India questions Secretary General candidates on terrorism

India has questioned prospective UN Secretary General candidates on how they intend to strengthen the counter-terrorism architecture of the world body and plan to achieve long-pending reforms of the Security Council.

PTI| Last Updated: Apr 17, 2016, 23:35 PM IST

United Nations: India has questioned prospective UN Secretary General candidates on how they intend to strengthen the counter-terrorism architecture of the world body and plan to achieve long-pending reforms of the Security Council.

For the first time in the 70-year-old history of the UN, candidates for the post of the UN Secretary General were questioned by member states on their vision and plan of action, "a game changing process" aimed at increasing transparency on how the world's top diplomat is elected.

India's Permanent Representative to UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, speaking on behalf of the G-4 nations of Brazil, Japan, Germany and India, questioned former prime minister of Portugal Antonio Guterres and former Macedonian Foreign Minister Srgjan Kerim last week during the open briefings about how they intend to speed up the Security Council reform process.

Speaking in his personal capacity, he questioned them on terrorism saying the UN's "counter-terrorism" architecture is "dispersed" and member states "don't have even one contact point to turn to if we have to address issues of counter terrorism".

India has been pressing for early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT), a long-pending legal framework which would make it binding for all countries to deny space to terror groups.

Akbaruddin asked the candidates how they will ensure CCIT will be made the "rule-making" exercise to counter the global scourge.

Guterres, former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said that the General Assembly had in 2005 supported the early reform of the Council but added that the member states will have to work together to ensure reforms are achieved without further delay.

On terrorism, he said the UN was able to approve a strategy on terrorism but has so far not been able to approve an "international convention on terrorism. That is why we lack some key instruments" in tackling terrorism.

He said he will work closely with the General Assembly and Security Council to see "how we can find mechanisms to be more effective in addressing not only the needs to fight terrorism but the ways to avoid some of the mechanisms terrorists utilises in today's global society".

Kerim said that it must be ensured that the more than one billion people who follow the Islamic faith are not offended by insisting that there is Islamic terrorism.

He said progress on UNSC reforms can be made only if there is "readiness" for change among the members states to implement the reforms. He stressed that there has to be "consensus" on amending the charter for the UNSC reforms. 

"We should be determined in promoting the process of the reform of the Security Council. It must reflect the situations of the 21st century," Kerim said, adding that the demand for reform by the G4 as well as the African states is "very legitimate and over-due."

Nine candidates for the position of the next United Nations Secretary-General answered a total of some 800 questions from the UN membership and the public on how, if selected, they would lead the world body.

"We have established a new standard of transparency and inclusivity for the appointment process, but it has the potential also to influence the final outcome of the selection of the Secretary-General," UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft told reporters at the conclusion of the unprecedented public dialogues.

Starting on Tuesday, each candidate was given a two-hour televised and webcast timeslot.

Prior to opening up the floor for questions from UN delegates and civil society representatives as well as from the public through social media, candidates gave short oral presentations ? their "vision statements" ? addressing challenges and opportunities facing the UN and the next Secretary-General.

According to Lykketoft, almost every country was represented in the audience to ask questions during the dialogue.

"My impression is of course my experience is short but during the months I've been here, we never had that frank and substantial discussion about the future of the United Nations as the one we got during these informal dialogues," he said at the media stakeout.

"We've talked about the virtues, we've talked about the flaws of the UN, and the candidates have presented a lot of interesting views on how to do things ever better," he added.

Lykketoft said that these past three days are just a part of the "process of transparency" and that he hopes they will help generate wider discussions about the selection of the UN chief.

With more candidates possibly joining the current nine, more informal briefing could be held in the coming week and months.

Lykketoft said that he was inspired by the interest the public has shown in this selection process, with more than 227,000 people from 209 different countries and territories having visited his website.