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April 11, 2021

UN, essential in preventing conflict

If the United Nations never existed, there would be many more interstate conflicts and civil wars.

Prevention means early detection of outbreaks and potential outbreaks, mediation and finding peace-building solutions and continues, after the violence has stopped, with post-conflict normalization and sustainable development.

We, in Europe, face around one million refugees, most coming from Syria. For Europe, that is a big number, a massive influx; but worldwide there are 60 million refugees. There are over 400 refugee camps, there are countries that shelter 1.6 million, 1.1 million, 1.5 million, a million refugees. I’m not going to mention them, they’re nearby, and in some cases the number of refugees is close to the number of the local population, which causes existential problems.

On the other hand, migration is a phenomenon with many deep-rooted causes. In the last 15 years, the number of conflicts tripled. This is what the UN statistics say. If in 2000, around 12 percent of the population on the globe lived in conflict areas, today the percentage reaches 40.

Terrorism and extremism are also causes of migration, alongside weak governments, human rights violations, lack of access to resources, lack of opportunities for youth and climate change. It may seem like a paradox, but there is a tight link between climate change, migration and conflict in many areas of the world. Let’s look at the fact that 80 percent of people on the African continent live from cultivating land and climate change generated prolonged draughts in many areas. What do you think people do in this situation? They migrate to areas with more favorable climate, where the soil is more fertile. These areas, invariably I would say, are occupied by other populations and this leads to conflict.

Europe has to be aware that in a globalized world, a massive migration on a neighboring continent cannot avoid to affect it.

There are forecasts – and I hope they won’t come true – that warn against the lack of real long-term plans to solve the root causes of migration, a few tens of millions inhabitants of Sub-Saharan Africa might migrate in the next 20 years towards North Africa and even Europe. I know the figure sounds like fantasy. But we could wonder how a few tens of millions of people could reach Europe, if only a million reached the continent and countries are taking steps to not let them in. I wouldn’t want us to face this problem.

Regarding UN’s capacity to currently manage growing global threats and problems such as migration, the international organization’s yearly budget is just half of what the city of New York spends in a year. The UN can only do what the member countries and its budget allow it to do. Every year, the organization is asked to do more with less money. The biannual budget, a bit over 5.4 billion dollars, is 300 million lower than the previous biannual budget, and 150 million less than the Secretary General had asked for. Beyond all this, problems and challenges humanity faces – implicitly the UN faces – are growing. The UN is the only global international organization and we live in a world with growing global problems. Migration, terrorism, climate change and pandemics are four major global threats that ask for global action. The United Nations Development Program is functioning quite well. But its resources are little compared to the growing needs.

Romania is widely respected in the international organization, due to its century long experience in multilateral diplomacy. There are many instances related to the history and achievements of Romanian diplomacy that continue to give credit to our performance at the UN, in New York. For instance, I still run into people in New York, at various meetings, who come from African countries and who speak Romanian. I had a very funny episode when I presided the Commission for Social Development. (…) A minister from an African country came to me and asked “Are you the Romanian ambassador? I studied in Romania and all graduates from Romanian universities meet up once a month in my country to talk about our time in Bucharest.  It should be stressed that many graduates from Romanian universities, not only in African countries, but also in Latin America and Asia, hold high-ranking positions in their countries’ governments and this could be a great advantage for Romania in terms of diplomacy.

The 28 EU member countries are one voice in New York, but Romania’s relations with Asian, Latin American and African countries become often quite important.

In most cases we have common stances, but our votes – 28 – are not enough, by far, to advance a resolution. G-77 and China counts 134 members; two thirds of the UN member states in one shot. In these situations, it’s important to find bridges and things in common. EU ambassadors and G-77 ambassadors meet periodically. On the other hand, many times European and Latin-American countries have common stances. There are 32 or 33 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. This is, again, a factor that brings us closer.

In terms of development assistance the focus is currently on Africa, and building relations based on understanding of the issues and mutual respect with the African countries is essential for the UN.


*Ambassador Ion Jinga  is the Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations, New York.

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