Ex-diplomat urges need for reform within UN Security Council

Updated January 27, 2020

Email

“Pakistan enjoys much respect at the UN because we joined it within months of independence”, says Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United Nations Dr Maleeha Lodhi. — Reuters/File
“Pakistan enjoys much respect at the UN because we joined it within months of independence”, says Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United Nations Dr Maleeha Lodhi. — Reuters/File

KARACHI: Reflecting on 'Pakistan and the UN: Challenges to Multilateralism and Opportunities' during a talk organised by the Roundtable here on Sunday, Pakistan's former ambassador to the United Nations Dr Maleeha Lodhi has said that there is a need for reform within the UN Security Council as they can do with more permanent and longer term seats.

She said the UN is a unique platform, which sometimes undervalued. "Representing your country among the 193 nations there, not many of which we have diplomatic relations with, is an extraordinary experience," she said, adding that the world today is in a lot of disarray, where you see increasing multi-polarities. "There is no single power in the world that can achieve on its own. It has to ally and partner or cooperate with others to achieve whatever goal that they may have," she pointed out.

"There is a strategic uncertainty with power redistributed globally. The very notion of power is changing. It is not just military strength or economic strength that determines a country's standing in the world. It is also, as we all know, your ability to appeal through means other than military or economic strength. This is not to say that military and economic strength doesn't matter. Of course it matters. It is necessary but it is no longer sufficient. Look at the way countries like Singapore and Ireland empower themselves by the way they project themselves in the world, and how they project their culture and their music," she said.

"It is a world of profound transition. It is also a world where we see renewal of east and west tensions, renewal of geopolitical tensions. They are at a peak after decades. Many times countries are obliged to make a choice. When talking of geopolitical tensions we are also looking at tech wars between numerous countries. Technology has become the new arena between big powers. Then there is also the emergence of anti-globalisation forces, the erosion of the European project. There are questions about what EU's future is going to be and what is the diplomatic way. We are also looking at tensions in the Middle East, which carry direct implications for Pakistan. We are also looking at Asia as a driver of global growth," she said.

She said that there were countries trying to change the game through adhoc alliances. "Successful countries having good diplomacy will be quick to ally. You need to see who you need to ally with for which issue. For instance there is the issue of migration. The West is clamping down on migration and refugees in many ways. This is a world with multiple issues and Pakistan needs to see how its to conduct itself now in this environment. It is not easy, even for the big countries. It is also a digital age and in this digital age there is a need to be sensitive and conscious about many things as there is also a dark side of digital worlds such as spreading hate and Islamophobia, which is also to be kept in mind," she said.

"So countries need to know how to leverage. What you need are skills in the foreign ministry. I can say with conviction that we have the people who can absorb those skills. We just need to reconceptualise what we need to do," she said.

Going on to how all these factors affect the UN, she said that it is all reflected in the working and dynamics of the UN Security Council. "Pakistan should have a profile on every issue," she said. "Still, when the Security Council meets to discuss its primary responsibility which is maintaining international peace, you see that it is often paralysed. For instance, the assassination of Qasem Soleimani was not even discussed in the Security Council. Members are appraised of what is happening thought letters but they don't discuss such issues. Because the Security Council remains deadlocked and paralysed on core issues, long-standing issues such as Kashmir and Palestine are left in a state of inconclusiveness. Whether it is Lebanon, which does get discussed or whether it is Libya or Syria, tensions on the Korean Peninsula they may be discussed but you don't see a conclusion or solutions because of the disagreements among the Security Council members," she pointed out. "Their action becomes inaction this way. It becomes its inability to help people in distress," she added.

Coming to Pakistan, Dr Lodhi said that Pakistan enjoys much respect at the UN because we joined there within months of independence. "It was smart as what we were able to do then was that getting our independence earlier than many countries in Africa and even in Asia made us leaders in the diplomacy process of these countries. They looked up to Pakistan," she explained, adding that outstanding extraordinary diplomats like Shamshad Akhtar, Dr Nafees Sadiq, Jamshed Marker, and their like, who had outstanding outreach, also left a good impression. "We deployed soft and hard power of activism at the UN. We had many advocates of multilateralism there raising their voice, playing a very prominent role," she added.

In hard power, she pointed out how Pakistan sends its troops for peacekeeping to countries under the UN umbrella. "UN's secretary general is so grateful to Pakistan for this. That's the leverage you have there. The question is how to use that leverage," she said, adding that since 1960, Pakistan has sent 200,000 troops who have served in 46 nations and 38 countries around the world. "Right now we have around 5,000 troops serving mostly in Africa under the UN flag," she said, adding that Pakistan has also won elections and served seven times as non-permanent members in the Security Council.

"We have been elected four times to the Human Rights Council, too. Other than this we have also been members of the economic and social council for years and years. It all shows that Pakistan has a standing in the UN. Taking vote from 193 countries isn't easy. We should take pride in this," she said. "The many African countries, with whom we don't even have diplomatic relations vote for Pakistan for its UN peacekeeping troops Africa. We here don't value such things as much as we should be valuing them," she said.

But, she said, Pakistan's priority in the UN is Kashmir. "We are there to push our national interest. It remains front and centre of our work in the UN. We push for the Council to address Kashmir's issue in accordance with its own resolutions. At every forum there we try to keep the issue of Kashmir alive. But there is also India there whose narrative is that it is an old and redundant issue. To them I would say that I didn't know that laws had an expiry date," she said.

She said that there were 11 Security Council resolutions on Occupied Jammu & Kashmir in the UN on how the right of determination is to be given to the people of Occupied Jammu & Kashmir. It is all there in black and white. But one or another council member over the years has managed to protect the interest of our neighbour in a way that these resolutions were not implemented. She said that it still does not mean that we give up. She concluded by saying that there was a need for reform within the Security Council. "It should be expanded by adding more permanent seats, even longer term seats," she said.

Former federal ombudsman Salman Faruqi and chairperson of the Roundtable Ameena Saiyid also spoke.

Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2020