Ion Jinga, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, the Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations, has offered his views on the process of strengthening, protecting and capitalizing on the resilience of the United Nations Organization to the challenges brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic
Geostrategic Pulse: Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the public agenda of the countries affected. Issues such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation, the management of migration and threats to security and territorial integrity have become of secondary importance (at least apparently), as attention is focused on managing and countering the pandemic.
Based on the current situation in the countries affected by the pandemic, do you see a major paradigm shift in dealing with the current medical/sanitary threats and challenges, or do we continue to deal with challenges sequentially and in the short term?
Ion Jinga: Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic could be conceptualized as a black swan – a rare event with a major impact which, in hindsight, could have been foreseen. Yet, its nature and manifestations are not completely novel in their nature, as this is neither the first black swan nor the first pandemic the world has ever seen.
The current crisis has, however, two specific features. The first is that its effects cannot be countered through the individual actions of a single country. Being the result of global interconnectivity, the consequences of the pandemic can only be managed by taking advantage of this global interconnectivity: coordinating response policies, maximizing the benefits of membership in various international groups and organizations, technological cooperation, exchanging information and good practices, distributing, on large scale, vaccines and treatments, strengthening the global production and supply chains etc. The second is that the consequences of the pandemic and the measures needed to return to normal – a normal that, personally, I envision as different from that we knew before this crisis – seem to take a relatively long time.
However, I do not believe that the pandemic will cause a major paradigm shift in international relations, despite the initial difficulty in anticipating and managing all its consequences. At the same time, its seriousness dictated the priorities set by individual countries. To put it differently, the idea that certain issues, such as the ones you mentioned (terrorism, nuclear proliferation, the management of the flow of migration, threats to national security and territorial integrity) have taken on a secondary importance may be deceptive, and could be attributed to the feeling that, compared to the pandemic, these issue do not seem to have, presently, the same serious and immediate consequences.
If we were to look, for example, at the issue of migration, we could understand even better why it cannot come in second. Migration has become a global problem directly related to the proliferation of conflicts, terrorism, poverty, climate change, serious violations of human rights; and the list could go on and on. According to International Organization for Migration data, one billion people (out of the planet's 7.8 billion) migrated from their places of origin. Almost a quarter of a billion presently live in a different country than the one they were born in. Although the movement of population has been affected by the closure of borders, the vulnerability of displaced persons, migrants and refugees to the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the humanitarian aspects of the crisis. In mid-2020, almost 80 million people were forced to leave their places of residence, with 21 million of these being refugees. These people must be included in national and global plans created in response to the pandemic – in public information campaigns, in measures to prevent the spread of the virus, and in vaccination. The request for UN aid this year amounts to $40 billion.
On the other hand, many refugees who were working in the informal economy lost their jobs and income, and this impacted their families back home as well, since they no longer receive remittances. Finally, those forced to return to their places of origin without having access to health services and without having the possibility of undergoing medical tests may contribute to the spread of the virus. All these problems have made their way onto the UN list of priorities.
At the same time, the pandemic has highlighted how valuable the refugees' labor is; until now, they were often “invisible”, even though many were essential workers or on the front line of efforts to combat COVID-19.
The changes the current pandemic will impose on the actions taken by states will probably follow the pattern of previous black swans. States will likely aim to prevent the recurrence of similar situations by strengthening the sectors involved in crisis management and by reducing vulnerabilities – including those that certain players have taken advantage of in order to promote their own interests. As a result, we will likely witness the implementation of more rigorous medical standards, the inclusion of the medical field in the national security frameworks, the strengthening of international cooperation in the area, as well as attempts to find solutions to related problems, which came to light due to the current pandemic, such as countering cyber propaganda.
The urgent need to maintain domestic security has made it imperative to observe a more rigorous management of the resources allocated to involvement in international conflicts, whose intensity and territorial range have decreased with time.
Under these circumstances the efforts and endeavors of the countries affected are not part of an integrated and coordinated global approach; solidarity and cohesion depend on the commitments taken through bilateral and multilateral agreements.
How do you explain the low level of connectivity concerning these approaches? At the same time, do see the possibility of competition in finding and distributing the vaccine against COVID-19, which could strengthen or alter the balance of power on a global scale?
Indeed, the pandemic brought to light, at least in the beginning, a series of shortcomings within international cooperation. At the same time, it revealed the essential need for such cooperation. Bilateral and regional cooperation proved useful, but are also limited, and these limitations can only be compensated through global international cooperation.
The efforts to make the vaccine against COVID-19 accessible to all are more and more significant, and at the UN countries advance ever so often the notion that the vaccine is a “global public good”, an issue on the agenda of the UN General Assembly Special Session on how to respond to the pandemic, which took place in New York on December 3-4, 2020. On this occasion, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres asked that the COVID-19 vaccines be made available to all, and that developed countries help developing countries overcome this crisis. However, he warned that “when countries go in their own direction, the virus goes in every direction. […] It is time to reset the approach. As we build a strong recovery, we must seize the opportunity for change. […] In a global crisis, we must meet the expectations of those we serve with unity, solidarity and coordinated global action.”
The model adopted by the European Union, to enter prior commitments to acquire vaccines for its European citizens, is an example of collective action in support of the common good. However, there is a need for more efforts at global level. According to the EU and the UN, in 2020, the programme aimed at guaranteeing fair access to vaccines, which represents a crucial part of the international response to the pandemic, witnesses a $4.5 billion financial deficit. Such a response must be multidimensional. The UN has managed to mobilize a collective approach that deals with both sanitary issues and with those pertaining to human rights and humanitarian assistance.
Not least, I would mention the UN Secretary General's appeal for a ceasefire in international conflict arenas, issued in March 2020, so that mankind can focus on fighting COVID-19; as well as Resolution 2532, adopted by the UN Security Council on July 1, 2020, which urges all parties to end hostilities for at least 90 consecutive days in order to facilitate access of humanitarian aid.
In this context, what are the tools at the UN's disposal to get actively involved in supporting and coordinating member states' efforts, and, at the same time, prevent escalation of tensions in the context of deepening economic, social and political crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic?
This is a complex question. I would begin by saying that the UN has adapted its functions in order to swiftly and effectively respond to the crisis. Secretary General Antonio Guterres proved to be an exemplary leader who mobilized the material and human resources of the system, talked to world leaders and launched new initiatives aimed at limiting the pandemic, which affects 218 countries and territories.
In March, the UN launched the Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19 to raise $2 billion, money destined to combat the virus, having created the COVID-19 Recovery and Response Fund. In May, the UN organized a donor videoconference, during which $7.4 billion was dedicated to financing the creation of a vaccine and treatments. The Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19 was then updated in order to secure $6.7 billion – up from the two billion estimated at the beginning – and humanitarian aid was given to 63 countries affected by the pandemic.
Furthermore, the UN was able to provide water and soap for refugee camps (I would like to mention here that around the world there are three billion people that have no access to running water), assisted hospitals and clinics, organized information campaigns targeting millions of people, and facilitated the transport of medical equipment to 120 countries, at a rate of 700 flights a month.
The speed with which the pandemic spread tested the resilience of both UN and individual countries. If at the beginning of May there were four million cases around the world, in mid-December, at the time of this interview, there are 69 million infected persons, of which 48 million were cured, but over 1.5 million died due to COVID-19. Data provided by the World Health Organization and the World Food Programme shows that, if before the pandemic started 135 million people were on the brink of poverty, today this number doubled. The economic impact of the pandemic generated a 40% increase in the number of persons requiring humanitarian aid; 30 million people receive food only through the UN, and if this supply chain gets broken, we will be dealing with a humanitarian catastrophe, "a famine of biblical proportions", as the programme director said at one of the UN Security Council meetings.
The UN response was conceived according to the “peace-security-development” nexus (each of these dimensions being interdependent and interconnected with the others) and is based on three pillars. The first pillar envisages a large-scale, comprehensive and coordinated response within the health sector, led by the WHO and strengthened by global, regional and national operational support, to consolidate the response capacity (Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan). The second pertains to the efforts of finding a solution to all humanitarian and human rights aspects – access to vital services, aid to homeless families, economic recovery, the proper functioning of supply chains, strengthening institutions, securing public services, respect for human rights (Global Humanitarian Response Plan). This includes the Secretary General's appeal for a stimulus package equal to at least 10% of global GDP, massive support for developing countries, debt exemption, debt restructuring, increased aid provided through international financial institutions, preventing and responding to acts of violence against women and girls.
Finally, the third pillar is represented by the UN framework for immediate socio-economic response and redress, launched to support countries with low and medium incomes, based on which most sustainable development programmes have been adjusted to counter the pandemic. Coming out of this crisis should be seen as an opportunity to find solutions to climate issues, inequalities, exclusion, lack of social protection networks and injustice, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Such response should include the transition to renewable energy, sustainable food systems, gender equality, stronger social security networks, universal health coverage and an international system in line with the objective included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The current crisis is expected to lead to permanent changes in the international economic landscape, in ways that cannot be fully predicted. COVID-19 is a stress test for globalization and imposes the need for a major re-evaluation of the interconnected economy. Global production and distribution chains are affected, and developing countries can be expected to suffer socially and economically, which, in turn, may impact the global recovery process that the IMF estimates should start in 2021, while JP Morgan Bank anticipates a recovery to pre-crisis level in 2023.
The current global economy is built on supply and production chains relying on the cheapest suppliers; these are usually located far away and work according to the just-in-time system (to avoid storage expenses), which makes the system vulnerable to interruptions when crises occur, including due to the fact that excessive specialization has produced exclusive suppliers. Economic globalization grew faster than political globalization, and the world economy will have to be more resilient after the pandemic. Since the pandemic showed us the frailty of long supply chains, we are likely to witness a relocation of certain companies to their countries of origin or to closer geographic areas. This is why, when I answered your first question, I said that normalcy after the crisis will be different from the normal we knew before the outbreak of the pandemic.
Still, as the English say (John Milton, 1634), “every cloud has a silver lining” -- an opportunity can be found in every difficult situation. We live in the Google Age, where two complementary worlds coexist and overlap: the real, physical world and the virtual world that we see through our computer. Experts believe that the pandemic speeds up the process of replacing human workforce with automation and increases the number of those working from home -- teleworking. Mankind finds itself in a development stage characterized by large-scale use of artificial intelligence, interconnectivity, nanotechnology, synthetic biology, quantum computing and autonomous vehicles. When we exit this crisis, we might find ourselves in the middle of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. If we know how to adapt to this new world, we will have a better, cleaner life, since environmental protection and countering climate change are part of our planet’s security and, as there is no Plan B to stop global warming, there is no Planet B for us to move to.
In the current context, do you consider as timely a restructuring of the UN that expands its powers and capabilities to help member states cope with the challenges they are facing? Should a potential reform process aim at redefining the concept of diplomacy?
Throughout its 75 years of existence, the UN has witnessed a series of reforms, deemed necessary in order to permanently adapt to new international challenges. These changes were not always spectacular because member states' positions needed to be synchronized, and a prospective change of the UN Charter needs the vote of two thirds of the 193 member states, which the five permanent members of the Security Council can veto. Lately, progress has been registered in reviving the activity of the UN General Assembly, through the adoption of some successive resolutions concerning it. A code of ethics has been issued for the President of the UN General Assembly, strict rules for preserving institutional memory have been adopted, and a transparent procedure to elect the Secretary General has been introduced. Furthermore, the working methods of the six main commissions of the General Assembly, of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and of its functional commissions are periodically revised.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted once more that the process of adjustment to the global realities and priorities is essential to ensuring the efficiency, credibility and relevance of the organization, and to coordinating an international response.
The most recent UN reform was launched in 2017 at the initiative of the current Secretary General; it is three pronged, covering: peace and security – to ensure the coherence of all activities in this field, prioritize conflict-prevention measures, and enhance the effectiveness and coherence of the peacekeeping operations and of the special political missions; development – through the creation of UN country teams that coordinate the efforts of all UN agencies which operate in a country and are led by resident coordinators who have power of decision, as well as a strategic Development Assistance Framework; management – at the level of the Office of the UN Secretariat and of the UN in general – to ensure the accountability of managers and personnel, more transparency and better working conditions for the teams to carry out their mandate.This last aspect of the reform started in 2019, and the UN Secretary General recently informed where the UN stands regarding its implementation, showing that the UN management has undergone two major changes. One concerns decentralizing the decision-making process, at heads of departments level, as well as delegation of powers, propped by a verification and control system, which results in increased reaction speed and higher transparency of the decision-making process. The Office of the Secretary General has been reorganized and two new structures have been created: The Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance and The Department of Operational Support. The second major change is moving from a biannual budget for the UN programmes to an annual budget, which enables a more realistic distribution of resources, according to needs, and adjusting the agendas based on results. The first such budget is for 2020.
As far as managing human resources is concerned, the current reform led to faster recruitment procedures, the establishment of a single point of contact for specialized consulting services, the development of procedural guidelines for the movement of personnel, the launch of a new strategy in favor of geographical diversity etc. At the same time, a new UN acquisitions handbook was published, as well as a simplified procedure for suppliers. All these reduced the impact of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on the activity of the organization; the UN continued its online activity almost uninterrupted, with personnel either working from home or being physically present in smaller numbers, all while respecting the sanitary norms and the physical distancing imposed by the pandemic.
Regarding the last part of your question concerning a possible redefinition of the concept of diplomacy, I wrote in an article the Geostrategic Pulse Magazine, published on July 8, 2020, that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly changed the diplomatic lifestyle of the past decades. At the UN, and everywhere else in the world, diplomacy takes place mostly over the phone, e-mail and online meetings. Conference calls and secure videoconferences have become a daily activity, making it more difficult, however, to hold negotiations or confidential discussions.
Digital diplomacy has become a certainty, and in a competition with traditional diplomacy, it has every chance to win. The downside is the risk of losing some of the discretion that makes diplomacy what it is. The chemistry between people and the ability to nurture relations with politicians, diplomats, businesspersons or mass-media in a host country or in the organization where one works are crucial to being successful in this profession. A one-to-one discussion can influence the result of a negotiation, of a cooperation agreement, of mutual support during international elections, or of preparations for a high-level visit.
But, as US President John F. Kennedy once said: “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” A future that will belong to connectivity, flexible networks and cooperation, and where the understanding of how to improve human relations will be increasingly more important for countries, international organizations or companies.
Bill Gates recently made some predictions as to how life will look like after the pandemic: online meetings will become standard; software will register spectacular progress; working online from home will curtail demand for office space; people would rather live outside expensive cities, choosing bigger houses in smaller communities, in the countryside; and because we will have fewer occasions to socialize at the workplace, we will socialize more within the communities in which we live. Going back to the life we were used to will only be possible when the COVID-19 pandemic is under control in the entire world because, as Mr. Antonio Guterres said, “we are as strong as the weakest link in the world health system”.
We can predict that future pandemics will be less destructive because humankind will have learnt from the difficult experience it is going through now. I like to believe that in this new reality diplomacy will remain a key tool to understanding the position of different parties, a tool that cannot be replaced by technology or by the Twitter or Facebook revolutions.
Recently, President of the UN General Assembly Volkan Bozkir denounced the inefficiency of the Security Council (at the opening of a debate regarding the reform of this body), criticizing the “competing interests” of its members. The criticism of this former Turkish minister was added to that expressed by French President Emmanuel Macron, who stated that the institution seems incapable of coming up with useful solutions even in the most urgent humanitarian crises.
What are the main expectations, currents of opinion and courses of action regarding the reform of the UN in general and of the UN Security Council in particular, but especially what are the real prospects of relevant progress in the view of an experienced, expert career diplomat like yourself?
As I mentioned before, reforming the UN is one of the priorities of the current Secretary General, and it has as pillars peace and security, development and institutional management, all aiming to strengthen the performance and transparency of the organization.
Aside from these priorities, but reflecting the wish of a large majority of member states, another issue of interest is the reform of the UN Security Council. It is ultimately a political process that, when finalized, will have geopolitical consequences, which makes imperative for any solution to enjoy the widest possible political acceptance. If it entails changing the UN Charter, such reform will have to be ratified by at least two thirds of the UN member states, including the five permanent members.
In 1945, when the United Nations was established, all 51 founding states agreed that five of them (the United States of America, France, Great Britain, the Russian Federation and China) will have a permanent mandate in the Security Council, and six other members will be elected on rotating basis for periods limited to two years.
The reform of the Security Council has been on the agenda of the member states ever since the establishment of the UN. As the number of UN members grew, many voices stressed the need to reform the Security Council so that it reflects better the new geopolitical realities and the configuration of regional groups. Divergent country interests and major geopolitical reasons are responsible for the few substantial changes to the structure of the Security Council. The most important change took place in 1965, when the number of non-permanent members was raised from six to ten, chosen from the five regional groups and having two-year mandates. The current configuration of the UN Security Council is 55 years old.
In 1992, at the initiative of Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the General Assembly established the Open-Ended Working Group to reform the Security Council, and in 1993 the resolution on “equitable representation and an increase in the number of members in the Security Council” was adopted. In 2005, Secretary General Kofi Anan put forward a Council reform plan, but it has not been implemented.
Interest in this process grew after the General Assembly adopted, in 2008, Decision 62/557 “initiating intergovernmental negotiations (IGN) in the form of an informal plenary meeting of the General Assembly”. Decision 62/557 identified five priority issues that have to be dealt with in case of reform of the UN Security Council: categories of membership (permanent/non-permanent), right to veto, regional representation, the size of an extended Security Council and the relation between the Security Council and the General Assembly. Since then, the General Assembly extends annually the mandate of the Intergovernmental Group for the Negotiations of the Council Reform.
I am familiar with this file because during the 71st session of the General Assembly, I was appointed, together with my Tunisian colleague, as co-chair of the intergovernmental negotiating process on Security Council reform, which is considered the most complex element of the general reform framework of the United Nations system.
I was the first ambassador from a Central and Eastern European country to be given this responsibility. The document drafted at the end of my mandate, and which was accepted by all UN member states – “Elements of Commonality and Issues for Further Consideration on the question of equitable representation and increase in the membership in Security Council and related matters” – is still the basis for further negotiations.
The most intense discussions regarding the UN Security Council reform concern the expansion of the Security Council and the right to veto. Members' accountability, the reform of the working methods, including in the context of accelerated digitalization of the UN activity, or the implementation / non-implementation of the UN SC resolutions are also issues on the member states' agenda.
Any progress depends, however, on the degree of support from the member states, and any basic change must “seek a solution that can enjoy the widest possible political acceptance by member states” (according to Decision 62/557). The world of today is more complex than that of 75 years ago, the challenges are more sophisticated. Globalization makes it impossible to solve them other than through a holistic approach in a multilateral framework. Any reform of the UN system, and even more so of the Security Council, must take this reality into account.
In his intervention – via videoconference – in the final plenary of the 17th annual meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club, which was held between October 20 and October 22, 2020, President Vladimir Putin stressed that multilateralism should not be seen as absolute inclusiveness, but rather as the need to involve stakeholders in solving a problem. He gave as example the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – which has been contributing for over 20 years to finding solutions to territorial disputes and to strengthening the stability of Central Eurasia, the Astana format – that had a crucial role in breaking the deadlock of the political and diplomatic processes, or OPEC Plus – which is an effective, if very complex, instrument of stabilizing the global oil markets. The Russian leader also stressed that there are challenges that need more than the combined powers of some countries, even if very influential, to overcome; problems of such magnitude require global collaboration; among them, I would count international stability, security, counterterrorism, regional conflicts in need of urgent resolution, promotion of global economic development, combating poverty, expanding cooperation in the field of health.
Would you consider all of the above as a call for UN reform or, rather, as a justification for the unilateralism of some of the great powers (it is no coincidence that V. Putin highlighted the Astana format, where Russia imposed the layout and terms of discussion on the future of Syria, just as it was no coincidence that, more recently, Russia, dictated the terms of the truce between Armenia and Azerbaijan – among other things, Azerbaijan authorized the long-term stationing of the Russian “peacekeeping forces”)?
Multilateralism is a rational option whose goals are stability, predictability and security of the general international relations system. Multilateralism sets norms both in terms of behavior of state actors in the relations with each other, and in terms of their approach vis-à-vis the peoples they represent. The set of multilaterally agreed-upon norms objectively reveals the existence of standards on human dignity and the political and social rights of the individuals, and these standards must be respected by all international actors.
As I already mentioned, solving global challenges entails a global response, because we live in a highly interconnected world where a local problem can soon become one with global impact, and that also requires local and regional ability to respond, as the importance of finding local solutions to local problems is incontrovertible.
In this respect, I would remind that the first resolution adopted by the Security Council on the cooperation between the UN and regional organizations, UN Resolution 1631 of October 17, 2005, was a Romanian initiative. Today, the role of regional organizations and the importance of their cooperation with the UN are unanimously accepted as a way to ensure the coherence of endeavors to promote peace, security and global development. Recently, Romania, as president of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, promoted a resolution regarding the cooperation of this regional organization with the UN; the resolution was unanimously adopted by the General Assembly on November 23, 2020.
History shows that in international relations there are no long-lasting solutions imposed by force. Any solution must be based on dialogue and engagement in good faith in discussions and negotiations, by all parties involved in a conflict, or in situations with the potential of escalating into conflict. A key role is played by conflict-prevention activities and the proper management of developments in the fragile post-conflict stage, in preventing the resumption of hostilities, in building trust and in enabling the start of an inclusive process of political, institutional and economic reconstruction.
Last but not least, what would be the main challenges for a UN ambassador, generally, and from your perspective, in particular?
The UN is the only truly global international organization, and the best argument in favor of its relevance is the constant increase in the number of member states – from 51, in 1945, to 193, presently. The competition among countries for occupying important positions in the UN is also edifying. For instance, for the ten non-permanent seats in the Security Council, candidacies have been announced until 2047, and for the position of president of the General Assembly, until 2077. The explanation for this undiminished interest lies in the trust countries around the world have in the principles and values promoted by the UN. Membership to the UN offers international recognition, legitimacy and prestige, and the intelligent use of this forum can increase the influence of a country beyond its borders, military capacity or economic strength.
This reality is presently marked by multiple major challenges, some recurrent, others new. Some of them I mentioned earlier: the proliferation of armed conflicts, the resurgence of terrorism, poverty, hunger, deepening inequality, the COVID-19 pandemic (besides the major impact it had on the health and function of medical systems, it has also caused the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of 1929-1933), the alarming increase of the number of refugees, global warming, the large-scale destruction of our biodiversity, massive pollution of seas and oceans, deforestations of unprecedented size (every year the forest area that disappears all over the planet is the size of Denmark). The answers to these problems will define the role of the UN in the 21st century and will pose as many challenges to the organization and its member states, and they are reflected in the objectives the latter have set at the UN.
The objectives of the Permanent Mission of Romania to the UN correspond to the mandate set every year by the leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and approved by the President of Romania for the respective session of the UN General Assembly. As we represent Romania’s diplomatic voice at the United Nations, our role is, foremost, to present Romania’s position within the UN structures in New York. The wide range of foreign policy issues we deal with, as well as the growing responsibilities assumed by Romania internationally are reflected in our set priorities, which include increasing the UN’s efficiency in addressing threats to international peace and security, maintaining the Security Council as the main forum for international peacekeeping cooperation, using preventive diplomacy and finding peaceful solutions to disputes, continuing the UN reform process, implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, promoting closer dialogue and cooperation between the UN and regional organizations – bearing in mind Romania’s experience and prestige as a regional and sub-regional promoter of security and stability.
Being Romania’s voice at the UN is an honor and obliges to the highest degree. It is an honor because it places you in a long line of Romanian diplomats who served their country with professionalism, loyalty and commitment in the most important international organization, the UN being the keystone of multilateralism and international cooperation. It obliges because promoting national interests at the UN contributes to the prestige and respect that Romania enjoys in the world. Through the strength of its ideas, its intelligence, its commitment and efforts in the service of the country, the Romanian diplomacy succeeded many times in this endeavor. It is first and foremost the result of a team effort, and I believe that the diplomats’ profession of faith must be to serve their country, honoring their status and national identity. As an ambassador, you feel this responsibility almost physically on your shoulders; it motivates you in everything you do.
In the last more than five years as Permanent Representative of Romania to the UN, I have had the privilege of chairing eight UN commissions and formats of international cooperation, most of them a first for our country, and some for several years. I am referring to the Security Council reform process (mentioned earlier), the Peacebuilding Commission (key to internal reconciliation, post-conflict reconstruction and peacekeeping; from this position, I had the opportunity to see and understand on the ground African realities, the problems but also the huge potential this continent has and which, in my opinion, will greatly influence the future of our planet), the Commission for Disarmament and International Security (often a high-stakes confrontation ground), the Commission for Social Development, the Commission for Population and Development, the UN Group of Governmental Experts on the Transparency of Military Expenditure, the Group of Francophone Ambassadors to the UN, and the Committee on the UN Population Award (this award is given to personalities and organizations with major contributions to population and development issues; on December 10, 2020, I presided over the award ceremony for 2020, this year's laureates being the Queen Mother of the Kingdom of Bhutan and the HelpAge organization from India; previous laureates included Indira Gandhi, Bill and Melinda Gates, heads of state, ministers etc.).
An essential catalyst for the performance of the Mission in recent years was the participation of the President of Romania, H.E. Mr. Klaus Werner Iohannis, to the High-Level Segment of the annual sessions of the UN General Assembly. The presence of our Head of State, the messages sent from the UN rostrum and the meetings he had in New York with other prominent leaders, strengthened and amplified Romania’s profile within the Organization – a strong and prosperous Romania which asserts itself in the world and whose place among democratic nations is acknowledged.
Note: The opinions expressed in this interview do not bind the official position of the author.