Vietnam takes on primary UN Security Council duties

January 21, 2020 | 21:15
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Vietnam has officially undertaken its role as chair of the United Nations Security Council for January and non-permanent member of this council for the 2020-2021 tenure. This has created great opportunities for the country to build its international prestige and reap economic benefits. Khoi Nguyen reports.
p12 vietnam takes on primary un security council duties
Vietnam chaired a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on January 13 at the UN headquarters

The year 2020 will be very special for Vietnam in its external activities which are expected to fetch economic benefits for the country.

On January 2 at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York, Vietnam officially commenced its activities as one-month chair of the UN Security Council (UNSC), ushering in its 2020-2021 tenure as non-permanent member of the council, which will terminate on December 31, 2021. The country will also resume the role as UNSC chair in April 2021. This has made a milestone in the country’s further contributions to the global organisation.

Raising international status

Carl Thayer, emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales, commented that Vietnam has enormous prestige because it was the unanimous choice of the Asia bloc at the UN for non-permanent membership at the UNSC, and Vietnam was elected by a commanding majority of votes in the UN General Assembly.

“Vietnam will enter 2020 with two important advantages: It is politically stable and its economy is growing at a good rate. In 2020, the country’s economy should benefit from its membership in the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership as well as the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement,” said Thayer who has profound insights into Vietnam. “This will provide useful leverage in renegotiating a free trade agreement with the United States and the final stages of achieving the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.”

According to him, Vietnam’s role as ASEAN chair in 2020 will also add more strength to Vietnam in its role as UNSC non-permanent member.

“Vietnam’s dual role as ASEAN chair and non-permanent membership on the UNSC will give it additional leverage in dealing with major and middle powers. But more importantly, Vietnam can leverage its 16 strategic and 13 comprehensive partnerships to advance its foreign policy goals of ‘peace, co-operation, and development’ and use these partnerships to insulate itself from major powers who might try to pressure Vietnam to follow a particular line on international issues,” Thayer said. “Vietnam’s interests are best served when it protects its autonomy and maintains an independent stance in international affairs.”

Last November, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc told the National Assembly that Vietnam will make the best of its advantages and opportunities brought about by its dual role in the ASEAN and the UNSC.

“There have almost never been nations like Vietnam, playing a dual role in the ASEAN and the UNSC in the same year. So it will offer great opportunities for the country to further enhance its international status and prestige in order to lift Vietnam to new heights,” the PM stated.

According to Tran Viet Thai, vice head of the Institute for Foreign Policy and Strategic Studies under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ (MoFA) Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, Vietnam’s participation in the UNSC is extremely important, as it will help the country further enhance its role and position in the international arena, and Vietnam will take advantage of the new role to benefit its national interests, including two main interests: contributing to the peace, security, and stability of the region, and capitalising on new mechanisms during the new tenure to serve the national development.

“With its UNSC non-permanent membership, Vietnam will be able to raise its voice about the settlement of global security issues. This is a very big political advantage that not any nation can have at any time,” Thai told VIR.

Economic benefits

A MoFA senior official told VIR that the UNSC membership will help Vietnam create a favourable climate in order to expand its economic benefits, including trade expansion and investment attraction.

“If Vietnam manages to solve all issues, its prestige will increase, meaning that the country will be able to receive further co-operation from major nations, including the US,” he said. “For example, if we contribute to the resolution of the Middle East issue, nations from this region can increase investment and trade ties with us. This is a great benefit.”

According to him, Vietnam will also have more opportunities to directly meet with leaders of many nations to discuss trade and investment issues with Vietnam, where a more business-friendly climate has been created.

As of December 20, 2019, Vietnam attracted $362.58 billion in foreign direct investment, with nearly 30,830 valid projects. The country’s total export-import trade turnover in 2019 hit a record $517 billion, with a record trade surplus of nearly $10 billion.

“Vietnam’s prestige is surging and we believe that the country will lure in more foreign investment and raise its trade with the wider world in 2020,” the MoFA official said.

Currently, Vietnam is expanding overseas investment in several Southeast Asian nations, and in Africa.

In 2019, Vietnam’s total overseas investment was about $460 million for nearly 180 projects, raising the total investment of this type to over $22 billion since 1989, focusing on agriculture, forestry, energy, and telecommunications, largely in Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar (accounting for 40 per cent of the total), as well as Africa, and others in the world.

Major priorities

According to the MoFA, serving on the UNSC is a serious undertaking. In the 2020-2021 tenure, Vietnam will make the most of its two years to contribute to improving the effectiveness of the council, to foster dialogue to help find peaceful solutions to conflicts, and to bring the voice of small countries to the work of the council.

“We will give particular focus to conflict prevention, preventive diplomacy, peaceful settlement of disputes, and strengthened implementation of Chapter VI of the UN Charter,” said a MoFA document. “We will also improve the methods of the Security Council’s work, enhancing engagement with regional arrangements in the maintenance of international peace and security, in accordance with Chapter VIII of the UN Charter.”

Vietnam will also attach special importance to the protection of civilians and critical civilian infrastructure in armed conflicts, to women, peace and security, and children and armed conflicts, and to addressing the aftermaths of armed conflicts, including threats to civilian populations posed by landmines and explosive remnants of war. Moreover, Vietnam will also give particular focus to UN peacekeeping and seeking solutions for responding to and reducing climate change impacts on international peace and security.

Pham Binh Minh - Deputy Prime Minister Minister of Foreign Affairs

Vietnam’s chairmanship of the UNSC in January and the country’s role as the council’s non-permanent member in the 2020-2021 tenure will give Vietnam a golden opportunity to further enhance its status, with its external policy of independence, self-reliance, active international integration, and promotion of multilateral diplomacy. This is a very precious moment for Vietnam to constructively contribute to the shared work of the international community.

Vietnam is undertaking its new responsibility amid strong changes in the regional and the global landscape. While prolonged conflicts in Africa have yet to find lasting solutions, tensions tend to escalate in the Middle East, and potential hotspots may break out in a number of other regions, even in Asia Pacific. Unilateral and violent acts without respect to international laws and with the threat or use of force are posing direct challenges for international peace and security. Though peace, co-operation, and development remain major trends in the world, the regional and global multilateralism mechanisms are facing numerous difficulties, that are not always easy to assess. Strategic collisions among major nations are increasing, resulting in complicated consequences, especially in terms of politics and security which are directly reflected at the UNSC.

Taking part in the UNSC in such a challenging context, we will be consistent in our external policy of independence, self-reliance, multilateralism, and diversification, with our great efforts in boosting dialogues, reducing tensions, and confrontation, as well as looking for fair and proper solutions to the issues that threaten peace and security in the region and the wider world. We will also put all efforts into fostering respect for international laws, and the UN Charter. especially basic principles in sovereign equality among nations, with respect for independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and socio-political regimes of nations, with the settlement of all disputes in a peaceful manner and without any threat or use of force.

Vietnam will also enhance the spirit of “partnership for sustainable peace” with many solutions in conflict prevention, the construction of peace, and post-conflict reconstruction, as well as the promotion of multilateralism and multilateral institutions, especially the UN and regional organisations.

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