Understanding the UN system from the eye of a journalist from the global south

'The UN is the supreme body in the world for multilateral diplomacy, as everyone knows, striving to achieve the larger goal in the interest of the world and every member state.’

NL Today

  • Read Time 5 min.

Jagdishor Panday is a journalist, researcher and writer. Panday, currently associated with Kantipur daily, was awarded the prestigious Raham Al-Farra  (RAF) Memorial Journalism Fellowship for two times—virtually in 2021 and in-person in 2023—during the 76th and 78th United Nations General Assemblies. 

Recently, he came back from the UN headquarters, New York, after completing his in-person RAF fellowship during the 78th UNGA. A journalist reporting for more than 12 years and following foreign affairs and defense, including UN-related issues, in Nepal, Panday chats with Nepal Live Today about his experience, perspectives and learning during the fellowship. Excerpts:  

Could you share your experience with regards to your participation in the 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) ?

I was awarded the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship (RAF) by the United Nations (UN). I was among the 12 journalists from across the world who were selected by the UN. I got this fellowship in 2021 during the 76th session of the UN General Assembly but at that time I participated then virtually because of the Covid pandemic.

This year I was lucky to participate in-person during the 78th session of the UNGA. Every year the new session of the UNGA starts on September 5. My fellowship duration was from Sept 13 to 29. During that period, I got a chance to witness the high-level session first hand where top world leaders were present to deliver their statements in the GA hall. The high-level session was held on Sept 18-22. 

Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal was also present to deliver his statement. During my fellowship, I got a chance to interact with officials from various UN bodies. They provided insights into the structures and functioning of each UN agency. It was immensely helpful in my reporting related to the UN and multilateral diplomacy. What I noticed is that there is never a dull moment during the UNGA. Various engagements are held at the same time. And you need to rush. Overall, it was a privilege and an experience of a lifetime to report about such a mega event.

Why is the UN an important mechanism for a country like Nepal?

In my view, the UN is quite important for a country like Nepal. As a member of the UN, every country enjoys the same status with each country carrying the equal vote. The UN is the supreme body in the world for multilateral diplomacy, as everyone knows, striving to achieve the larger goal in the interest of the world and every member state. If there was no UN, the global peace and order could not have been the same as we see today. 

Nepal is involved in different UN bodies. Moreover, Nepal is the second largest troops-contributing country to the UN. For countries like Nepal, the UN provides a great platform to make it heard and seen. Nepal has remained as an important member of the UN since the country joined the UN in December 1955. Since then, the global body has been helping Nepal secure its sovereignty and carry out human and social development activities. Nepal has always shown unwavering commitments to the UN values and principles. I think, this should be rightly acknowledged and recognized by the UN leadership. 

Why is it important for journalists from the Global South to know about the UN system?

This is an important question. As a journalist from the Global South, I used to think the UN is run by the Global North. But during my fellowship journey to the UN headquarters in New York, I found out that the UN system is run by its each and every 193 members. The activeness of the UN relies on its member states. There are a lot of opportunities for those from the Global South as well. What I mean is it was quite interesting to meet a lot more people from the Global South than the Global North at the UN headquarters. There are many issues to be raised on our part, but we lack proper skills and strategy to present ourselves. But what I found is that we are capable and can compete in the UN system. We need to work on our confidence though.

What is your take on COP and the role of the UN in climate change?

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP-28) is going to be held in the UAE this month. As a foreign affairs and geopolitical correspondent, I found that climate change is a geopolitical issue. Small countries like Nepal who do not contribute much to carbon emissions are suffering from the climate crisis, whereas big and powerful G-20 countries of the world who contribute 80 percent of carbon emission are not ready to control their emission. Big countries are destroying the climate and countries like Nepal are suffering. The big countries are not ready to pay for other countries’ losses and damage that has been inflicted by them over a long period of time. So, there is a different orientation between those who are responsible for excessive greenhouse emissions and those who do not make any significant contribution to carbon emissions. The power tussle leads to geopolitical fights.

The role of the UN is to call each and every member on the table and negotiate for it. The UN has been doing an extremely good job by requesting those countries responsible for excessive or unjust greenhouse emissions, warning them that the earth will be so hot that it would be inhabitable for  animals including human beings if they fail to act fast to cut down on emissions.

The UN has been asking to follow the Paris Agreement which says global warming should be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The UN came up with the loss and damage fund for those countries who have been suffering from the climate crisis. In that fund, those countries who produce more carbon should contribute and those countries, like Nepal,  who are suffering from the climate crisis should get money from that fund. So, the COP and the UN can contribute to countries like Nepal from the Global South.

Any further words to fellow journalists from Nepal and the world?

After experiencing and learning about the UN system and meeting with many people, don’t believe what you hear only. You should learn accurate documents or meet right people before you speak on any issues. You should avoid mis and disinformation in this age of over information circulation. Journalists like me from the Global South may have a talent but we lack proper techniques and hard work for right work. You should always be eager to learn new things every day. There are many opportunities for a journalist from the Global South, so I would say always look for opportunities and seize one when you get one. One day you will be in the right place at the right time.