Important International Agencies, Institutions, and Fora- their Structure and Mandate, and Bilateral, Regional, and Global Groupings and Agreements Involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
Structure and Mandate
The main organs of the UN are the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice, and the UN Secretariat. All were established in 1945 when the UN was founded.
The General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the UN. All 193 Member States of the UN are represented in the General Assembly, making it the only UN body with universal representation.
Each year, in September, the full UN membership meets in the General Assembly Hall in New York for the annual General Assembly session, and general debate, which many heads of state attend and address. Decisions on important questions, such as those on peace and security, admission of new members and budgetary matters, require a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly. Decisions on other questions are by simple majority. The General Assembly, each year, elects a GA President to serve a one-year term of office.
The Security Council has primary responsibility, under the UN Charter, for the maintenance of international peace and security. It has 15 Members (5 permanent and 10 non-permanent members). Each Member has one vote. Under the Charter, all Member States are obligated to comply with Council decisions. The Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression. It calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement.
In some cases, the Security Council can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security. The Security Council has a Presidency, which rotates, and changes, every month.
Economic and Social Council
The Economic and Social Council is the principal body for coordination, policy review, policy dialogue and recommendations on economic, social and environmental issues, as well as implementation of internationally agreed development goals. It serves as the central mechanism for activities of the UN system and its specialized agencies in the economic, social and environmental fields, supervising subsidiary and expert bodies. It has 54 Members, elected by the General Assembly for overlapping three-year terms. It is the United Nations’ central platform for reflection, debate, and innovative thinking on sustainable development.
The Trusteeship Council was established in 1945 by the UN Charter, under Chapter XIII, to provide international supervision for 11 Trust Territories that had been placed under the administration of seven Member States, and ensure that adequate steps were taken to prepare the Territories for self-government and independence. By 1994, all Trust Territories had attained self-government or independence. The Trusteeship Council suspended operation on 1 November 1994.
By a resolution adopted on 25 May 1994, the Council amended its rules of procedure to drop the obligation to meet annually and agreed to meet as occasion required — by its decision or the decision of its President, or at the request of a majority of its members or the General Assembly or the Security Council.
International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. Its seat is at the Peace Palace in the Hague (Netherlands). It is the only one of the six principal organs of the United Nations not located in New York (United States of America). The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.
The Secretariat comprises the Secretary-General and tens of thousands of international UN staff members who carry out the day-to-day work of the UN as mandated by the General Assembly and the Organization’s other principal organs. The Secretary-General is chief administrative officer of the Organization, appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council for a five-year, renewable term.
UN staff members are recruited internationally and locally, and work in duty stations and on peacekeeping missions all around the world. But serving the cause of peace in a violent world is a dangerous occupation. Since the founding of the United Nations, hundreds of brave men and women have given their lives in its service.
India and the UN
India was among the original members of the United Nations that signed the Declaration by United Nations at Washington on 1 January 1942 and also participated in the historic UN Conference of International Organization at San Francisco from 25 April to 26 June 1945. As a founding member of the United Nations, India strongly supports the purposes and principles of the UN and has made significant contributions to implementing the goals of the Charter, and the evolution of the UN’s specialized programmes and agencies.
Independent India viewed its membership at the United Nations as an important guarantee for maintaining international peace and security. India stood at the forefront during the UN’s tumultuous years of struggle against colonialism and apartheid. India was the co-sponsor of the landmark 1960 Declaration on UN on Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples which proclaimed the need to unconditionally end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations. India was also elected the first chair of the Decolonization Committee (Committee of 24) where its ceaseless efforts to put an end to colonialism are well on record.
India was amongst the most outspoken critics of apartheid and racial discrimination in South Africa. In fact, India was the first country to raise the issue in the UN (in 1946) and played a leading role in the formation of a Sub-Committee against Apartheid set up by the General Assembly. When the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination was adopted in 1965, India was among the earliest signatories.
India’s status as a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77 cemented its position within the UN system as a leading advocate of the concerns and aspirations of developing countries and the creation of a more equitable international economic and political order.
India strongly believes that the United Nations and the norms of international relations that it has fostered remain the most efficacious means for tackling today’s global challenges. India is steadfast in its efforts to work with the committee of Nations in the spirit of multilateralism to achieve comprehensive and equitable solutions to all problems facing us including development and poverty eradication, climate change, terrorism, piracy, disarmament, peace building and peacekeeping, human rights.
India has been advocating “Zero tolerance” approach to terrorism in all its forms. With the objective of providing a comprehensible legal framework to counter terrorism India took the initiative to pilot a draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) in 1996 and continues to work for its early adoption.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger.
The goal is to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. With over 194 member states, FAO works in over 130 countries worldwide.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) investigates and, where warranted, tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression.
The Court is participating in a global fight to end impunity, and through international criminal justice, the Court aims to hold those responsible accountable for their crimes and to help prevent these crimes from happening again.
As a court of last resort, it seeks to complement, not replace, national Courts. Governed by an international treaty called the Rome Statute, the ICC is the world’s first permanent international criminal court.
Justice is a key prerequisite for lasting peace. International justice can contribute to long‐term peace, stability and equitable development in post‐conflict societies. These elements are foundational for building a future free of violence. ICC judges conduct judicial proceedings and ensure the fairness of proceedings.
The Office of the Prosecutor is an independent organ of the Court. The Prosecutor conducts preliminary examinations, investigations and is the only one who can bring cases before the Court. Defendants are entitled to public, fair proceedings that they can follow in a language they fully understand, andmore.
India and the ICC
Years after the establishment of International Criminal Court, India has no indication of becoming a State Party to the Statute. The establishment of the ICC came out of the need for an independent, permanent criminal court to deal with heinous crimes of international concern. India’s decision to remain out of ICC is not something of an aberrant stand it took.
At the time of the drafting of the Rome Statute, some of the fundamental objections given by Indian delegates in their opposition to the Court relate to the perceived role of the UN Security Council and its referral power. India has therefore, not signed and raitifed the statute.
India has ratified Geneva Conventions and has even enacted Geneva Conventions Act 1960, but in practise, India has decided to overlook Common Article 3 in its special enactments, applicability and Supreme Court rulings. Moreover, it is normally and more extensively argued that at no point has the situation in India met the threshold required for the application of Common Article 3. Thus, India has not accepted the application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions to the situations prevailing in the country.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an organization of 189 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.
Created in 1945, the IMF is governed by and accountable to the 189 countries that make up its near-global membership.
The IMF, also known as the Fund, was conceived at a UN conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, United States, in July 1944. The 44 countries at that conference sought to build a framework for economic cooperation to avoid a repetition of the competitive devaluations that had contributed to the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The IMF’s primary purpose is to ensure the stability of the international monetary system—the system of exchange rates and international payments that enables countries (and their citizens) to transact with each other. The Fund’s mandate was updated in 2012 to include all macroeconomic and financial sector issues that bear on global stability.
The IMF advises member countries on economic and financial policies that promote stability, reduce vulnerability to crises, and encourage sustained growth and high living standards. It also monitors global economic trends and developments that affect the health of the international monetary and financial system and promotes dialogue among member countries on the regional and global consequences of their policies. In addition to these surveillance activities, the IMF provides technical assistance to help strengthen members’ institutional capacity and makes resources available to them to facilitate adjustment in the event of a balance of payments crisis.
The IMF helps countries implement sound and appropriate policies through its key functions of surveillance, technical assistance, and lending.
The IMF helps countries strengthen their capacity to design and implement sound economic policies. It provides advice and training in areas of core expertise—including fiscal, monetary, and exchange rate policies; the regulation and supervision of financial systems; statistics; and legal frameworks.
Even the best economic policies cannot completely eradicate instability or avert crises. If a member country faces a balance of payment crisis, the IMF can provide financial assistance to support policy programs that will correct underlying macroeconomic problems, limit disruption to both the domestic and the global economy, and help restore confidence, stability, and growth. The IMF also offers precautionary credit lines for countries with sound economic fundamentals for crisis prevention.
India and the IMF
India joined the IMF on December 27, 1945, as one of the IMF’s original members. India accepted the obligations of Article VIII Article VIII of the IMF Articles of Agreement on current account convertibility on August 20, 1994. India subscribes to the IMF’s Special Data Dissemination Standard. Countries belonging to this group make a commitment to observe the standard and to provide information about their data and data dissemination practices.
While India has not been a frequent user of IMF resources, IMF credit has been instrumental in helping India respond to emerging balance of payments problems on two occasions. In 1981-82, India borrowed SDR 3.9 billion under an Extended Fund Facility, the largest arrangement in IMF history at the time. In 1991-93, India borrowed a total of SDR 2.2 billion under two stand by arrangements, and in 1991 it borrowed SDR 1.4 billion under the Compensatory Financing Facility.
In recent years, the Fund has provided India with technical assistance in a number of areas, including the development of the government securities market, foreign exchange market reform, public expenditure management, tax and customs administration, and strengthening statistical systems in connection with the Special Data Dissemination Standards. Since 1981 the IMF Institute has provided training to Indian officials in national accounts, tax administration, balance of payments compilation, monetary policy, and other areas.
It provides low-interest loans, zero to low-interest credits, and grants to developing countries. These support a wide array of investments in such areas as education, health, public administration, infrastructure, financial and private sector development, agriculture, and environmental and natural resource management. Some of our projects are co-financed with governments, other multilateral institutions, commercial banks, export credit agencies, and private sector investors.
It also provides or facilitates financing through trust fund partnerships with bilateral and multilateral donors. Many partners have asked the Bank to help manage initiatives that address needs across a wide range of sectors and developing regions.
It offers support to developing countries through policy advice, research and analysis, and technical assistance. To ensure that countries can access the best global expertise and help generate cutting-edge knowledge, the Bank is constantly seeking to improve the way it shares its knowledge and engages with clients and the public at large. Key priorities include:
India and the World Bank
India’s involvement with the World Bank dates back to its earliest days. India was one of the 17 countries which met in Atlantic City, USA in June 1944 to prepare the agenda for the Bretton Woods conference, and one of the 44 countries which signed the final Agreement that established the Bank. In fact, the name “International Bank for Reconstruction and Development” [IBRD] was first suggested by India to the drafting committee.
The aggregate of the Bank’s lending in India in the last 45 years was approximately $42 billion. India is the single largest borrower of WB and IDA. India has claimed about 15% of total World Bank lending—9% of WB and 28% of IDA commitments.
The 50 years (1944-94) of relationship between the Bank and India clearly shows certain trends. In the early years of relationship, the Bank involvement was not direct and visible as compared to 1980s and 90s. In the initial years, the Bank closely collaborated with the more active USAID to force policy changes. In fact, an unholy alliance of USAID, the Bank, the IMF and Trans-national Corporations (TNCs) worked hand in hand to pursue economic changes. However, after the 80s, the Bank along with the IMF has started a direct and visible role in India’s policy making.
Structure and Mandate
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a multilateral development finance institution whose mission is to reduce poverty in the Asia Pacific region. Although the ADB claims to operate in the interest of Asia’s poorest citizens, civil society groups have long been concerned about the ADB’s role in promoting sustainable and equitable growth in the region. The ADB was founded in 1966 with the goal of eradicating poverty in the region. With over 1.9 billion people living on less than $2 a day in Asia, the institution has a formidable challenge.
It plays the following functions for countries in the Asia Pacific region:
i. Provides loans and equity investments to its Developing Member Countries (DMCs)
ii. Provides technical assistance for the planning and execution of development projects and programs and for advisory services
iii. Promotes and facilitates investment of public and private capital for development
iv. Assists in coordinating development policies and plans of its DMCs
Though well-intentioned, ADB-funded operations have been responsible for causing widespread environmental and social damage, adversely affecting some of the regions poorest and most vulnerable communities.
Though publicly financed by taxpayer dollars, ADB activities (and those of other multilateral development banks) are often carried out without the informed participation of affected people, Non- Governmental Organizations (NGOs), or, in many cases, the elected officials in the borrowing countries.
A global movement to reform the ADBs has based its activities on the assumption that sustainable development and poverty alleviation are impossible without informed public participation in the decision making process.
Civil society concerns with the ADB include:
i. Access to information about the ADB’s operations
ii. Public participation in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of ADB projects
NEW DEVELOPMENT BANK
At the fourth BRICS Summit in New Delhi (2012), the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa considered the possibility of setting up a new Development Bank to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies, as well as in developing countries. They directed Finance Ministers to examine the feasibility and viability of this initiative, to set up a joint working group for further study, and to report back by the next Summit in 2013.
Following the report from the Finance Ministers at the fifth BRICS summit in Durban (2013), the leaders agreed on the feasibility of establishing the New Development Bank and made the decision to do so. It was also agreed that the initial contribution to the Bank should be substantial and sufficient for it to be effective in financing infrastructure.
It is a multilateral development bank with a mission to improve social and economic outcomes in Asia and beyond. Headquartered in Beijing, it commenced operations in January 2016 and has now grown to 80 approved members from around the world.
AIIB offers sovereign and non-sovereign financing for sound and sustainable projects in energy and power, transportation and telecommunications, rural infrastructure and agriculture development, water supply and sanitation, environmental protection, and urban development and logistics.
South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC), organization of South Asian nations, founded in 1985 and dedicated to economic, technological, social, and cultural development emphasizing collective self-reliance. Its seven founding members are Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Afghanistan joined the organization in 2007. Meetings of heads of state are usually scheduled annually; meetings of foreign secretaries, twice annually. Headquarters are in Kathmandu, Nepal.
The 11 stated areas of cooperation are agriculture; education, culture, and sports; health, population, and child welfare; the environment and meteorology; rural development (including the SAARC Youth Volunteers Program); tourism; transport; science and technology; communications; women in development; and the prevention of drug trafficking and drug abuse. The charter stipulates that decisions are to be unanimous and that “bilateral and contentious issues” are to be avoided.
South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA):
The South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) is an agreement reached on 6 January 2004 at the 12th SAARC summit in Islamabad, Pakistan. It created a free trade area of 1.6 billion people in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka (as of 2011, the combined population is 1.8 billion people). The seven foreign ministers of the region signed a framework agreement on SAFTA to reduce customs duties of all traded goods to zero by the year 2016.
The SAFTA agreement came into force on 1 January 2006 and is operational following the ratification of the agreement by the seven governments. SAFTA requires the developing countries in South Asia (India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) to bring their duties down to 20 percent in the first phase of the two-year period ending in 2007. In the final five-year phase ending 2012, the 20 percent duty will be reduced to zero in a series of annual cuts.
The least developed nations in South Asia (Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Maldives) have an additional three years to reduce tariffs to zero. India and Pakistan ratified the treaty in 2009, whereas Afghanistan as the 8th member state of the SAARC ratified the SAFTA protocol on 4 May 2011.
Performance of SAARC:
SAARC was established in 1980s as the South Asian region’s inter-governmental organization with the membership of India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
In 2007, Afghanistan also joined as a full member of the SAARC. Basically, the objective behind formation of SAARC was to emulate from the success of other similar regional bodies such as EU in Europe and ASEAN in South East Asia. While neither EU nor ASEAN has been fully successful in meeting the objectives set by themselves and there are many detractors of such organizations particularly EU now a days, there is no denying the fact that both these organizations and a few more such as MERCOSUR in Latin America have been instrumental in meeting the objectives set for them at least partially.
SAARC has been a non-starter so far. Just to illustrate, the intra-regional trade in goods in the SAARC region remains around five per cent, and in services, barely 0.2 per cent.
Intra-regional investment flows have also been at a very low level. To put these figures in perspective, the intra-region trade in ASEAN is 26 per cent, and in MERCOSUR, it is 15 per cent. Even this low level of trade among SAARC countries is basically on account of the traditional relationship between some countries such as that between India and Nepal or India and Bhutan, and has not seen any significant improvements because of SAARC.
The reasons for SAARC’s non-performance are multiple, and these factors need to be understood and steps taken to counter these by all stakeholders, if they wish for SAARC to be successful.
Of course, the political tensions between India and Pakistan are an obvious reason. As long as the relations between two biggest member states of SAARC are strained, any action to strengthen SAARC is bound to be extremely difficult. However, unlike the conventional wisdom on the subject, I do not believe that this is the sole problem facing SAARC.Unfortunately most of the SAARC countries have strongly entrenched bureaucracies and interest groups who look at every issue from a myopic and nationalistic view point.
Narrow national interests have invariably triumphed in the region rather than broader regional vision, which of course will also be more beneficial to the individual nations in the long run.
Unfortunately some of the countries in the region have been suffering from political uncertainties and the governments there have not been strong enough to take hard decisions which are required to make any meaningful multi-lateral initiatives.
Lack of connectivity between different SAARC countries is another reason for the lackluster performance of SAARC so far. Trade and other relations between India and Afghanistan are hampered by the fact that they don’t share any border and connectivity through Pakistan, and is dependent upon good relations between India and Pakistan.
Similar is the case between Nepal and Pakistan. Add to this, the poor state of critical infrastructure in practically all SAARC countries, and the fact that any trade or contacts between them seems to face major infrastructural issues apart from the obvious political ones. The lack of security and the terrorist threats in most SAARC countries is another hindrance.
A fundamental fact which distinguishes SAARC from other such groupings also needs to be understood. Most of such other economic groupings, be it EU or ASEAN, are groupings of the economies, which are more or less equal.
Even if some economies are smaller than others, there are three or four equally powerful economies. Unlike any other such groupings, SAARC is dominated by India. India accounts for nearly 60 per cent of SAARC’s population, area or GDP.
Except for Afghanistan, India shares its borders with every country in the region, and again, except for Afghanistan, no other country shares a border with any other SAARC country except India. This obvious asymmetry makes meaningful cooperation that much more problematic.
However, an important reason for non-performance of SAARC, and which has not got its due attention, is also the psychological framework of its various constituents.
Not many countries in the SAARC region identify themselves as predominantly South Asian. Afghans consider themselves more as a Central Asian country, while Pakistan would prefer to be a part of the Middle East. Both Sri Lanka and Maldives think of themselves as much a South East Asian country as a South Asian one. While it may be argued that a country need not identify itself fully with the region for the grouping to be successful, the successful groupings so far, such as ASEAN or EU, have distinct identities which suggest that it is an important ingredient of success. While identification with a region may not be enough for groupings to be successful, they are necessary for its success.
So what can be done? Is SAARC doomed to failure or is there a way forward? One can envision three options for SAARC. Option One is to give up SAARC as a non-starter and start looking for other options such as BIMSTEC or any other new group for economic upliftment of area or leave the members of SAARC to find their alternatives.
Option two will be to go the whole hog and make efforts to make SAARC fully integrated, at least economically. Proponents of single currency for SAARC seem to take this approach. Neither of these approaches is appropriate, given the geo-political situation of today. While SAARC has not met the expectations it has generated, the very fact that it gives opportunities for the leaders as well as the operating level officials to interact regularly and discuss issues of mutual concern is reason enough for SAARC to remain relevant. The problems faced by the SAARC countries are similar and distinct from other regions. The solutions, therefore, are best found with mutual cooperation in the region. For this reason itself SAARC continues to be relevant.
At the same time, it needs to be understood, that unfortunately SAARC continues to be affected by the historical baggage it carries. It will be unrealistic to talk of single currency when the two biggest nations of the region are not even on talking terms. The feasible alternative, therefore, is to take small steps. Steps that will further integration, but are workable, given the geopolitical realities of the region. What are these steps?
There is no denying the fact that growth in trade and commerce within the region is an extremely important step in this direction. Agreements for this purpose that have been signed earlier do exist. What is required is to operationalise these. If for whatever reasons some countries are not in a position to do so, it will be better for those countries that can do so to move forward.
To give momentum to this process, one or two projects at the sub-regional level could be identified and vigorously implemented within a specific time frame. These projects, if successful, can show the benefits of mutual cooperation and could persuade the doubting Thomas’s to join in.
What is also required is for SAARC to concentrate its activities in core identified areas and not lose its direction by getting involved in too many activities. Since India is literally the pivot around which SAARC revolves, the major responsibility for making SAARC a success is upon India. It, therefore, needs to show willingness and undertake asymmetric responsibilities where required.
Each SAARC country also has to realize that while the political situation in individual countries may keep on changing, the economic situation does not change so rapidly and, as it exists, requires really serious efforts for improvement.
At the end of the day, it is the economy which matters for the impoverished people of the region. SAARC can and should be the instrument for leaders of the region to improve the economic situation of the people of the region, even if to begin with, it is in baby steps.
The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organization comprising seven Member States lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal constituting a contiguous regional unity. This sub-regional organization came into being on 6 June 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration.
It constitutes seven Member States: five deriving from South Asia, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and two from Southeast Asia, including Myanmar and Thailand. Initially, the economic bloc was formed with four Member States with the acronym ‘BIST-EC’ (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation). Following the inclusion of Myanmar on 22 December 1997 during a special Ministerial Meeting in Bangkok, the Group was renamed ‘BIMST-EC’ (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand Economic Cooperation).
With the admission of Nepal and Bhutan at the 6th Ministerial Meeting (February 2004, Thailand), the name of the grouping was changed to ‘Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation’ (BIMSTEC).
Conceived as a sub-regional economic cooperation, the above ideas formed the basis of launching the BCIM initiative in 1999 in Kunming, the capital of Chinese Yunnan province. As evident from the above discussion, two prominent objectives had driven the BCIM initiative since the beginning – one is economic integration of the sub-region that would also enable integration of Asia and the other is development of the border regions.
The BCIM priority agenda has evolved over time. From the 3-T’s of Trade, Transport, and Tourism, the BCIM priority agenda has moved to TTE (Trade, Transport, and Energy). Apart from these items, social, cultural and environmental issues were also brought on the table for discussion but the focus increasingly has favored trade, connectivity and energy cooperation. Some proponents continue to argue for the “soft” agenda to be brought back in the BCIM dialogue as this is seen “more feasible” in the sub-region and will have direct positive impact on “the livelihoods and aspirations of the peoples in the borderlands.”
The idea of multi-modal transportation was also added to the BCIM connectivity agenda with the focus on Inland Water Transportation and the promotion of port development and coastal shipping.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional grouping that promotes economic, political, and security cooperation among its ten members: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. ASEAN countries have a population of nearly 640 million people [PDF] and a combined GDP of $2.57 trillion. The group has spurred economic integration, signing six free-trade agreements with other regional economies.
The bloc’s biggest challenge is negotiating a unified approach to China, particularly in response to its widespread maritime claims in the South China Sea.
ASEAN is chaired by an annually rotating presidency assisted by a secretariat based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Decisions are reached through consultation and consensus guided by the principles of noninterference in internal affairs and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.
ASEAN has contributed to regional stability by building much-needed norms and fostering a neutral environment to address shared challenges.
Formed in 1967, ASEAN united Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand to try to reduce regional hostilities and to fight the potential threat of communist-led insurgencies at the height of the U.S. war in Vietnam. The five founding members sought a community to promote political and social stability amid rising tensions among the Asia-Pacific’s post-colonial states. In 1976, the members signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, emphasizing ASEAN’s promotion of peace, friendship, and cooperation to build solidarity.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts. In the same year, the UN General Assembly endorsed the action by WMO and UNEP in jointly establishing the IPCC.
The IPCC reviews and assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change. It does not conduct any research nor does it monitor climate related data or parameters.
As an intergovernmental body, membership of the IPCC is open to all member countries of the United Nations (UN) and WMO. Currently 195 countries are Members of the IPCC. Governments participate in the review process and the plenary Sessions, where main decisions about the IPCC work programme are taken and reports are accepted, adopted and approved. The IPCC Bureau Members, including the Chair, are also elected during the plenary Sessions.
Thousands of scientists from all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC. Review is an essential part of the IPCC process, to ensure an objective and complete assessment of current information. IPCC aims to reflect a range of views and expertise. The Secretariat coordinates all the IPCC work and liaises with Governments. It is established by WMO and UNEP and located at WMO headquarters in Geneva. The IPCC is administered in accordance to WMO and UN rules and procedures, including codes of conduct and ethical principles.
Because of its scientific and intergovernmental nature, the IPCC embodies a unique opportunity to provide rigorous and balanced scientific information to decision makers. By endorsing the IPCC reports, governments acknowledge the authority of their scientific content. The work of the organization is therefore policy-relevant and yet policy-neutral, never policy-prescriptive.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty adopted on 9 May 1992 and opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992. It then entered into force on 21 March 1994, after a sufficient number of countries had ratified it.
The UNFCCC objective is to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. The framework sets non binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries and contains no enforcement mechanisms. Instead, the framework outlines how specific international treaties (called “protocols” or “Agreements”) may be negotiated to specify further action towards the objective of the UNFCCC.
Initially, an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) produced the text of the Framework Convention during its meeting in New York from 30 April to 9 May 1992. The UNFCCC was adopted on 9 May 1992, and opened for signature on 4 June 1992. The UNFCCC has 197 parties as of December 2015. The convention enjoys broad legitimacy, largely due to its nearly universal membership.
The parties to the convention have met annually from 1995 in Conferences of the Parties (COP) to assess progress in dealing with climate change. In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was concluded and established legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the period 2008-2012. The 2010 Cancún agreements state that future global warming should be limited to below 2.0 °C (3.6 °F) relative to the pre-industrial level.
The Protocol was amended in 2012 to encompass the period 2013-2020 in the Doha Amendment, which -as of December 2015- had not entered into force. In 2015 the Paris Agreement was adopted, governing emission reductions from 2020 on through commitments of countries in ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions. The Paris Agreement entered into force on November 4, 2016.
One of the first tasks set by the UNFCCC was for signatory nations to establish national greenhouse gas inventories of greenhouse gas(GHG) emissions and removals, which were used to create the 1990 benchmark levels for accession of Annex I countries to the Kyoto Protocol and for the commitment of those countries to GHG reductions. Updated inventories must be submitted annually by Annex I countries.
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations is a free association of sovereign states comprising the United Kingdom and a number of its former dependencies who have chosen to maintain ties of friendship and practical cooperation and who acknowledge the British monarch as symbolic head of their association. In 1965 the Commonwealth Secretariat was established in London to organize and coordinate Commonwealth activities.
Historically, the Commonwealth was an evolutionary outgrowth of the British Empire. The traditional British policy of allowing considerable self-government in its colonies led to the existence by the 19th century of several dependent states that were populated to a significant degree by Europeans accustomed to forms of parliamentary rule and that possessed large measures of sovereignty.
In 1947 India and Pakistan became members of the Commonwealth, the first with chiefly non-European populations. In 1948 Burma (Myanmar) became independent and rejected membership. In 1949 India announced its intention to become a republic, which would have required its withdrawal from the Commonwealth under the existing rules, but at a meeting of Commonwealth heads of government in London in April 1949 it was agreed that India could continue its membership if it accepted the British crown as only “the symbol of the free association” of Commonwealth members.
The Commonwealth was also beset by other difficulties, some members opting to withdraw from the organization, as did Ireland (1949), South Africa (1961), and Pakistan (1972), though both South Africa and Pakistan eventually rejoined (the former in 1994 and the latter in 1989).
Commonwealth membership grew dramatically in the second half of the 20th century as former dependencies attained sovereignty. Most of the dependent states granted independence chose Commonwealth membership, and the organization has even grown to include Mozambique (joined 1995), which was the first country granted entry that was never part of the British Empire or under the control of any member.
The Commonwealth differs from other international bodies. It has no formal constitution or bylaws. The members have no legal or formal obligation to one another; they are held together by shared traditions, institutions, and experiences as well as by economic self-interest. Commonwealth action is based upon consultation between members, which is conducted through correspondence and through conversations in meetings. Each member country sends an emissary, called a high commissioner, to the capitals of the other members.
A Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is held every two years. At the meeting in Singapore in 1971, members adopted a declaration that restated the Commonwealth’s voluntary and cooperative nature and committed the organization to promoting international peace, fighting racism, opposing colonial domination, and reducing inequities in wealth. This declaration was echoed at the meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1991, when leaders further committed the organization to human rights and democracy.
In addition to independent members, the Commonwealth also comprises dependent territories, which are formally governed by the United Kingdom, Australia, or New Zealand. Most of the older dependencies are colonies. Dependencies include Anguilla, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, and the Turks and Caicos Islands (United Kingdom); Christmas Island, the Cocos Islands, the Coral Sea Islands, and Norfolk Island (Australia); and Niue and Tokelau (New Zealand). The United Kingdom has followed a policy of leading the dependencies toward self-government by creating territorial governments in them.
These governments comprise a lawmaking body (often called the legislative council); an executive body (called the executive council), which with the governor is the executive authority; and an independent judiciary. At first government posts are appointive, but an increasing elected element is introduced, as constitutions are altered, until elected officials are made wholly responsible for local affairs. After a colony achieves internal self-government, its legislature may apply to the British Parliament for complete independence. It then decides whether to remain in the Commonwealth.
Widely known as the world’s “Atoms for Peace” organization within the United Nations family, the IAEA is the international centre for cooperation in the nuclear field. The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies.
The main functions of the IAEA are to: encourage and assist research, development and practical application of atomic energy for peaceful uses throughout the world; establish and administer safeguards designed to ensure that such activity assisted by the Agency is not used to further any military purpose; apply safeguards to relevant activities at the request of Member States; apply, under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and other international treaties, mandatory comprehensive safeguards in non-nuclear weapon States (NNWS) Parties to such treaties.
In carrying out its functions, the Agency conducts its activities in accordance with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter to promote peace and international cooperation, and in conformity with policies of the United Nations for furthering the establishment of worldwide disarmament through safeguards.
The IAEA is an independent international organization that reports annually to the UN General Assembly. When necessary, the IAEA will report to the UN Security Council in regards to instances of members’ noncompliance of safeguard and security obligations. Appointed in 2009, Yukiya Amano serves as the Director General of the IAEA.
There are four types of inspections:
1. Ad Hoc (to verify a state’s initial nuclear report)
2. Routine (the most common inspections which are preformed routinely)
3. Special (supplementary inspections executed in unusual circumstances)
4. Safeguard Visits (inspections to declared facilities to confirm the safeguards design information)
The Additional Protocol is a more intensive, and voluntary, form of safeguarding, which allows for extended inspections with the most advanced technique. As a legal document, the Additional Protocol aims to provide assurances to both declared and undeclared nuclear sites.
In accordance with the Statute and existing practice, the Board is responsible for approving safeguards procedures and Safeguards Agreements, and for general supervision of the Agency’s safeguards activities. In a case of non-compliance with a safeguards commitment, the Board of Governors of the IAEA is to call upon the State in question to remedy any outstanding issues; the Board will then decide on its referral to the UN Security Council and General Assembly.
The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of two sets of Guidelines for nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports.
The NSG Guidelines also contain the so-called “Non-Proliferation Principle,” adopted in 1994, whereby a supplier, notwithstanding other provisions in the NSG Guidelines, authorises a transfer only when satisfied that the transfer would not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The Non-Proliferation Principle seeks to cover the rare but important cases where adherence to the NPT or to a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty may not by itself be a guarantee that a State will consistently share the objectives of the Treaty or that it will remain in compliance with its Treaty obligations.
The NSG Guidelines are consistent with, and complement, the various international, legally binding instruments in the field of nuclear non-proliferation. These include the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (Treaty of Tlatelolco), the South Pacific Nuclear-Free-Zone Treaty (Treaty of Rarotonga), the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Pelindaba), the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (Treaty of Bangkok), and the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Semipalatinsk).
The NSG Guidelines are implemented by each Participating Government (PG) in accordance with its national laws and practices. Decisions on export applications are taken at the national level in accordance with national export licensing requirements.
INTERNATIONAL ENERGY AGENCY
Founded in 1974, the IEA was initially designed to help countries co-ordinate a collective response to major disruptions in the supply of oil, such as the crisis of 1973/4. While this remains a key aspect of its work, the IEA has evolved and expanded significantly.
The IEA examines the full spectrum of energy issues including oil, gas and coal supply and demand, renewable energy technologies, electricity markets, energy efficiency, access to energy, demand side management and much more. Through its work, the IEA advocates policies that will enhance the reliability, affordability and sustainability of energy in its 29 member countries and beyond.
Today, the IEA is at the heart of global dialogue on energy, providing authoritative analysis through a wide range of publications, including the flagship World Energy Outlook and the IEA Market Reports; data and statistics, such as Key World Energy Statistics and the Monthly Oil Data Service; and a series of training and capacity building workshops, presentations, and resources.
The four main areas of IEA focus are:
1. Energy Security: Promoting diversity, efficiency, flexibility and reliability for all fuels and energy sources;
2. Economic Development: Supporting free markets to foster economic growth and eliminate energy poverty;
3. Environmental Awareness: Analysing policy options to offset the impact of energy production and use on the environment, especially for tackling climate change and air pollution; and
4. Engagement Worldwide: Working closely with partner countries, especially major emerging economies, to find solutions to shared energy and environmental concerns.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is a permanent, intergovernmental Organization, created at the Baghdad Conference on September 10–14, 1960, by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The five Founding Members were later joined by ten other Members: Qatar (1961); Indonesia (1962) – suspended its membership in January 2009, reactivated it in January 2016, but decided to suspend it again in November 2016; Libya (1962); United Arab Emirates (1967); Algeria (1969); Nigeria (1971); Ecuador (1973) – suspended its membership in December 1992, but reactivated it in October 2007; Angola (2007); Gabon (1975) – terminated its membership in January 1995 but rejoined in July 2016; and Equatorial Guinea (2017).
OPEC had its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in the first five years of its existence. This was moved to Vienna, Austria, on September 1, 1965.
OPEC’s objective is to co-ordinate and unify petroleum policies among Member Countries, in order to secure fair and stable prices for petroleum producers; an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consuming nations; and a fair return on capital to those investing in the industry.
The Indian Ocean Rim Association is an inter-governmental organisation which was established on 7 March 1997. As the third largest ocean woven together by trade routes, commands control of major sea-lanes carrying half of the world’s container ships, one third of the world’s bulk cargo traffic and two thirds of the world’s oil shipments, the Indian Ocean remains an important lifeline to international trade and transport.
Home to nearly 2.7 billion people, Member States whose shores are washed by the ocean are rich in cultural diversity and richness in languages, religions, traditions, arts and cuisines. They vary considerably in terms of their areas, populations and levels of economic development. They may also be divided into a number of sub-regions (Australasia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, West Asia and Eastern & Southern Africa), each with their own regional groupings (such as ASEAN, SAARC, GCC and SADC, to name a few). Despite such diversity and differences, these countries are bound together by the Indian Ocean.
IORA’s apex body is the Council of Foreign Ministers (COM) which meets annually. The Republic of South Africa will assume the role for 2017-2019, followed by the United Arab Emirates. A committee of Senior Officials (CSO) meets twice a year to progress IORA’s agenda and consider recommendations by Working Groups and forums of officials, business and academics to implement policies and projects to improve the lives of people within the Indian Ocean Member States.
SHANGHAI COOPERATION ORGANIZATION
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation, the creation of which was announced on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai (China) by the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, and the Republic of Uzbekistan. It was preceded by the Shanghai Five mechanism.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Charter was signed during the St.Petersburg SCO Heads of State meeting in June 2002, and entered into force on 19 September 2003. This is the fundamental statutory document which outlines the organisation’s goals and principles, as well as its structure and core activities.
The historical meeting of the Heads of State Council of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation was held on 8-9 June 2017 in Astana. On the meeting the status of a full member of the Organization was granted to the Republic of India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
The SCO’s main goals are as follows: strengthening mutual trust and neighbourliness among the member states; promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, research, technology and culture, as well as in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, and other areas; making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region; and moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.
The Heads of State Council (HSC) is the supreme decision-making body in the SCO. It meets once a year and adopts decisions and guidelines on all important matters of the organisation. The SCO Heads of Government Council (HGC) meets once a year to discuss the organisation’s multilateral cooperation strategy and priority areas, to resolve current important economic and other cooperation issues, and also to approve the organisation’s annual budget. The SCO’s official languages are Russian and Chinese.
In addition to HSC and HGC meetings, there is also a mechanism of meetings at the level of heads of parliament; secretaries of Security Councils; ministers of foreign affairs, defence, emergency relief, economy, transport, culture, education, and healthcare; heads of law enforcement agencies and supreme and arbitration courts; and prosecutors general. The Council of National Coordinators of SCO Member States (CNC) acts as the SCO coordination mechanism.
The organisation has two permanent bodies — the SCO Secretariat based in Beijing and the Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) based in Tashkent. The SCO Secretary-General and the Director of the Executive Committee of the SCO RATS are appointed by the Council of Heads of State for a term of three years. Rashid Alimov (Tajikistan) and Yevgeny Sysoyev (Russia) have held these positions, respectively, since 1 January 2016.
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a forum for 21 Pacific Rim member economies that promotes free trade throughout the Asia-Pacific region. It was established in 1989 in response to the growing interdependence of Asia-Pacific economies and the advent of regional trade blocs in other parts of the world; to defuse fears that highly industrialised Japan (a member of G8) would come to dominate economic activity in the Asia-Pacific region; and to establish new markets for agricultural products and raw materials beyond Europe.
An annual APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting is attended by the heads of government of all APEC members except Republic of China (Taiwan) (which is represented by a ministerial-level official under the name Chinese Taipei as economic leader). The location of the meeting rotates annually among the member economies, and a famous tradition, followed for most (but not all) summits, involves the attending leaders dressing in a national costume of the host country. APEC has three official observers: the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Secretariat, the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. APEC’s Host Economy of the Year is considered to be invited in the first place for geographical representation to attend G20 meetings following G20 guidelines.