“India brought `United Nations’ to the world; now aptly leads the global solar alliance,” says UN veteran Ramu Damodaran

Bhubaneswar: “It is appropriate that the country that brought `Surya Namaskar’ to the world should now lead the global initiative on solar energy working with the United Nations. India, which has started the International Solar Alliance (ISA), is now going to ask the United Nations for observer status so that countries can pool in their intellectual and entrepreneurial abilities to harvest solar energy and also create bilateral platforms blending creative solutions with technical and financial mechanisms,” said Mr Ramu Damodaran, a United Nations veteran who has worked in various UN departments for the past 25 years.

Mr Damodaran was addressing school students and teachers at an online session of Muskaan to observe the 76thUnited Nations Day. The event was organised by Muskaan, a joint initiative of Prabha Khaitan Foundation and Education For All Trust, and supported by Shree Cement. Every year 24thOctober is observed as the United Nations Day as it marks the anniversary of the day in 1945 when the UN Charter came into force. The UN Day offers the opportunity to amplify our common agenda and reaffirm the purposes and principles of the UN Charter that has guided us for the past 76 years.

Mr Ramu Damodaran joined the United Nations Department of Global Communications in 1996. His responsibilities included oversight of relationships with civil society, the creative community and celebrity advocates, publications (including as Chief Editor of the UN Chronicle), the Dag Hammarskjold Library and the United Nations Academic Impact. He has also been the Secretary of the United Nations General Assembly’s Committee on Information since 2011. He completed his career with the United Nations in May 2021. As a member of the Indian Foreign Service, where he was promoted to the rank of ambassador, he served as executive assistant to the Prime Minister of India between 1991 to 1994 and earlier in the ministries of External Affairs, Home Affairs, Defence, Planning and Human Resource Development.

While touching upon the history, structure and future challenges of the United Nations, Mr Damodaran described the United Nations as an act of charity. “Charity means the conscious desire that each one of us has something of ourselves – be it moral, be it spiritual, be it material, that we can give to someone else and equally we are in no ways so complete that we exclude others extending that degree of charity to us. That is the rationale of the United Nations.”

While referring to the UN Security Council, Mr Damodaran said to the young audience, “India will certainly become a permanent member of the United Nations and this will happen in your lifetime and the Security Council will be enriched by it.”

Mr Damodaran alluded to some of the key ideas that will define the United Nations in the next 25 years. He said there would be a need for global governance in areas of global public good like health, sustainable development beyond 2030, artificial intelligence, use of digital technology, peaceful use of outer space, creation of emergency platforms and so on. “To make development sustainable after 2020 the UN must accept the needs of our generation without compromising the needs of our next generation,” he said.

Mr Damodaran urged the students to bring in changes through innovations and address UN concerns by thinking of ideas and solutions for future generations, “We are often told to think global and act locally. In many ways we can reverse that. If you think locally of changes that you can bring to your family, homes, schools, communities these can be elevated to a global level where we can at globally with the United Nations as an act of charity that is not condescending, not superior versus inferior, just collectively in our united cause of dignity and worth.”

The world looks up to the United Nations for solutions to complex problems like ending conflict, peace keeping, poverty alleviation, combating climate change and disasters, defending human rights, supporting health and so on. Today, the United Nations has evolved a lot and provides solutions to the three thematic areas outlined in its Charter: Peace and Security; the protection and promotion of human rights; and human development. It is now a global secretariat with a workforce of over 44,000 specialised personnel.

Muskaan is a pan-India initiative to promote skill development among children through webinars, courses and workshops. Further, Muskaan seeks to popularize culture and heritage literature among the young children in India by weaving it into the formal and informal education system. This is done by engaging students in diverse activities like cultural programmes, story-telling, theatre, dance, music and art which are organized in collaboration with our national and international institutes and associations. Muskaan reaches out to schools, educational bodies and art institutions across the country. Muskaan supports needy and marginalized students by providing them with tuition/coaching classes; stationeries and study materials; distributing nutritious food and providing basic hygiene amenities.