Ill conceived and misguided policy

My statement to the press yesterday:

Yesterday the UN General Assembly voted to elect non-permanent members to the UN Security Council. Bhutan, along with Cambodia and South Korea, competed for a single vacancy for the Asia Pacific Group of countries.

Bhutan secured only 20 of the 192 votes cast and was eliminated in the first round of elections itself. South Korea beat Cambodia in the second round of voting, and was elected to the Security Council.

The Government has expended considerable time and resources trying to secure a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. Our Mission to the UN at New York has been enlarged; Special Envoys of the Prime Minister have traveled far and wide; Ministers have traveled extensively and held bilateral meetings at the sidelines of the many multilateral conferences that they attended; and the Prime Minister himself has spent a disproportionate amount of time outside the country, campaigning for a berth in the UN Security Council.  It also appears that Bhutan may have established diplomatic relations with several countries solely for the purpose of securing their vote for our Security Council candidature.

The Opposition Party has always believed that the Government’s bid for Security Council membership was ill conceived and misguided. Moreover, we believed that even if we were somehow elected to the Security Council, we would have exposed our country to more harm than to good. As a young democracy, our focus should be at home, within the country, addressing issues of national importance, rather than craving for the international limelight.

The Opposition Party, however, chose to remain silent until now as we believe that in important foreign policy matters, we must present a united front to the international community, and Bhutan’s bid to join the Security Council was this government’s most significant foreign policy initiative. With the elections having concluded, however, we would be failing in our duty, as the Opposition Party, if we did not express our concern over the current government’s misguided attempt to secure a UN Security Council seat. Our concerns do not stem from the fact that we lost the election, but from having contested for the seat in the first place.

We also feel compelled to voice our deep concern over the overall direction of Bhutan’s foreign policy under the current government. Bhutan has always followed a prudent and far-sighted foreign policy befitting a small country located in a geo-politically sensitive region. The current government’s international priorities can be described as irresponsible at best, and undermine a foreign policy that has served Bhutan well over that last century.

As such, the Opposition Party calls on the Government to reconsider its foreign policy priorities, and devote its attention and scarce resources to pressing issues within the country.

The Opposition Party also calls on the Government to provide a complete and public account of the expenses incurred to campaign for the UN Security Council seat, and to explain why so much resources were allocated to an undertaking that we had no chance of winning in the first place.

19 October 2012

What we really need

Our country is going through an unprecedented economic crisis. So why is the government establishing a Secretariat for the new economy”for the United Nations? Instead, what we need is an office – a war room – dedicated to planning and directing the recovery of our economy.

And why is the prime minister preparing to “make a statement promoting the vision for a new economic system” for the world? What we really need – desperately – is a head of government who is genuinely and fully committed to understanding, planning and directing the recovery of our economy.

UN Security Council

Coveted seats

“In the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed United Nations Security Council that includes India as a permanent member,” US President Obama recently announced in India’s Parliament.

And just like that, after years of demanding a permanent seat in the Security Council, India’s bid received a powerful boost.

India is the world’s second most populous country. Its economy, already among the biggest in the world, is one of the fastest growing. And it is playing an increasingly important role in global affairs.

So the US president’s pledge is timely. His assurances are good for India, and indeed, good for the world. Obama should fulfill his promise. He should push to make the UN’s anachronistic Security Council more relevant and effective by allowing today’s world leaders to take their rightful place in the Council.

Coincidentally, India’s friend and neighbour, Bhutan, is also vying for a seat in the UN Security Council, albeit as a nonpermanent member. The prime minister announced Bhutan’s ambitions during his visit to New York in September. And, since then, he has already visited several countries to lobby for their support.

In this connection, about two months ago, I posted a poll that asked, “Should Bhutan lobby to join the UN Security Council?” Of the 249 readers who took part in the poll, an overwhelming 70% (or 174 votes) answered “Yes”. The rest said “No”.

The poll results show that you, the reader, clearly support the government’s initiative to join the Security Council. This was also evident from the comments that you left on my post that introduced the poll. Most of you felt that there would be no harm in trying for the seat, and that, if we do get in, the membership would enhance our stature and international standing.

One commentator, Sonam Ongmo, offered more information about Bhutan’s aspirations for Security Council membership by way of her blog, “Dragon Tales”. And, lest the opposition opposes, she provided this lesson from Canada:

Canada lost its bid to run for a non-permanent security council seat after its vote count went down from by 30 percent in the second round of voting. Canada’s Foreign Minister has blamed its Opposition leader for the loss because of a lack of support and for being critical of the notion that Canada was not deserving of that seat.

I get the message, loud and clear.

Incidentally, I too think that serving in the UN Security Council is a good idea. But, only if the journey to the Security Council is not costly. And, if the adventure does not lull us into a false sense of success.

Security Council?

Powerful lobby?

Our government has started to campaign for non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council. Is this a good idea? Take the poll that asks: “Should Bhutan lobby to join the UN Security Council?”