Tepid diplomacyNepal seems to be staring into oblivion when it should be lobbying vigorously at the UNGA.
The symbolic handover of the gavel by Volkan Bozkir, president of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), to incoming President Abdulla Shahid marked the passage on to the 76th. The only constant topic that occupies our consciousness seems to reflect the struggles heaped on by the pandemic. And the challenges remain more or less the same for the new session that started on September 14: Obliterated economies, widening gap between the rich and the poor, millions plunged into extreme poverty, prioritisation of the provision of vaccines to poorer member states amid a Covid surge, and a post-American scenario in Afghanistan.
In stark contrast to the expectations and preparedness needed for an international event, Nepal seems to be staring into oblivion. With domestic policies in disarray, international diplomacy appears rather inconsequential for our political masters. Unable to forge consensus with allies, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba still sees no urgency to expand his cabinet. This lingering stalemate in domestic politics has steered much needed attention away from matters at the international level. The ineptitude of the government has resulted in the absence of any high-level representation at the 76th UNGA session.
Citing the pandemic, the prime minister has stated his intention against travelling to New York for the conference. What is of significance is that the meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers on the sidelines of the assembly, which had been the norm for the past decade, has been put in disarray. Nepal is the current chair of SAARC, hence the onus lies on it to facilitate meetings with other member states. The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has complicated matters for the worse in initiating any dialogue. But then, there is no alternative to dialogue.
Currently, we are beset by climate change and the need for equitable access to vaccines for poorer nations. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a study stating the impact of climate change in the Himalayan region. Despite Nepal and the region having to bear the brunt of the effects of the actions of the polluting industrialised nations, we have been left to fend for ourselves. The other being the pandemic’s impact; it is quite evident but there has been unequal access to vaccines for poorer nations. The platform can provide a podium for the region to press the G7 for equitable distribution of vaccines which for now has been confined to constant rhetoric.
Forums such as UNGA usually provide a platform allowing member states to collectively voice their concerns plaguing the region. Issues that may have gone unnoticed are allowed centre stage for once, and Nepal needs to rise to the challenge in providing leadership at the international arena taking along the other member states with it. Let it not be cited as a missed opportunity to get our affairs in order, such tepid diplomacy only reeks of inefficiency.