This discussion is timely and opportune with India having just completed its month-long Presidency of the UNSC with substantive outcomes on key global issues, said Yahia Alibi, Head of Regional Delegation, ICRC, during a panel discussion on UNSC 2021: Takeaways from the Indian Presidency. The webinar was conducted as part of periodic discussions hosted in collaboration with the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), a key partner of the ICRC, in India.

Yahia was in conversation with Amb Lakshmi Puri, Former Assistant Secretary-General, UN & Former Deputy Executive Director, UN Women; Amb Asoke Mukherji, Former Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations and Eva Svoboda, Deputy Director for International Law and Policy, ICRC. The session was moderated by Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, Director, Centre for Security, Strategy and Technology, ORF.

“India identified four priorities as it took on its non-permanent seat on the UNSC. These were to implement a new orientation for a reformed multilateral system to promote inclusive solutions for peace and security; to pursue result-oriented UNSC measures to counter-terrorism; to make UN Peacekeeping Operations (PKOs) more effective, and to focus on securing a human-centric technology-driven world,” said Asoke Mukherji, Former Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations.

Three initiatives were taken during India’s Presidency. These are related to maritime security, UN peacekeeping and counterterrorism. This set agenda was effectively presented by India, as these are critical to the country’s current policies.

“This Presidency has had important outcomes. India has a history of memorable August Presidencies of the UNSC”, said Lakshmi Puri, Former Assistant Secretary-General, UN. “What set India’s 2021 Presidency apart was the highest-level of engagement and leadership of PM Modi himself, who chaired it to mobilize on an urgent and vital issue of global concern – maritime security,” she added.

Highlighting the issue of counter-terrorism and the mission of ICRC, Yahia said, “building consensus needs engagement and one of the areas that need attention is the role of military action in conflict zones and the need to strengthen the humanitarian language in the counter-terrorism resolution and measures at the global & state levels.”

Emphasizing this further, Eva Svoboda, Deputy Director for International Law and Policy at ICRC, added, “terrorism negates the basic principle of humanity; it goes against the underlying principles and core objectives of International Humanitarian Law. However, restrictive counter-terrorism measures negatively impact humanitarian action and when humanitarian organizations are hindered in their mandate due to sanctions, the consequences are grave for those in need of protection.

Taking forward the discussion, Amb Puri drew attention to the fact that the international community was still not able to agree on a definition of terrorism and a subsequent comprehensive convention on counterterrorism. In the absence of such a counterterrorism framework, we are unable to create uniform standards and develop a global consensus on counterterror strategies that could help alleviate some of the issues that humanitarian organisations face….Puri went on to say.

For the ICRC, striking a balance between legitimate counter-terror measures and protecting them for neutral, independent impartial humanitarian action is extremely crucial. Accordingly, we urge States to consider, and mitigate, the humanitarian impact of counter-terrorism measures by putting in place well-crafted, standing humanitarian exemptions or carve-outs allowing for impartial humanitarian organizations to carry out exclusively humanitarian activities as foreseen by IHL.

India’s month-long Presidency of the powerful United Nations Security Council (UNSC) ended on August 31 with substantive outcomes on crucial global issues. India is currently a non-permanent member (for a two-year term) of the 15-nation UNSC. It assumed the rotating Presidency of the UN body for August.