India calls for overhauling UN General Assembly electoral processes

United Nations: India has called for overhauling the electoral processes in the UN General Assembly as an initial step towards reforming and revitalising the working methods of the 193-member UN organ.

Counsellor in India's Permanent Mission to the UN Anjani Kumar said at the United Nations that the quality of working methods of the General Assembly is integral to the efficiency and effectiveness of the organisation and these need to evolve with time and reflect the necessities of changing circumstances and realities.

"The General Assembly has been conceived as a form of Global Parliament. In this context, the process of elections that are conducted by the General Assembly may be a useful place to begin the revitalisation process," he said during a debate on Working Methods on Wednesday.

 India calls for overhauling UN General Assembly electoral processes

Representational image. Reuters

Kumar said as the most representative global body, the General Assembly must lead the way by following the best electoral practices and setting up highest standards befitting its stature.

He noted that India and several other delegations have pointed out how the General Assembly has steadily lost touch with its core responsibilities and is increasingly involved only with processes.

UN Members have also also noted that the role and authority of the General Assembly has been "progressively undermined" by the expansive role and activism of the Security Council, much beyond what is envisaged in the UN Charter.

He said India's "doable" suggestions for consideration in this regard include that there should be no distribution of election material or any gifts in the balloting room on the day of the election in the UNGA.

Giving further details, Kumar said it is surprising that on the day of any of the elections in the Assembly, the place is covered with campaign material and gifts of all sorts being distributed inside the balloting space.

"We must restore the sanctity of the balloting space by agreeing not to have election material being distributed in the GA hall on the day of election. This is the normal practice in every space where ballots are cast. There could be other institutional ways to serve as reminders of those contesting the elections," he said.

Given the use of technology to improve efficiency and transparency of systems across fields, Kumar further added that the UN could also explore how technology can be used to improve the current electoral practices to substantially reduce errors of interpretation and speed up the entire process in a transparent manner.

Kumar added that the current practice requiring voters to write the names of individuals or country candidates on paper ballots often leads to unintended confusion and discrepancies through mis-spelling.

"If paper ballots are to be used, a simpler and more effective way could be for the names of the candidates being printed on the ballots, with space for any last minute additional candidatures. This could reduce the margin of errors considerably," he said.

He said the UN Secretariat should conduct a time bound analysis of the current electoral practices, identify gaps and problems, explore other solutions including technologically advanced electronic voting systems and recommend specific suggestions for improvements.

"Making these changes in the electoral processes would signal our collective will to move forward with specific reform of Working Methods that could energise various other processes of the General Assembly," he said.

Updated Date: Mar 30, 2017 13:24:17 IST