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|Ambassador Dang Dinh Quy - Permanent Representative of Vietnam to the United Nations|
The UN Charter tasked the UNSC to take the top responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. The council is in charge of three major tasks, namely conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and dealing with unplanned issues.
In 2020, after Vietnam and Belgium completed their chairmanship month in January and February, the COVID-19 pandemic became serious. The UN headquarters closed its doors, with the UNSC halting its meetings. The issue then was how the council could continue its activities given an expected rise in challenges for international peace and security due to the pandemic, especially in regions with armed conflicts.
After two weeks of discussions, the UNSC agreed on a new working method, with all meetings to be held online and flexible and creative activities, such as document-based voting and online negotiations. Almost all UN member states and the international community have held that the UNSC has completed a good job in 2020.
Within such shared efforts, Vietnam has made very positive contributions to conflict prevention and peaceful settlement of disputes. It has also contributed to improving the methods of work of the UNSC: enhancing engagement with regional arrangements in the maintenance of international peace and security in accordance with Chapter VIII of the UN Charter, protection of civilians and critical civilian infrastructure in armed conflict; and much more besides.
Vietnam has created an imprint via organising an open discussion and adopting the chairmanship declaration on respect for the UN Charter in protecting international peace and security, with the record number of participating member states in the UN’s 75-year history.
Though 2020 was full of difficulties, the UN-ASEAN ties saw interesting breakthroughs. As UNSC chair in January 2020, Vietnam proposed discussions on the ties at the UNSC. As chair of the ASEAN Committee in New York, Vietnam also hosted the compilation of the content, discussions, and requesting the UN General Assembly to adopt a resolution on UN-ASEAN cooperation via consensus, breaking three records – the shortest time for consultancy with all parties, the shortest time for mobilisation, and the biggest number of nations with co-sponsorship.
Specifically, the UN-ASEAN cooperation resolution is a biennial one, aimed to boost the two organisations’ ties. The biggest difficulty was that the resolution must be adopted as soon as possible. On November 23, 2020, the UN General Assembly considered resolutions on cooperation with regional organisations, while the time for this activity every year is often late December. Meanwhile, the most important document for us to formulate the resolution is the UN-ASEAN Action Plan for 2021-2025, and this document was approved on October 21.
Many important contents of the resolution were also agreed on November 15. Thus, we had only less than one month to make the draft resolution, negotiations, and mobilisations before reaching consensus from all the 193 member states of the UN. Vietnam hosted the compilation of the draft resolution in parallel with the process of adopting other relevant documents, advancing consistent principles within ASEAN and with other member states so that the resolution could gain the highest consensus.
Finally, the resolution was passed by a record number of 110 co-sponsorship nations and 10 ASEAN member states.
On December 27, the world for the first time in its history organised activities to boost anti-epidemic efforts. The UN General Assembly president, the UN secretary-general, and the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) sent messages. Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc also delivered a message on the importance and measures for fighting epidemics. This is the UN General Assembly’s first-ever resolution of the type, and also the first hosted and advanced by Vietnam which was adopted by the assembly.
This resolution was supported by all UN member states. Canada, Niger, Senegal, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines were co-authors with Vietnam. Moreover, over 100 UN member states in all regions worldwide sponsored the resolution, which calls for all member states, systems in the UN, international and regional organisations, the private sector, non-governmental organisations, research institutes, individuals, and other stakeholders to celebrate the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness on an annual basis in order to raise awareness on anti-epidemic measures, from there making preparations and conducting partnerships at all levels.
This is also a concrete action of Vietnam in implementing the Party Central Committee’s Secretariat’s Directive No.25-CT/TW on promoting and enhancing the role of multilateral diplomacy until 2030. With such specific contributions as the resolution, Vietnam’s role in the international community has been further enhanced.
The advantage is that amid COVID-19, the idea for the day to raise awareness and then make better preparations is practical and has a long-term, wide-ranging influence. The disadvantage is that amid the current coronavirus pandemic, at the UN, there appeared at the same time many initiatives on this topic, while there were differences about connotations, origins, and the impacts of the pandemic, as well as in responsibilities, and roles of stakeholders in preventing and containing the outbreak.
In fact, many proposals of many nations were also advanced but failed to be adopted or used as an input for a joint resolution on COVID-19.
To succeed, we had to thoroughly study and select words already agreed on in previous documents in order to formulate the resolution and make a suitable and unified approach roadmap with strict principles before negotiating with other nations.
For differences, we remained consistent with basic principles like promotion of multilateralism, international cooperation, and roles of UN organs, especially the WHO, in fighting epidemics – while also reaffirming the responsibilities, roles, and sovereignties of nations on this issue.
COVID-19 may be controlled to some extent, but the aftermath it has and will cause is very big, with new unpredictable changes. Meanwhile, current conflicts in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Somalia are still taking place. The nuclear issue in Iran or the relations between climate change and conflicts remain complicated, excluding dangers about new conflicts. All of these factors are threatening international peace and security.
In this context, Vietnam will continue attaching importance to priorities it advanced when it joined the UNSC, especially respect for international law and implementation of principles under the UN Charter. We will boost the implementation of anti-conflict measures, pay more attention to humanitarian issues, protection of civilians, and address the aftermaths of armed conflicts, including socioeconomic recovery and tackling consequences caused by landmines and explosive remnants of war.
We will also continue boosting issues related to women’s role in peace and security, addressing challenges about climate change in conflicts. Another important issue will be that Vietnam will also beef up peacekeeping operations including its own ones at the UN. We will also continue closely combining with UN member states to ensure these priorities will be implemented effectively.