. Increasing Polarisation of World
  • President Trump has often highlighted China’s culpability in the spread of the pandemic. 
  • He pointed out that China had banned internal flights but allowed international flights from Wuhan to continue. This set the stage for the spread of COVID-19.
  • President Xi’s sought to project the fight against COVID-19 as a matter of collective responsibility of the international community. 
  • US-China Trade war has further increased the animosity between two countries and threatens to split the world into two economic camps
  1. Resource Crunch for UN
  • Over 40 UN political missions and peacekeeping operations engage 95,000 troops, police, and civil personnel. To be effective, they have to be put on a sound financial basis. 
  • The UN peacekeeping budget, a little over $8 billion, is a small fraction of the $1.9 trillion military expenditure governments made in 2019.
  • There was an outstanding assessed contribution of $1.7 billion for peacekeeping activities by the end of the financial year
  1. Prospects for Public-Private partnership model for UN seems bleak
  • Most of the humanitarian assistance, developmental work, and budgets of the UN specialised agencies are based on voluntary contributions. Hence, there are calls for increasing public-private partnerships
  • The UN provides ‘public goods’ in terms of peace and development often in remote parts of the world and there may not be enough appetite on the part of corporations to fund UN initiatives
  1. SDGs and Climate Goals are threatened
  • COVID-19 pandemic has brought in its wake the deepest recession the world has seen since the 1930s
  • This has made it more difficult to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the UN had adopted. 

Way Ahead

  • The retreat from multilateralism would undermine the UN’s capacity to face diverse challenges.
  • We need to support reform not only to expand the permanent members’ category of the Security Council but also to revitalise the role of the General Assembly, as it gives greater political space for developing countries.

Connecting the dots:

  • Declining Significance of SAARC – reasons and consequences

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