In an under-4 minute video message, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi showed United Nations the mirror and urged it to take a long, hard look at its “crisis of confidence” while ratcheting up the call for a new template of multilateralism that “reflects today’s realities” on Day One of the United Nations high level week being live streamed to the world from the UN headquarters in New York City.
Modi’s remarks came at a “high-level meeting” to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly.
“We cannot fight today’s challenges with outdated structures without comprehensive reforms. The UN faces a crisis of confidence,” Modi said in a pre-recorded message that went live at 5:30 pm EST (3 a.m. IST).
“For today’s interconnected world, we need a reformed multilateralism that reflects today’s realities, gives voice to all stakeholders, addresses contemporary challenges and focuses on human welfare,” Modi said.
The introspective mood isn’t novel to the United Nations, it actually reflects the zeitgeist, even from within. On Monday, the United Nations General Assembly committed itself to put “new life” into the stalled reform of the Security Council.
Dressed in his trademark kurta and a leaf green vest with dark micro checks, Modi stood beside the Indian tricolour as he delivered his recorded remarks.
Modi came in at number 104 in a line of more than 180 other country leaders who are turning up in set-piece frames to deliver more than 700 minutes of content on a single video loop for an ambient global audience.
The Indian PM’s speech was prefaced by a welcome note from TS Tirumurti, India’s permanent representative to the United Nations.
The UN marked its 75th anniversary in June this year at a scaled down event, because the coronavirus was already raging by then. About 50 countries signed on to the U.N. Charter in San Francisco on June 26, 1945.
The heady combination of telecom connectivity, teleprompters and social platforms ensured that the virtual version of the UNGA got off to a smooth start, free of the unscripted moments that neither exposed conflicts not gave leaders the chance to offer the counter-view.
Framed against carefully curated backdrops mostly highlighting country flags and sometimes a light touch of ornate interiors or soft focus, world leaders re-purposed their pet UNGA pitch while embracing the new format. Xi Jinping appeared in front of a painting of the Great Wall of China in the backdrop while Australia went with a live shot of the Sydney Opera House.
The UNGA high-level week kicked off less than 24 hours after a new flashpoint erupted between the US and the UN over Iran sanctions.
US President Donald Trump was first on the speaker list for Monday but stayed away, in a snub to the United Nations which stands as a metaphor for multilateralism in the heart of Trump’s home ground New York City.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said the United Nations will not support sanctions on Iran based on the United States’ demands until he gets a green light from the Security Council.
�The Trump administration has declared repeatedly since Saturday that all UN sanctions against Iran have been restored, a move that will undoubtedly stir controversy during the UN’s annual high-level meetings this week.