A multilateral force for good
France and India’s presidencies of UNSC are an opportunity for change.
New Delhi, 1 July 2021
France and India’s successive presidencies are a force for good in UN Security Council
Emmanuel Lenain writes: In the face of conventional rivalries and transnational threats, our countries are convinced that only coordinated, human-centric responses can ensure peace and stability.
The shaping of the strategic partnership between France and India takes place not only in Paris and Delhi, but also in New York, at the table of the United Nations Security Council, where our two countries are currently seated side by side. And indeed, over the summer, France and India will be at the forefront of UN endeavours as they chair the Security Council in July and August respectively.
Defending the rules-based, multilateral system against the many crises of the 21st century is our common priority. In the face of conventional rivalries and transnational threats — like terrorism, new forms of insecurity triggered by climate change or pandemics, contestation of universal principles of international law — our countries are convinced that only coordinated, human-centric responses can ensure peace and stability.
To this end, the United Nations must be ready to evolve. Hence the call by the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar for a “reformed multilateralism” is dear to my country and echoes France’s long-standing efforts to make the United Nations more representative and efficient.
This requires reforming the Security Council, which bears the primary responsibility for international peace and security according to the UN charter. We advocate the council’s consideration of the emergence of new powers that are in a position to make an important contribution to its action. France favours the expansion of the council in both categories of membership, permanent and non-permanent. We support the candidatures of India and the three other G4 members (Germany, Japan, Brazil) for permanent seats. Indeed, we see India as a major, responsible power whose permanent presence at the council’s table would be a force for good. Like India, we also desire an enhanced presence of Africa among the permanent members as well as the non-permanent members. Thus, an expanded council could have up to 25 members. It would make the Security Council more representative of today’s world and strengthen its authority, while preserving its executive and operational nature.
It is high time that we moved forward with this reform. That is why France, together with India, calls for negotiations to start without further delay, and on the basis of a draft text, a single document.
As a complement and in parallel, we must make sure that the Security Council fully assumes its responsibilities and takes action, particularly to end mass atrocities. Deadlocks in the council fuel impunity, radicalisation, and erode the universal principles of international law. This leads us to consider the sense of responsibility intrinsically attached to the use of the veto by the permanent members. In this regard, France proposed a collective and voluntary agreement among the current permanent members of the Security Council to the effect that they would refrain from using the veto in case of mass atrocities, such as crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes on a large scale. We are glad that this initiative has attracted wide support. To this date, 105 countries from all continents, including several members of the G4, officially support this endeavour whose goal is to make multilateralism more efficient. We do hope that India will join in, too.
In addition to working for the reform of the UN, France and India are proactive on key issues on the Security Council agenda. Our successive presidencies of the Council in July and August offer a welcome opportunity to join forces on common priorities, like the active protection of civilians in conflict areas, for instance in Africa or West Asia, the rigorous implementation of arms embargoes, the strengthening of the humanitarian space as well as the modernisation of peacekeeping missions, to which India and France are both important troop contributors.
To prepare for a productive summer of multilateralism, the daily contacts between our permanent missions in New York, and trust at all working levels between our capitals will be an invaluable asset. And I am confident that our open, results-oriented diplomatic practice will help forge consensus and deliver concrete outcomes at the Security Council. This will be another example of how our bilateral strategic partnership acts as a multilateral force for good.
The opinion piece was published in The Indian Express on 1st July 2021.