#DiplomaticCentennial / Ion Jinga: Romania’s candidacy for a non-permanent seat on UN Security Council, priority zero
Interview with H.E. Dr. Ion Jinga, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations – New York, posted in Agerpres on 05.04.2018
The current priority zero for the Permanent Mission of Romania to the UN is Romania’s candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in 2020-2021. ” Only 15 states are there, five of which are permanent members. I think bringing Romania for two years at the top of the global decision-making process regarding the planet’s peace and security, alongside the great powers of the world, I think deserves any effort,” ambassador Ion Jinga said in an interview with AGERPRES.
A seat on the UN Security Council represents “the most important position any country may want in the international arena because it offers visibility, prestige, influence and ability to radiate influence in a geographic area that exceeds the extent traditionally determined by geographic size, population, economic or military might,” Jinga explained.
According to him, Romania participates in two-thirds of the UN peacekeeping missions and two special political missions. Under these missions, Romanian soldiers, police officers and gendarmes hold key positions in the command structures of the forces in the areas of intelligence, operations, communications, logistics and personnel, civil-military cooperation, which proves the recognition of their professionalism.
In his e-mail interview, Jinga also talked about current affairs on the UN agenda, such as the reform of the Security Council, “an eminently political process,” and the situation of migrants and refugees. At the same time, he also mentioned young people who want apply for internships at the Permanent Mission of Romania at the UN.
The interview is part of the editorial project #DiplomaticCentennial conducted by AGERPRES throughout the year, focusing on diplomatic relations in the context of the 100th anniversary of Romania’s Greater Union.
AGERPRES: In 2006, Romania submitted its candidacy for another non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, the seat allocated to the East European Group, in 2020-2021. The official campaign to promote this candidacy was launched in June 2017 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in the presence of Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu, and the elections will take place in June 2019. How difficult the negotiations to get the seat are? What would be Romania’s priorities as a non-permanent member of the Security Council?
Ion Jinga: A seat on the UN Security Council represents “the most important position any country may want in the international arena because it offers visibility, prestige, influence and ability to radiate influence in a geographic area that exceeds the extent traditionally determined by geographic size, population, economic or military might. To be elected, a state must receive the support of at least 2/3 of the total UN members, i.e. 129 votes, so election to the Security Council requires considerable effort even when the number of candidates coincides with the number of vacated seats. It is even more difficult in competition situations, as is the case with Romania’s candidacy, where we have a counter-candidate in Estonia. Each country tries to capitalise on its own strengths, including the relationships it has developed over the years not only on its own continent but also in other parts of the world, its diplomatic network, its contribution to advancing peace and international security, including under the UN flag, development assistance, projects of interest to the interlocutors to whom they are addressed, the reputation enjoyed among other states, including respecting the engagements assumed in the campaign.
Romania is running on a long-term commitment to peace, justice and development, which is, in fact, the motto of our campaign. The priorities Romania has taken up, if elected to sit on the Security Council, are to promote the objectives and principles of the UN Charter, respect for multilateralism and international law, conflict prevention and peaceful settlement, increased efficiency of peacekeeping missions, promoting peace, promoting respect for human rights, protecting women and children in armed conflicts, improving cooperation between the Security Council and regional and sub-regional organisations in preserving international peace and security.
AGERPRES: Mr. ambassador, last year you were co-chairman of the intergovernmental negotiations regarding the reform of the UN Security Council. What view on the reform of the Security Council does Romania support and, on the other hand, in the context of the personal experience gained in this process, what are the changes that stand the greatest chance of materialisation?
Ion Jinga: The Intergovernmental Negotiations Process (IGN) on the Security Council reform is considered to be the most complex component of the overall United Nations reform system, given that this body has the primary responsibility of preserving world peace and security. In the debates, which focused on five major themes – the Council’s relationship with the General Assembly, the magnitude of the enlargement and the working methods, membership categories, the veto right, regional representation – we started up from the premise that the negotiations can only advance through an unbiased, balanced approach, characterised by transparency and pragmatism, coupled with creativity by the two co-chairs, taking into account the aspirations of the member states and avoiding the transformation of the process into a zero-sum game. The result of this one-year work is the document entitled “Elements of Commonality and Issues for Further Considerations,” which summarises both the progress made with the negotiations we have coordinated with our Tunisian colleague and the coordinates for the IGN this year.
The reform of the Security Council is an eminently political process which, depending on the depth of the changes adopted, can have major geopolitical consequences, so it cannot be summed up simply by collecting data and positions. My approach, as co-chair of the IGN, was to create confidence bridges between groups of states with somewhat different positions on certain subjects, with the aim of finding an acceptable solution for all. Since all aspects of the Security Council’s reform are interconnected, we have introduced into the negotiations a principle used by the European Union – which we knew very well since we were part of the negotiation team of Romania’s accession to the EU – “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”. This little innovation translated to New York has led to a certain increase in confidence that in turn allowed us to build the skeleton of the document we were talking about. I cannot predict what this year’s developments will be, and any progress depends on the degree of support from the member countries; one of the resolutions underlying these negotiations states that any major change must enjoy the member states’ widest possible political acceptance. Romania supports the reform of the Security Council so that this body becomes more transparent and efficient, adapted to the realities of the 21st century. An important point for us is the increase in the representation of the Eastern European Group, which also includes Romania, by allocating it an additional non-permanent seat.
AGERPRES: In an interview of September 2016 you were saying, in the context of the migration crisis, that people should have more empathy with refugees and migrants, and imagine for a moment that one day we could find ourselves in their stead. Over the past and a half year since then, have you noticed any change in attitudes towards migrants and refugees in the countries of destination?
Ion Jinga: The migrants and refugees status is one of the topics that has been most discussed by the United Nations Organization as of lately. Based on the New York Declaration regarding the refugees and the migrants, of September 2016, the UN member states committed to negotiate and adopt two fundamental documents, the Global Compact for Migration and the Global Compact for Refugees, respectively. These are now subject to full negotiations in New York and Geneva. We are carefully watching the debates and negotiations in New York with respect to the Global Compact for Migration and we hope that they will materialize in the adoption of the document of December 10-11, signed in Morocco. The Compact approaches the situation of migrants from a full perspective, a 360-degree one I would say, starting from the causes that led to migration, the migrants’ track and their arrival in the countries of destination. In respect to the attitude towards migrants, the draft that is being negotiated right now confirms the positive aspect of legal migration and aims at eliminating discrimination and promoting public speeches based on concrete facts and data, in order to shape a correct perception and free from the emotional impact. The presentation of the positive aspects of migration and the need for building an objective public perception on migrants are among the topics included in the report presented by the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, in the beginning of this year, titled “Making migration work for all.” It would be hazardous to anticipate now the finalization of the ongoing negotiations regarding the Global Compact for Migration. We can only hope that there will be identified the best solutions to answers to expectations of transited and destination countries, to the need of stability and development of the origin countries and, first of all, to the huge hopes for a decent life that the migrants have in tomorrow and in the ones who make the decisions in their respect. At UN level there are many steps that have been taken since 2016 in what concerns this topic, and these steps are endorsed by all the states, either states of origin, transited states and states of destination.
AGERPRES: And since we talk about empathy, on February 28, the US Ambassador to UN, Nikki Haley, delivered an emotional speech after the vote of the UN Council on the request for a humanitarian truce of 30 days in Syria, while accusing Russia of delaying the vote, in the context in which Syrian army bombardments continued in Eastern Ghouta. “Maybe we don’t know the faces of these people we are talking about. Maybe we don’t know their names, or them, but they do know us. And we have disappointed all these people this week. I believe that we have unity in this,” said the US Ambassador. Is this an example of the Security Council’s incapacity to act promptly, in the current formula, when we need this the most?
Ion Jinga: The intervention of the US’s permanent representative took place in the context of negotiations regarding the Resolution 2401 (2018), adopted by the Security Council on 24.02.2018. Ambassador Nikki Haley is someone that I have a special appreciation for, both as a professional and as a human being, and I admire her for her inspiration that helps her express what very many of us feel in certain moments, and the Syrian people’s drama is hard to put into words. In the respective case, the Security Council met in successive sessions that lasted for three days, for there existed the certainty that none of the permanent members were going to use their right of veto. In the end, the resolution was adopted by consensus, in a situation when every second of delay could have meant new victims. The efficiency of the Security Council resides in the adoption with celerity of some resolutions but, especially, in their implementation. From this perspective, the unity of the Council members must exist both in adopting a resolution and in transposing it into practice.
There is a lot of criticism among the UN member states regarding the use of the right of veto, as well as the attempts to limit it being used in the sense of allowing the adoption of some resolutions on humanitarian situations, crimes against humanity, war crimes or other atrocities. As I mentioned earlier, the right to veto matter is on the agenda of the Security Council reform process.
AGERPRES: In how many peacekeeping and political missions of the UN is Romania involved right now, with troops and police officers? By which is Romania remarking itself during these UN missions?
Ion Jinga: In the beginning of 2018, Romania was effectively participating with manpower from the Ministry of National Defence and the Protection and Guard Service (SPP) in ten peacekeeping missions (Cyprus, DR of the Congo, Central African Republic, India-Pakistan, Haiti, Kosovo, Liberia, Mali, Sudan, Southern Sudan) and two special political missions (Afghanistan, Libya), under the UN flag.
Basically, we are involved in two thirds of the UN peacekeeping missions (there are 15 in total) and in two of the eight special political missions. In manpower terms, Romania ranks 71st among 123 states which contribute with troops and police officers to the missions carried out under the UN aegis. In all these missions, the Romanian military, police officers and gendarmes occupy key positions in the command structures of the forces, in the intelligence, operations, communications, logistics and personnel, civilian-military cooperation fields. Last year, Romania held the highest position that a military can have in the UN mission in Afghanistan, which represented a recognition of the professionalism of the Romanian military. In 2015, a woman officer received the title of International Female Police Peacekeeper, as a recognition of the exceptional results she had during her participation in the UN Mission of Stabilization in Haiti. I would also remind here that UN wanting to increase the role of women in uniform in the peacekeeping missions became an operational objective, with a 15% target for the end of this year.
Our country already has a 27-year long tradition of contribution with blue caps, starting in 1991, when the first Romanian military were deployed in Iraq and Kuwait, and now it participates in several of the most risky missions. There are also a series of additional military capabilities that Romania contributed to the UN for deployment in the operation theatres, starting in 2016; an infantry company, a military transport aircraft, a detachment for neutralizing explosive devices, an increased number of military observers. According to the commitment made at the Summit on peacekeeping missions, in New York, September 2015, our country is going to provide UN with four military transport helicopters, which are to be evaluated and certified in 2019, as well as with a Set Up Police Unit. It is also important to remind that, among all member states, Romania is ranking 1st in terms of the number of police officers sent in UN missions. And, finally, the Application School for Officers of the Romanian Gendarmerie is annually organizing, starting in 2013, in French, the International Superior Contest dedicated to officers from the internal security and defence structures in Romania and other states. Up to now there have been 14 graduate promotions of officers from 26 European, African and Asian states.
Last but not least, we are the only country that provides, through the Protection and Guard Service (SPP), close protection units for the high UN dignitaries going to the conflict areas. Starting in 2009, in Bucharest operates a joint centre of UN-SPP for training UN protection officers operating in the high risk areas. More than 200 UN officers graduated this training programme in English.
AGERPRES: Romania will hold in the first six months of 2019 the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, other six months before and after, it will be a member of the trio of the EU Presidency and will become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2020-2021. Therefore, for three years and a half Bucharest will be at the top of the European and world decision-makers. You stated in an interview that “the reverberations of such a position could project the international prominence of Romania for the next decade.” What does Romania have to do in this 3 years and a half period to develop this international prominence? Is this a crossroad moment for the Romanian diplomacy?
Ion Jinga: I hope your optimism regarding the obtaining by Romania of a seat of non-permanent member on the Security Council be auspicious. Yet I find it early to display the certainty of success. We compete next to Estonia (I’m not against Estonia) for the single seat of non-permanent member allocated to the East-European Group in the Security Council. Estonia, a friend country and a partner Romania is collaborating tightly in numerous European projects, is a EU, NATO member, develops a sustained, intelligent campaign which it allocated important political and diplomatic resources to, and has never been a member of this UN body so far. Both countries promote their candidacies transparently and in fair play. In other words, we have a remarkable opponent, that knows to use its cards. If we make it to get the vote of at least two-thirds of the UN member countries, then we could talk about capitalising these prestigious mandates for Romania’s international stature. Until then, we talk of a team work which if successful, will turn into a victory of a great team called Romania.
AGERPRES: This year’s events dedicated to the Great Union’s Centennial are overlapping, at the Permanent Representation of Romania to the UN with the promotion of our country’s candidacy for a new mandate of non-permanent member of the Security Council in 2020-2021. As you have recalled on the occasion of one of these events, Romania is a charter member of the League of Nations, back in 1919. Is this context beneficial to Romania’s move?
Ion Jinga: Romania’s Mission to the UN is deeply committed to promote, in the UN milieus and not only, the national project dedicated to the celebration of the Great Union’s Centennial. The already organised events in New York and the ones which are to be held in the next months could offer us a plus of visibility, from the perspective of the country’s candidacy to the Security Council included, yet without any direct connection. Romania is a founding member of the League of Nations, and this is an argument we use to show that our commitment in favour of the multilateral diplomacy as a tool to promoting international peace and security is a long shot one, being a calling card that grows the guarantee that the approach for the Security Council is not conjectural, but is grounded on a 100-year continuity in our foreign policy.
AGERPRES: Mr. ambassador, you are, starting with this year the chairman of the ambassadors Group of the member countries of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) to the UN, after you used to be deputy-chairman of this group in 2015-2017. Could you give us examples of concrete situations when the OIF member countries have acted as a unitary block within the UN? What is the stakes of this position for the Romanian diplomacy?
Ion Jinga: I’ve been honoured to having been elected as president of the Francophone ambassadors to the UN, New York and i believe that this is firstly as recognition of Romania’s remarkable contribution to the promotion of the values of La Francophonie: modernity, democracy, rule of law, human rights’ observance, respect for other cultures. The francophone states have several specific common interests at the UN, such as a better enforcement of the multilingualism principle (the UN has six official languages – English, French, Chinese, Russian, Spanish and Arabian, the first two being the working languages of the organisation), for the recruiting, the public procurement processes included, and also for the staff sent in UN missions in Francophone countries. I have led a reunion on this topic on 7 March 2018 attended by the UN Secretary General, Mr. Antonio Guterres. Romania has a significant presence with military and police officers in several UN peacekeeping missions in Francophone countries. Moreover, staged are several meetings with UN or governmental high officials who come to present their objectives and ask for the support of the UN Francophone group, events that I chair. In addition, a Francophone solidarity exists when adopting certain important resolutions of the General Assembly, or in matter of candidacies in the UN system, Francophone candidates (countries or persons) having the opportunity to come present their programmes in front of the Group and ask fort support, that could be decisive given that the OIF counts for 84 members.
AGERPRES: The PSD president Liviu Dragnea has asked the Romanian Foreign Affairs minister to come with an activity assessment of each diplomatic mission’s head. Clearly, Romania’s Permanent Representation to the UN is not an ordinary diplomatic mission from the assessment criteria viewpoint. How do you expect to be your activity’s assessment? And looking ahead, which are for you the three main targets in 2018 in your position?
Ion Jinga: The assessment of the diplomatic missions’ activities is carried whenever deemed as necessary, by the people in charge with it. It is not my place to anticipate the outcome of the assessment you are referring to. I can only tell you that the team I am leading does whatever it depends on it for the interests, the reputation and the image of Romania to the United Nations be promoted and defended professionally, with dedication and unconditioned loyalty to the country. In the past two years and a half since I took over the position of Romania’s Permanent Representative to the UN, New York I was elected chairman of the Commission for Social Development (2015-2016), chairman of the Group of government experts for the negotiation of the UN Report on military spending transparency – MILEX (2016-2017; MILEX has only been summoned once in 2011, when the German ambassador chaired), co-president of the intergovernmental negotiations Process regarding the Security Council’s reform (2016-2017; first ambassador from Eastern Europe appointed to this position), president of the Commission for Population and Development (2017-2018; a first for Romania), chairman of the Peacebuilding Commission (2018; also a first for Romania’s diplomacy; Peacebuilding Commission is one of the most important UN commissions), president of the Francophone ambassadors’ Group (2018, once again a first for us in New York). Between brackets, the UN General Assembly’s President granted me on 7 September 2017 the “Diploma of Honour for the remarkable contribution to the success of the activity of the 71st Session of the General Assembly.” I’d add that in the said period all of the elections organised in New York for UN structures with Romania having candidates to, were won. There are also the missions in the UN intervention areas, for instance this March I’ve been in Chad in my capacity of president of the Peacebuilding Commission to attend the Ministerial Conference of the states within the Sahel region and see UN financed projects. It was a very useful experience, because one cannot have the legitimacy to talk about problems the countries and the population in a certain region are confronted with, if they don’t know the reality on the spot. This visit made me respect the more the resilience of those people, who have the same right with us to a decent life. We are all born equals, but evolve differently due to some factors that are sometimes completely independent from our individual skills and effort. Seeing the dry desert and the unimaginable effort each plant, animal and human being make to survive, I was thinking of how blessed Romania is.
As for the targets of Romania’s Mission to the UN and implicitly the mission’s head’s in 2018, they circumscribe the mandate set each year by the leadership of the Foreign Affairs Ministry and approved by the President of Romania for the respective session of the General Assembly. Being Romania’s diplomatic voice to the UN, our goal is firstly to display our country’s stance and promote Romania’s objectives within the UN, in New York. The wide range of topics we address, as well as the increasing responsibility assumed by Romania internationally are found in priorities such as the growth of the UN efficiency in tackling the threats at the international peace and stability, the maintaining of the Security Council as a main symbol and forum of the international cooperation for peace, the use of the preventive diplomacy and the peaceful resolving of the disputes, the continuation of the UN reform process, the implementation of Agenda 2030 for durable development, the promotion of dialogue and of a tighter cooperation between the UN and the regional and subregional organisations.
In this period, priority zero to us is Romania’s candidacy for a seat of non-permanent member on the UN Security Council in 2020-2021. Only 15 states are there, of which five are permanent members. Let’s bring Romania for two years to the top of the world decision as regards the planet’s peace and security, along the big powers of the world, I guess it is worth any effort.
AGERPRES: Mr. Ambassador, on the web page of Romania’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations you have a welcome word to the virtual visitors that ends in the suggestion to contact the mission by e-mail for comments, questions, suggestions. What are the most surprising messages you’ve received this way?
Ion Jinga: I maintain this suggestion, because it is very important for us to have a feedback from the ones interested in Romania’s activity to the UN. Most of the messages received are from young people to wish to attend various internships at the Permanent Mission of Romania at the UN, which is pleasing us because regularly they are well prepared, enthusiastic and willing to have the chance to see how the multilateral diplomacy is basically concluded. Moreover, there are delegations of young people who visit the UN seat and to meet us so we share from the diplomatic life’s backstage. One of the questions they ask is: “How can a state become a UN Security Council’s permanent member?” It is a question many countries do ask for over 25 years, as part of the reform process of the Security Council. Maybe someday the answer will come from exactly those who have asked the question on the website page of Romania’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations.AGERPRES(RO – author: Florin Stefan, editor: Mariana Ionescu; EN – authors: Corneliu-Aurelian Colceriu, Cristina Zaharia, Maria Voican, editor: Maria Voican)
Thoughts by Dr. Ion Jinga, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations – New York, posted in Nine O’Clock on March 7, 2018.
The costs of wars and conflicts today are estimated at 10 trillion USD globally. The international community spent 235 billion USD over the past 10 years on humanitarian responses, peacekeeping and refuges costs, out of which 45 billion USD only last year. More than 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by violent conflicts. Nearly half of all people living in extreme poverty reside in countries affected by conflict and fragility, and unless concerted action is taken by 2030, this figure is expected to rise to 80% by 2035. Using the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “poverty is the worst form of violence”.
The international community too often responded only after a crisis started, and the UN was traditionally known for conflict response, rather than conflict prevention. The General Assembly created in 2005 (resolution 60/180) the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), an intergovernmental advisory body whose main purposes are “to bring together all relevant actors to marshal resources and to advise on and propose integrated strategies for post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery”.
With the number of violent conflicts almost tripled in the last ten years, it was high time for a new approach and in 2016 the paradigm shifted from post-conflict peacebuilding to prevention. The Security Council and the General Assembly adopted twin resolutions on the review of the UN peacebuilding architecture (2282/2016) and 70/262), which introduced the concept of sustaining peace, “broadly understood as a goal and a process to build a common vision of a society, which encompasses activities aimed at preventing the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict, addressing root causes, ensuring national reconciliation, and moving forward towards recovery, reconstruction and development”.
In the new philosophy, prevention becomes a cross-cutting priority and is seen as the broad set of activities that address root causes of conflict. Classical prevention activities – such as mediation, preventive diplomacy, cooperation and dialogue – intertwines now with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and with the human rights dimension.
The PBC was tasked “to bring international attention to sustaining peace…; to promote an integrated, strategic and coherent approach to peacebuilding, noting that security, development and human rights are closely linked and mutually reinforcing; to serve a bridging role among the principal organs and relevant entities of the United Nations…; to serve as a platform to convene all relevant actors… in order to develop and share good practices in peacebuilding”.
But prevention not only saves lives, it is also cost-effective. An UN-World Bank joint study released in Washington DC on 6 March 2018 (“Pathways for Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict”) estimates that effective prevention would save from 5 to 70 billion USD per year for the affected countries and the international community combined. The study may become a revolutionary tool for a new collaborative approach, because it connects the development reform proposed by the UN Secretary General with the sustaining peace agenda.
A significant number of conflicts are located in Africa. Contrary to some stereotypes, Africa is not poor. Whilst many people in African countries live in poverty, the continent is rich in terms of human potential and natural resources. According to statistics, in 2015 countries in Africa exported 232 billion USD worth of minerals and oil to the rest of the world. Africa’s potential mineral reserves are estimated to dozens trillion USD. What African countries need is conditions to value this richness for their own development. Peace, stability and democracy are essential ingredients in this respect, but whereas there are many incentives for fueling conflicts, incentives for prevention are too few. Building sustaining peace requires transparency, inclusion, participation and consultation of all political and social actors in the respective countries, but also development incentives. At the same time, peacebuilding activities at all stages must respect national sovereignty and be based on local ownership.
From an economic perspective, on short-term the peacebuilding efforts are mainly focused on humanitarian aid and institutional funding. But on long-term, sustaining peace needs the existence of enterprises and business opportunities, employment and economic growth. Because the main economic challenge of peacebuilding is to generate an environment favorable to sustainable development, engaging more strategically with the private sector is key in shaping and implementing the peacebuilding priorities. Communication also plays a role and it would be wise to invite the media to become a partner in rising awareness on peacebuilding and sustaining peace, whenever possible.
On 5 March 2018, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres briefed the General Assembly on his report on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace, noting that “if the financial cost of conflict is unsustainable, the human cost is unbearable”. His vision is that sustaining peace is becoming a responsibility of the entire UN system and therefore a more integrated approach of activities undertaken under the three main pillars of the UN is necessary.
The report also underlines the PBC’s unique role in advancing intergovernmental coherence thorough its cross-pillar mandate. The PBC platform has already been used for constructive discussions on Burkina Faso, Kyrgyzstan, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Somalia and Sri Lanka. With the support of the international community in Liberia, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants proceeded peacefully because the process included women, youth, civil society and the private sector. In Colombia, assisted by the UN, the government successfully engaged with the private sector and civil society in healing the wounds of a long-term internal conflict and restored the path to recovery and development. The next test case for this holistic approach may be the Sahel region, where there is a clear need to address both the security and the development facets of the crisis.
The work plan of the Peacebuilding Commission, which in 2018 is chaired by Romania, reflects priorities mentioned before: regional approach, partnerships, sustaining peace, synergies, communication. With prevention becoming a new religion at the United Nations, the paradigm shift requires that instead of spending on conflict, we spend on peace. The United Nations is the natural place to do so.
Thoughts by H.E. Dr. Ion Jinga, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations – New York, posted on nineoclock.ro on 20 December 2017.
On Saturday 16 December 2017 bells of all churches in Romania tolled, mourning King Michael of Romania who started his last journey from the Royal Palace in Bucharest to the royal necropolis in Cathedral of Curtea de Arges (The Court upon river Argeș), a little town in the Carpathian Mountains, once the capital of medieval principality of Walachia in the 13th century. The legend of this cathedral built in early 16th century is a tale about human sacrifice, love for work and death for creation.
Foreign royals, including former King Juan Carlos of Spain and Queen Sofia, King Carl Gustaf of Sweden and Queen Silvia, former Queen Anne-Marie of Greece, Prince Charles of Wales, the Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, Prince Lorenz and Princess Astrid of Belgium, joined the President of Romania Klaus Werner Iohannis to bid farewell at the catafalque.
Tens of thousands of Romanians came to pay their respects to King Michael and an impressive state funeral service took place in Bucharest, led by Patriarch Daniel, the head of the Romanian Orthodox Church, in the same cathedral where The King was crowned on Sept. 6, 1940. Thousands of people acclaimed The King when the Royal train entered the rail stations of towns located on the way between Bucharest and Curtea de Arges. When soldiers from the 30th Guard Brigade “Michael the Brave” carried the coffin on their shoulders to the tomb, the long way of King Michael to his ancestors came to an end, and his legend begun.
For Romanians, King Michael was a moral symbol and an anchor of hope in an age dominated by totalitarian regimes. Historians believe that his decision to remove Romania from its alliance with the powers of the Axis on 23 August 1944 has shortened the duration of the Second World War by at least six months. He was forced to abdicate on 30 December 1947 and allowed to return to Romania only in 1992, where he was acclaimed by a crowd of one million people in Bucharest.
I first met The King in 1997 in Brussels when, at the request of the Romanian Government, he visited several capitals to lobby in favor of Romania’s accession to NATO. As a young diplomat in love with history, meeting King Michael was like a fairytale, because he made history. I always believed that in many aspects the past shapes the present and anticipates the future.
When I was appointed ambassador to Belgium, and later to the United Kingdom, I had the privilege to meet The King sometimes in tete-a-tete, as he and Queen Anne honored me and my wife by accepting to be our guests for lunch or dinner at our residences in Brussels and London. Listening King Michael talking about crucial moments he personally witnessed was fabulous, as he had a special gift of transposing his audience back in the times of events.
A most memorable moment in my life was in 2008 when, alongside Ivor Porter – a British diplomat and SOE operative parachuted in Romania during WW2, who later wrote two books about his Romanian experience (one devoted to King Michael), and Jonathan Eyal – director at the Royal United Services Institute, I received from The King’s hand “The Cross of Romania’s Royal Household”, in a moving ceremony at 1 Belgrave Square, in the same room when in 1939 Sir Winston Churchill met the Romanian Foreign Minister Grigore Gafencu.
I saw The King at the royal wedding in April 2011, then at the service of thanksgiving in St. Paul’s Cathedral celebrating HM Queen Elisabeth II Diamond Jubilee in 2012, and again that year in the Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy, when King Michael celebrated 75 years since he was awarded the British Royal Victorian Order. He is the first foreign sovereign to have the coat of arms in the Savoy Chapel.
I remember a lunch once we had at the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall. In the RAC hall a pre-WW2 car was exhibiting and when seeing it King Michael, who loved cars, said without hesitation: “This is a Bugatti 1931!” Checking the note on the car-side I went speechless, because he was right.
In the years which followed I wrote to him in Switzerland on his birthdays and Christmas Eves. His private secretary took time to politely respond, but not anymore after Queen Anne passed away in August 2016. I attended the Queen’s burial, but I couldn’t leave New York for the King’s funeral. Instead, a candle burned for him in my apartment in Manhattan. While writing these lines, Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind” comes to my mind: “You lived your life like a candle in the wind, never fading with the sunset…, and your footsteps will always fall here. Your candles burned out long before, your legend never will”.
Indeed, the man rests in his grave, The King found his well-deserved place in history, but his legend will continue to magnify over the years. What will stay with us and the generations to come is his moral compass, his dignity, patriotism and unconditional loyalty to his Country. I can only add the inspired words of the Romanian-American writer Dorin Tudoran: ”Good night Your Majesty!”
La 6 septembrie 2017, E.S. Dr. Ion Jinga, Ambasador, Reprezentantul Permanent al României la Organizația Națiunilor Unite – New York, a participat la emisiunea “La Vama Vremii” cu Nicolae Badiu.
Thoughts by Dr. Ion Jinga, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations, New York, published in Huffington Post on 21.06.2017.
The first-ever United Nations Summit on Oceans, which took place in New York on 5-9 June, has reached a global agreement to reverse the decline of the ocean’s health, with more than 1,300 pledged actions for protecting the ocean and the adoption of a 14-point Call for Action to conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources.
A blog I wrote on 26 April, “S.O.S. The World of Blue”, was a pleading in favor of global awareness on the oceans problem. As the President of the UN General Assembly, Peter Thomson, remarked during the conference: “When it comes to the ocean, it’s the common heritage of humankind. There’s no North-South, East-West when it comes to the ocean. If the ocean is dying, it’s dying on all of us”.
These words are equally true when it comes to “the green gold” of the Blue Planet: forests. Oceans mitigate climate change by capturing one third of the carbon dioxide released by human activities; forests are another huge bank for the carbon released into the atmosphere, as they tied up 45% of the carbon stored on land. Half of the oxygen we breathe comes from oceans; the other half is produced on land by forests, which are the “lungs” of our Earth. The Amazonian forests alone produce 20% of the oxygen that keeps us alive.
Similar to oceans which provide food security to over three billion humans, forests provide food, income and source of energy to 1.6 billion people. And like oceans, forests are an essential part of our spiritual heritage and cultural identity. In a nutshell, what oceans represent for 37% of the world population who lives in coastal communities, forests represent for another 25% of the Earth’s population.
As a child, I learnt from my grandparents who lived in a small village in the Carpathian Mountains that “the forest is Romanian’s brother”. This metaphor comes from the remote Middle Age and encapsulates perfectly the essence of our history. As inhabitants of a country whose social, cultural and economic fabric was closely linked to forests, and whose defense when outnumbered by foreign invaders consisted in retreats into the huge wild Carpathian forests, followed by deadly counter-attacks against the enemy – a strategy that kept my ancestors always free – Romanians are genetically connected to mountains and forests.
Similar to oceans which humans have put at risk of irreversible damage, we are losing now the greatest biological treasure represented by forests. Rainforests once covered 14% of the Earth’s land surface, while today they cover a mere 6%. If not protected, the last remaining rainforests could be consumed in less than 40 years.
Half of the world’s 10 million species of plants, animals and insects live in forests. Experts estimates that we are losing 137 plant, animal and insect species every single day due to deforestation. As the forest species disappear, so do many possible cures for diseases. The U.S. National Cancer Institute has identified 3000 plants that are active against cancer cells. 70% of them are found in the rainforests.
Therefore, like for oceans, rising awareness about the fatal consequences of deforestation is crucial to our future. On 27 April 2017, the UN General Assembly adopted the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030, which includes 6 global forest goals and 26 associated targets aimed at halting deforestation and forest degradation. To boost implementation of these goals and targets, on 1-5 May 2017 the UN organized in New York the United Nations Forum on Forests.
Forests cover 30% of the planet land, or almost four billion ha. Seven million ha are in Romania, which represents 29% of the national territory; 60% of our forests are located in the Carpathian Mountains. According to World Wide Fund for Nature, out of the 320,000 ha of virgin forests still existing in Europe, 250,000 ha are located in Romania. The new Romanian Forest Code stipulates that virgin and quasi-virgin forests shall be strictly protected.
Most of our 30 national parks are located in forest land, with 2.6 million hectares of forests (11% of the Romanian territory) being included in the European Union Natura 2000 Network. In 2015, eleven European countries started the project Beech Forests – Joint Natural Heritage of Europe, for the inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List of the “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe”. 39% of the forest area in this project is located in my country.
The beauty, majesty, and timelessness of nature in its pure form in these parts of Romania are indescribable. An enthusiastic British team succeeded to present a glimpse of them in a documentary film called Wild Carpathia, and on 27 June I will have the privilege to host, at the United Nations in New York, the screening of its fourth episode: “Seasons of Change”.
Before being appointed to the United Nations, I was the ambassador of Romania to the United Kingdom and I have witnessed the making over the series of this documentary film. I remember the message HRH The Prince of Wales has sent at the launching of Wild Carpathia – Wild Forever, in 2013: “Romania is one of the last places in Europe where wild expanses on a meaningful scale still exist. In fact, the Romanian Carpathians contain the largest remaining area of virgin forest in Central and Southern Europe. These forests are a feast of biodiversity, exceptionally rich in fauna and flora. This makes the Romanian Carpathians a priceless natural treasure in a continent that has long since destroyed most of its wildernesses. What you still possess in Romania has become extremely rare. Many European countries have little or no primary forest left”.
His Royal Highness’ passionate commitment and determination in preserving, for the generations to come, of the nature, traditions and fabulous heritage of my country brought him unconditional admiration and gratitude. A video message from The Prince of Wales in 2016, at the launching of Wild Carpathia – Seasons of Change, will precede the film screening at the UN.
Wild Carpathia is an exquisite documentary about the wilderness of the Carpathian Mountains, amazing landscapes, raw history and simple life. Above all, it gives a unique insight into the beauty and rich culture of Romania through the changing seasons and tells us that is a time for change in our behaviour in relation to Mother Earth. Wild Carpathia is also a portal to paradise. It captures the majesty of a unique eco-system and shows why it deserves to be preserved in all its glory for the benefit of future generations.
And what a better place to present it than the United Nations?
Thoughts by Dr. Ion Jinga, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations, New York, published in Huffington Post on 26/04/2017
Oceans and seas are key to sustaining life on our planet. They connect people, markets and livelihoods, provide food security to over three billion humans and generate 350 million jobs. Oceans are essential for sustainable development and poverty eradication, particularly for people living in coastal communities who represent 37% of the global population. Coastal and marine resources contribute an estimated 28 trillion USD to the global economy each year. The sustainable use and preservation of marine and coastal ecosystems is essential to achieving the 2030 Agenda, in particular for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDC).
Oceans and seas mitigate climate change by capturing one third of the carbon dioxide released by human activities since the beginning of the industrial revolution, while half of the oxygen we breathe comes from their waters. Oceans also represent a fabulous hub of biodiversity, the natural habitat of more than 200,000 species. Finally, the World of Blue forms an essential part of our heritage and culture.
Yet, we humans who so much depend on oceans and seas, have put them at risk of irreversible damage. From marine pollution to increasing water temperatures and sea-level rise, from ocean acidification to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, the negative implications of human activity put the planetary ocean in deep trouble.
Indeed, if not stopped, by 2050 pollution will leave more plastic in the oceans than fish. Ocean acidification is occurring because too much carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere, and it is responsible for the destruction of coral reefs and of calciferous plankton, which are at the base of the oceans’ food chain. In the Caribbean Sea – a paradise area where the nature is still well-preserved – I have seen dead corals lying under the sea like artifacts from an ancient world. This phenomenon has a drastic impact on the upper levels of marine species, which provide food and jobs for local people.
The importance of fisheries as a source of food and employment to so many people has been recognized by the UN. Still, irrational overfishing, often stimulated by harmful subsidies, continues to contribute to depleting fish resources. According to a 2016 report of the Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 31% of global fish stocks are already at biologically unsustainable levels. IUU fishing is estimated between 11 and 26 million tons annually, with a value of 10 to 23 billion USD. The poor management of fisheries is considered responsible for the loss of 80 billion USD in economic potential every year.
For many SIDS and LDC, the word “Ocean” is synonymous to “Life”. As Peter Thomson, the first President of the UN General Assembly from the Pacific Islands region (PGA 2016-2017), who has had a lifelong involvement in the field of development, recently noted: “Human-induced problems have human-produced solutions. Thus it is that the time has come for us to act, to remedy the woes we have put upon the Ocean, to reverse the cycle of decline our cumulative habits have imposed upon the marine environment… So much of our culture, leisure and well-being derives from our joy in the beauty and bounty of the Ocean. Are we really prepared to surrender to the inexorable dead zones advancing along our shores, to greedy oil slicks decimating wildlife and ecosystems, to a cascading farewell for so many species forever, to the magical myriads of color and life-forms of the world’s coral reefs turning into ashen memorials of what was once so wonderful?”
These reflections are grounded in a bitter reality and the answer is in our hands. Recognizing that humanity’s current path is unsustainable, in September 2015 the world leaders unanimously adopted in New York the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Now we have got momentum and there is a global awareness on the need for action. We must transpose political commitments into concrete implementation. A turning point may be the first United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development – The Ocean Conference, which will take place at the UN Headquarters from 5-9 June this year.
Leaders of governments, international organizations, civil society, the private sector and the scientific and academic communities are expected to attend this event that may prove crucial for the process of reversing the cycle of decline of oceans and seas. As a riparian state to the Black Sea and host of the UNESCO protected Danube Delta, Romania is particularly interested in protecting biodiversity and in the sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources. The SDG 14 sets seven targets aiming to address, by 2020, 2025 and 2030, marine pollution, protection of marine and coastal ecosystems, ocean acidification, overfishing, conservation of at least 10% of coastal and marine areas, elimination of certain subsidies including those that contribute to IUU fishing, and the increase of economic benefits to SIDS from the sustainable use of marine resources.
The Ocean Conference must be one of commitments, solutions and partnerships. It will be co-chaired by Fiji and Sweden, while its preparatory process is co-facilitated by the UN Ambassadors of Portugal and Singapore, four countries whose history is intertwined with the oceans. An intergovernmental declaration entitled “Our Ocean, Our Future: Call for Action”, to be adopted as a political document of the conference, is under negotiation these days at the UN.
It is up to the Member States to make this declaration action oriented, grounded in science and empowered through finance and technology. In doing so, we may find inspiration in the Vision Statement of the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres: “Now that we know what, we must work on how. With clear priorities, tangible benchmarks and the power to mobilize all stakeholders, promoting national ownership and ensuring no-one is left behind. With the horizon of 2030 the focus is on action and the watchword is implementation, implementation, implementation.”
Finally, whether our countries have coastlines or not, whether we are rich or poor, young or old, the World of Blue is part of our life and the future of our mankind depends on it. As the 35th US President John J. Kennedy once said: “We all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came.”
Thoughts by Dr. Ion Jinga, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations – New York, published in Nine o’Clock on 2 February 2017
Protection of Critical Infrastructure has become a priority issue for states, in reaction to the growing risks posed by terrorism. All governments recognize now that terrorism is an enduring threat which requires a sustained and coordinated response, and since 11 September 2001 most countries have developed national strategies to protect their critical infrastructure.
It is generally accepted that at the national level, if destroyed, degraded or rendered unavailable, critical infrastructure would significantly affect the social and economic wellbeing of a nation, or affect its ability to ensure national defense and security. Terrorist attacks against passenger trains in Madrid in 2004 and, more recently, those on the international airports in Brussels and Istanbul in 2016, contributed to raise awareness about the vulnerabilities states have and the impact of such attacks.
Critical infrastructure systems include banking and finance, telecommunications, emergency services, air, maritime and rail transportation, healthcare, food, energy and water supplies. Attacks on these systems can cause chaos in societies and disruption of public services. Usually, the supply of one component of critical infrastructure is dependent on the availability of other component. For instance, food supply is dependent on transport, telecommunications are dependent on electricity, and healthcare may be simultaneously dependent on electricity, water and emergency services. Therefore, critical infrastructure protection is indispensable for the functioning of social and political life of a country.
It is in this context that the UN Security Council held on 13 February 2017, at the initiative of Ukraine (which holds the monthly presidency of the Council), an open debate on the protection of critical infrastructure against terrorist attacks. The Council also adopted a resolution (Romania was a co-sponsor) calling upon UN member states to explore ways to exchange information and to cooperate in the prevention, protection, mitigation, investigation, response and recovery in cases of such attacks.
Discussions focused on the tools countries have in place to improve safety and security of vulnerable critical infrastructure, how to improve the response and resilience to terrorist attacks and how to increase the public-private partnership because in many cases critical infrastructure is in private property. It was a good opportunity to evaluate how the United Nations can further contribute to countering terrorism through the implementation of UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
It was pointed out that vulnerability is increased by the rapid progress in information and communication technology that interlinks many of the critical infrastructure systems. Indeed, cyber-attacks against critical infrastructures are becoming increasingly prevalent, with surveys from the security sector indicating that they are expected to increase in scale, and to be more accurate and precise. As one participant to the Security Council debate said: “We are already under attack when we are unable to detect and stop the planning of attacks online, as well as the propaganda of terrorist groups on the Internet”.
The debate revealed the need for a closer coordination between states, international organizations, public and private sectors to secure and improve prevention, response, and recovery, as the consequences of attacks against critical infrastructure in a country may affect neighboring states. Sharing best national practices has become essential for an efficient prevention, and the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate has an important role in advising member states on the development of integrated counter-terrorism strategies.
Every country has the duty and the right to protect its territory and population against terrorists and extremists, and in 2011 Romania has adopted a National Strategy for Critical Infrastructure Protection. As the experience has proven that the most serious threats have a mixt nature, allowing the cyber-attacks to have a direct impact on physical infrastructures, in 2013 the Romanian government adopted the Cyber Security Strategy and the National Action Plan, a governance roadmap for cybersecurity.
Prevention is at the core of this approach. As a result, Romania has never been confronted with the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters and Romanian citizens or residents on our territory have never been recorded traveling to conflict zones with the goal to join terrorist organizations.
Terrorists try to disrupt our way of life and countering them also requests an efficient international legal framework. Here, the role of the UN may be crucial. International conventions to prevent terrorist attacks and protect the infrastructure already exist for civil aviation, maritime security and nuclear weapons. The adoption by the Security Council in 2016 of resolutions on the international judiciary cooperation and on the protection of medical personnel in armed conflicts, as well as the General Assembly resolution on the cooperation with the Interpol, are equally important tools.
Finally, it is the consolidation of peace, security, development and human rights that will most effectively deprive terrorism of its oxygen. As the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres remarked at the World Government Summit in Dubai, on 13 February: “If you want prevention and sustaining of peace to prevail, we need to link peace and security with sustainable and inclusive development. And to make sure that the two, together with the improvement of the human rights situation in the world, guarantee that the root causes of conflict are addressed… There is no way we can fight terrorism if at the same time we don’t find the political solutions for the crises situations that today feed terrorism”.