united nations

Are the smaller nations overlooked at UN?

The smaller nations face a barrage of problems at the United Nations which include relatively smaller mission size, assessing the relevant information and barriers in taking effective decisions on UN voting due to limited capacities in filtering and analyzing information.

Smaller nations have relatively small missions: The bigger countries like USA and China keeps a big contingent of UN personnel but the smaller nations such as Jamaica and Timor-Leste have a very small mission which is less than even 10 personnel at UN. The more advanced smaller nations like Switzerland and Singapore though have more substantial diplomatic staff.

Capacity challenges: Due to the UN’s sweeping agenda, numerous meetings, and voluminous documents, small states face a serious challenge with their more limited capacities in filtering and analyzing information.

Steps have been taken of the lately to ease pressure on the smaller nations. For example: these nations have benefited a lot from reporting initiatives such as independent Security Council Report, which offers broad access to previously unavailable information through timely and in-depth reporting on the work of the Security Council.

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Though it has been a great headway but still the small nations complain that there are impediments in aggregating data and analysis for the work of General Assembly.

Problems faced by them while voting on resolutions: The small nations have to evaluate and communicate their analysis to capital, and arrive at a position before the vote on every resolution. This requires background information and assessment across a vast agenda of issues, many of which are likely to be beyond the specific focus and expertise of smaller delegations.

Parallel challenges arise in UN elections, when small states often need information on candidates’ voting records and positions, which is not currently summarized or collected in any one accessible resource. Running as candidates for election to UN bodies
raises many capacity hurdles for small states. Representation on elected bodies is crucial for UN member states and effective diplomacy, but small states tend to face financial and political barriers in advancing their candidacies.

Steps taken for helping the smaller states in UN: The creation of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) unit within the UN Secretariat’s Division for Sustainable Development is one example of a move to facilitate small-state participation and interests.

Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) is also playing a key role in empowering the smaller nations’ voices at the UN.

Demands of the smaller nations: Reform of the Security Council and the financial system is the key agenda for the smaller nations. They want justified financial burden without being asked to share greater financial burdens without being prepared to allow them more authority over the important expenditure decisions.

Also Read:- Are we closer to achieving targets of SDGs?

They should be allowed to play a key role in international peace and security, free trade, social development, protection of the environment and democracy and human rights.

Singapore takes a pioneering role in helping small nations: In 1992, Singapore established an informal and non-ideological grouping of small states in New York known as the Forum of Small States (FOSS) which comprises of over 108 countries. It has chapters in various countries including Geneva, Vienna, and London.

In 2009, Singapore set up another informal grouping of 30 small- and medium-sized members of the UN: the Global Governance Group (3G).

In 2015, Singapore launched the FOSS Fellowship Programme to foster better understanding and closer cooperation among FOSS states. Under the Fellowship Programme, Ambassadors based in cities where FOSS Chapters exist are invited to Singapore for study visits, where they can exchange views on development challenges with Singapore’s leaders and policy makers. As of 2020, Singapore has hosted 88 Ambassadors from 62 countries under the Fellowship Programme.

Way forward: The small states can address their shared challenges through three critical areas for future action: information sharing,
capacity building, and support from the UN system.

Small states can make significant contributions at the UN, as they can work swiftly and more flexibly than their larger counterparts; they tend to prioritize issues strategically and develop expertise in niche areas; and they promote multilateralism and international cooperation, as their roles and voices in the international system depend on these principles

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Are the smaller nations overlooked at UN?
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