United Nations: An important platform for our diplomacy

BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Ambassador B. Romualdez - The Philippine Star

The United Nations has been criticized in the past about its perceived failures, with critics saying that its powerful body – the Security Council – has been ineffective in maintaining peace and security and easing tensions between nations as some disputes have escalated into armed conflicts, pointing to the war in Ukraine as a recent example.

Others also accuse the UN of being inefficient when it comes to achieving the goal of mitigating hunger and poverty despite the billions of dollars being spent on economic and social development programs. In fact, the relevance of the 76-year-old organization in today’s world is being questioned by some sectors who claim that it is continually going on a decline and nearing obsolescence, supposedly because of its bureaucratic systems, coupled by its perceived inability to evolve amid the changing geopolitical landscape.

But while it has been less than perfect, many people still look at the United Nations in a positive light, as evidenced by the 2021 Pew Research Center survey conducted in 17 countries that showed 67 percent of respondents expressing a favorable opinion of the UN regarding its handling of many issues, including climate change. The same results are also reflected in the latest Pew Research Center survey released last month, with “a note of positivity” also seen among survey respondents (65 percent) across 19 nations regarding their view of the UN.

Interestingly, a big number of people are optimistic that “the problems facing their country can be solved by working with other countries,” with 64 percent of the respondents in the 2022 survey saying they believe “many problems can be solved by working together,” as against 31 percent who say that few problems can be solved by way of international cooperation. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing war in Ukraine and other global challenges and threats, climate change emerged as the major concern, particularly among people living in advanced economies.

In fairness to the UN, it has been successful in bringing attention to issues of global importance and has promoted discussion in a peaceful manner. Take, for instance, the upcoming UN General Assembly that, obviously, continues to be an important forum for world leaders to discuss various threats and concerns that vary from the social to economic to political and environmental.

As the Pew report noted, people still see “the benefits of international cooperation for solving problems and the importance of common values for bringing nations together” despite the “many depressing stories dominating the international news cycle.”

Not surprisingly, a lot of interest is being generated regarding the participation of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in the 77th UN General Assembly in New York, where he is set to deliver a speech on Sept. 20 which is the first day of the high-level general debate with the theme “A Watershed Moment: Transformative Solutions to Interlocking Challenges.”

The UN General Assembly is an important part of our diplomacy. No doubt the participation of President Marcos is an opportunity for the country to take center stage because of the high level of interest on what the President will say during his speech. As I said during my interview with CNN’s “The Source” hosted by Pinky Webb, the President will likely call attention to climate change, a top priority of his administration.

The Department of Energy in fact is looking at alternative sources of energy, most especially clean energy. While we are still dependent on fossil fuel, we have to start looking at the future and, on many occasions, the President has talked about clean energy sources, particularly small modular reactors that hopefully would be available to the world initially in the next year or so. The Philippines has a lot of potential energy sources including hydro, solar and wind power, which the President is very familiar with because of the windmills in Ilocos Norte which contribute to the power supply in the province.

We are also opening up our mining sector, which is a very good development because the Philippines has an estimated 4.8 million metric tons of nickel reserves – one of the largest in the world. Nickel is a major component in battery production and so we anticipate a strong market for nickel in the future with electric vehicles being the wave of the future.

The President’s schedule is extremely tight, with a large number of requests for meetings from state leaders including those from Latin America and the African states. Among those finalized are the meetings with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan and Prime Minister Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob of Malaysia, and other state leaders that are awaiting confirmation so most likely the President will have about six to eight bilaterals.

We are still finalizing the bilateral meeting between President Bongbong Marcos and US President Joe Biden, but as we all know, the sad news about the passing of Queen Elizabeth II has changed a lot of schedules. Nevertheless, we are hopeful that this would happen, with the US being an important ally of the Philippines.

A number of American businessmen are also eager to meet President BBM, and we have also received many requests from members of the Filipino community from as far as Guam and Honolulu and across the US. We have instructed the consulates to coordinate and have them in one place, possibly at the Kalayaan Hall in our consulate in New York, where the President can hopefully meet them and reiterate the message of unity, which he believes is the only way we can surpass the challenges and problems that the world faces today.

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