Paris Climate deal among UN’s big achievements in 2016
United Nations, Dec 28: India played a seminal role in the Paris Climate Change deal coming into force in 2016, a landmark pact that will help define the legacy of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who handed over the baton to his successor Antonio Guterres as the raging conflicts in the Arab world, the refugee crisis and the unabated threat of terrorism posed significant challenges for the world body.
The year will go down in history as the historic moment when the long-pending Paris Climate Agreement finally came to fruition after Ban, in his final of year at the helm of the world body, mobilised nations to ratify the agreement, which calls on countries to combat climate change and limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius.
India, which accounts for 4.1 per cent of the world emissions, ratified the Paris deal on October 2 – the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi – a move that allowed the pact to enter into force on November 4.
The Paris climate agreement will go down in history as one of the hallmarks of the legacy of Ban, whose 10-year tenure as the world’s top diplomat ends on December 31.
His successor Guterres, the former Portuguese premier and UN High Commissioner for Refugees from 2005 to 2015, was named to the top job after an unprecedented election cycle.
Guterres was appointed by the UN General Assembly in what was the culmination of a historic process Member States set in motion last year: the selection of a new UN Secretary-General, traditionally decided behind closed-doors by a few powerful nations, for the first time in history, involved public discussions with each candidate vying for the top position.
There was also a strong call by member states and civil society organisations to elect a woman, since no female has held the top position in the world body’s 71-year history.
India was among the only handful of countries that Guterres had visited in the months before the polls, meeting with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi.
“While we were not there in the Security Council, he understood and appreciated the role that we play in matters relating to the UN. Even in that change process, the Secretary General-designate, even before he was elected, had an awareness and an understanding of Indian position and its importance,” India’s envoy to the UN Syed Akbaruddin said.
Akbaruddin said the fact that India is “supportive” of him was “very clear” that is why he went to the country before the elections to select the new secretary general.
Earlier this month, Guterres had voiced appreciation for India’s engagement with the world body and its contributions to various areas of the UN’s work during a meeting with Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar who had called on him soon after his swearing-in as the 9th Secretary General of the UN.
“The Secretary General-designate appreciated India’s engagement with the UN and contributions to various areas of the UN’s work,” a spokesperson of India’s Permanent Mission to the UN had said.
Jaishankar congratulated Guterres and assured him of India’s support and assistance in areas that the SG-designate focuses as his priorities including on matters of sustainable development and peace and security, the spokesperson said.
Guterres, who will assume his new role on January 1, takes over as the world’s top diplomat as the world body faces severe criticism for failing to effectively deal with the Syrian crisis. He assumes office at a time when the scourge of terrorism grows unabated and continues to claim hundreds of innocent lives around the world, including in India.
The year also witnessed a war of words at the UN between India and Pakistan, which tried to rake up the Kashmir issue at various UN fora “fairly significantly” more than compared to previous years but didn’t find even one country to support it all though it tried so many times.
“Despite Pakistan’s best efforts, there was no resonance among the 193-member states of the UN for what they were saying (about Kashmir),” Akbaruddin said, adding that despite change in Pakistan’s tactics, “for us we were able to maintain continuity in terms of the understanding of UN members towards our position” (related to Kashmir).
Ban had voiced deep concern about the deterioration of the situation along the Line of Control in Kashmir in recent months, calling on all involved to prioritise the restoration of calm and stability in order to prevent any further escalation and loss of life.
At the annual UN General Assembly session, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif glorified slain Hizbul militant Burhan Wani as a “young leader” and demanded a UN fact-finding mission to Kashmir. Sharif had devoted much of his 20-minute speech to Kashmir and the current situation in the Valley.
In one of the hard hitting rebuttals to Pakistan, India said the country is “host to the Ivy League of terrorism” and attracts aspirants and apprentices from all over the world.
India said it sees in Pakistan “a terrorist state” which channelises billions of dollars, much of it diverted from international aid, to training, financing and supporting terrorist groups as militant proxies against it neighbours.
In a reference to Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar and Mumbai terror attack mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, India said terrorist entities and their leaders, including many designated by the UN, continue to roam the streets of Pakistan freely and operate with State support.
Another crisis facing Guterres is the unravelling of Syria, where since the crisis erupted in 2011, the humanitarian situation has taken a downward spiral with more than 13.5 million Syrians now in need to humanitarian assistance and nearly 6.3 million people internally displaced.
More than four million Syrians have been driven out of the country as refugees, including tens of thousands in Europe.
The conflict has also killed hundreds of thousands of people, including many children.
Ban, in his final press conference, said “the carnage in Syria remains a gaping hole in the global conscience”.
“We have collectively failed the people of Syria. Peace will only prevail when it is accompanied by compassion, justice and accountability for the abominable crimes we have seen,” he added.
Guterres has pledged to “engage personally” in helping resolve long-standing disputes and conflicts and reforming the world body to enable it to effectively meet the myriad challenges facing the international community.
“We must do more to resolve conflicts. From acute crises in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan and elsewhere to long-running disputes including the Israeli- Palestinian conflicts, we need mediation, arbitration as well as creative diplomacy. As part of my good offices, I am ready to engage personally in conflict resolution where it brings added value, recognising the lead role of member states,” he had said.
India also registered significant victories at various UN elections this year, with its auditors for the first time auditing UN headquarters.
India, the second largest troop-contributing nation in UN peacekeeping operations, contributed USD 100,000 to the Trust Fund in Support of Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, becoming the first country to make a contribution to the fund.
India continued this year its track record of winning key UN elections, with young Indian lawyer Aniruddha Rajput winning a hotly-contested election in the UN General Assembly for membership to the world body s top body of legal experts.
Top Indian diplomat Ambassador A Gopinathan was also re-appointed to the only independent external oversight body of the UN system the Joint Inspection Unit following his endorsement as the sole candidate of the Asia-Pacific Group.
India’s soft power was also on full display at the UN this year, right from celebrating the second International Yoga Day to commemorating Diwali for the first time at the world body s headquarters.
Renowned spiritual leader Sadhguru led a Yoga session during the hour-long commemoration, organised by India s Permanent Mission to the UN and attended by top UN officials, ambassadors, diplomats and Yoga practitioners.
Celebrating the festival of lights for the first time at the UN, the facade of world body’s majestic headquarters was lit up in bright hues and the words ‘Happy Diwali’ along with the image of a traditional diya (lamp) were projected onto the building. In another first, General Assembly President Peter Thomson lit the traditional lamp at a ceremony to celebrate Diwali at the UN Secretariat.