Covid-19 exposes UN’s weakness, fragility

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed ‘weaknesses and fragility’ of the United Nations system, concluded an international webinar hosted from Dhaka, hoping that it has created multiple opportunities to build a more equal and sustainable world.

Despite the UN failure to issues such as the Rohingya repatriation and also fatalities to peacekeepers, the Bangladesh authorities iterated the country’s commitment to the UN’s peace-building and peace-keeping mandate.

“Bangladesh is ready to deploy its peacekeepers in the shortest possible time and in the most difficult circumstances,” reads the summary of proceedings of the two-day international webinar on “The UN in Times of People’s Needs Rethinking Multilateralism” organised by the Center for Peace Studies (CPS), North South University and the United Nations in Bangladesh” on Wednesday and Thursday.

It said for the UN, “There remains much to be done for the people, in particular in the areas of preventing conflict, gross human rights violations and genocides.”

The summary, however, observed that the UN is increasingly becoming dysfunctional in preventing armed conflict, genocide, geopolitical rivalries, inequality within and among the states.

“Government and Civil Society collaboration is the call of the day to rescue UN from being irrelevant,” according to the summary read out by North South University Vice-Chancellor Professor Atiqul Islam.

It said despite pandemic-driven uneasiness, the majority of the people continue to pin their hope on the UN and international cooperation.

Participants from home and abroad recognised Bangladesh’s humanitarian response to the Rohingya situation and also appreciated the country’s indigenous programmes to tackle humanitarian disasters.

At the concluding session on Thursday evening, Planning Minister M. A. Mannan, however, pointed out that “our trust in the UN has eroded over the years”.

He said the UN has not been successful in peace-building for the Rohingya people and also in dealing with the issue of the coronavirus vaccine which, he believes, should have been a common property of mankind.

State Minister of Foreign Affairs Md. Shahriar Alam described Bangladesh as the 'poster child' of the United Nations in terms of its achievements and commitment and reiterated Dhaka’s multilateralism initiated by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and followed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

He insisted that the UN should reach out to millions who felt left out from the system.

UN Resident Coordinator Mia Seppo appreciated Bangladesh’s role in the UN and contribution to its activities and urged actors to continue their efforts for making improvement.

At the two-day conference, there was a call for a “People’s UN” breaking away from a club for a few.

The summary of proceedings called for joining and supporting the global civil society initiative including to “Together First” and Accountability, Coherence, and Transparency (ACT) and the Global Governance Forum to make the UN effective and inclusive.

“States must actively engage in a preparatory process for 2023 Global Summit on Inclusive Governance to establish a fair and inclusive multilateralism,” it recommended.

The summary added that the future of the UN lies in the hands of youth so they must be included in making the “Future UN” by establishing a permanent platform within the UN. The concluding session was moderated by Ambassador Shahidul Haque, Senior Fellow, North South University.