UN Day is celebrated on 24th October every year in India since 1948. India signed the UN Charter on 26 June 1945 at the San Francisco Conference as one of the 50 founding-members of the United Nations. The Charter came into effect on 24 October 1945 following its ratification by the majority of signatory countries, including the five original permanent members.
At the Session of the UN General Assembly held on 31 October 1947, a resolution was adopted declaring 24 October as “United Nations Day”. The objective of this was to highlight the aims and achievements of the United Nations, in order to sustain support for the work of this universal inter-governmental organization.
India became independent of British colonial rule on 15 August 1947. The adoption of this UN General Assembly resolution less than two months after India’s independence was a major opportunity for her to contribute to the objectives of the UN Day Resolution.
Decolonization, a universal agenda for sustainable development, and the negotiation of the first normative frameworks for upholding fundamental human rights and freedoms are three major achievements of the United Nations over the past 72 years. India has played a role in each of these.
As the first major colonial country to gain independence, India led the process for the UN General Assembly to adopt the Decolonization Resolution in December 1960. This resolution created the platform for two major changes in the functioning of the United Nations. Both these changes were initiated by newly independent developing countries to make the United Nations more responsive to their aspirations.
The first Summit of the Non-aligned Movement was held in Belgrade in September 1961. India was among the founder members of this movement, which has grown from 24 countries to 122 countries today. The Nonaligned Movement enabled newly independent countries to assert their sovereignty in international relations at a time the world was divided into the two confrontational military alliances of the Cold War. Even today, nonalignment remains a valid option for many sovereign countries as they face the growing polarization between the major powers that challenges the founding principles of the United Nations.
The second change was the creation of the Group of 77 developing countries in the United Nations in 1964. The emergence of the G-77 compelled the UN to revisit the UN Charter’s commitment to “the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples”. As a result, the UNDP was established in 1965 to support the accelerated national development objectives of developing countries. India became the first Chair of the G-77 in 1970.
The convergence of the twin objectives of development and climate change resulted in the adoption of the UN’s Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development in September 2015 by world leaders, including India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The objective of this initiative is to eradicate poverty through an inclusive multi-stakeholder approach on sustainable development.
India was among the three co-sponsoring member-states for the UN General Assembly resolution mandating the negotiation of the Genocide Convention of 1948 to outlaw mass atrocity crimes. India was instrumental in enshrining the legal concept of gender equality into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights treaty adopted on 10 December 1948.
The theme chosen by UN member-states to mark the 75th anniversary of the UN next year is “reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism”. This theme is significant as the UN seeks to respond to the major challenge posed to the principle of international cooperation by assertive unilateralism among the major powers.
India’s response to this challenge was indicated by Prime Minister Modi in his speech to the UN General Assembly in September this year, when he called on all member-states to “give new direction and energy to multilateralism, and to the United Nations.” To mark UN Day, India is committed to upholding multilateralism through an inclusive, multi-polar strategic framework to meet her national interests.
Script: Amb. Asoke Mukerji, former Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations