‘ECOSOC win would help India establish itself as lighthouse of the South’

Nishtha Satyam, ECOSOC, Deputy Country Representative, UN Women

NEW DELHI: Nishtha Satyam, the youngest Deputy Country Representative for UN Women, while commenting on India’s win against China and securing a seat at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has said that “it’s a huge win” and would help the country establish itself as the “lighthouse of the South”.

India and Afghanistan on Tuesday thrashed China in the elections to the UN Commission on Status of Women Economic (UNCSW), a body of the ECOSOC. Of the two members to be elected from the Asia-Pacific states, India secured 38 of the 54 ballots. Afghanistan, on the other hand, secured 39 ballots.

China garnered 27, failing to even cross the halfway mark. Here are the extracts of the interview:

Q: How big is this win for India where we have won a seat at the ECOSOC?

A: I think it’s a very big win for India at this global stage because I think there is a newer world order emerging and India has cemented its position. It’s the first time we have spoken ‘Women led Development’ because so far we have spoken about ‘Women in Development’ and this is the global stage really for having that conversation.

So for me it is a huge win for India as to draw the attention of the rest of the world and also to establish itself as the lighthouse of the South.

Q: Since we have defeated China, so from that aspect, how do you see it is?

A: Yes, it’s a win over China but I feel what we really need to understand is the power of being the largest democracy in the world and the power that we have in the global stage for these negotiations and the allies that we have built and have spent years of friendship with. I am not sure how much this would mean o the layman but in terms of global commitment and global accountability and global centre staging of women’s development, this really takes the leap that we wanted to see India to take.

When anything becomes a conversation between India and China, it does matter to a large extent to the sense that it helps you build a profile of a global leader that India has wanted to be for years, the super emerging power that India has showcased itself to be.

I think I am really happy that when we are talking of being the next superpower, we are not just talking of becoming a 5 trillion dollar economy, we aren’t just measuring ourselves in GDP terms but we are also measuring about what it matters and what it means to one and a half of the population because you cannot be a five trillion economy and leave the women of the country out.

So, for me, it is a total sustainable and equitable development where we are talking about the issues that matter to the lives of women, men and the governments too.

Q: Since, we have secured a seat the ECOSOC, what are the probabilities for the Security Council this time?

A: One thing I can say for sure that India was a founding member at the UN Women itself and India has been a very active member of the UN Women and I had the privilege of leading UN Women in the country and have seen India’s close participation over the years on issues concerning women. The partnership has always existed and has become stronger but this has given us a profile that we need.

Honestly, it is not a better chance at the UNSC but it profiles us better and also at par with some of the countries that we must also learn from. It allows India to the lighthouse of the South and also the face of the emerging South.

Negotiations happen really better when equals sit at the table and I think it is a long standing game for India, for the UN Women, given the participation of the world’s largest democracy and I am super thrilled to see what comes forward.

Q: What’s the way forward as we now have a say at ECOSOC?

A: It would be a renewed interest and renewed commitment. I think we see great interest in centre staging women both at the highest levels of administration and also within the states. We see just the top of women led development, I think it’s a leapfrog in thinking itself in ensuring whose development are we talking about.

The commitment from India is to work on issues that matter like in terms of nutrition, safety, food security and also about women’s participation in labour force, economic livelihood and also in women’s participation in decision making.

When we talk about India, we miss out the star stories of the country. India is the country which has the largest number of women in grass-root politics across the globe and I think it’s a data that is less talked about but is something to be proud of. Now, it’s time to create that linearity for women in decision making and in the Parliament.

The big change we lead is in terms of development planning is to look at the participation of women, hearing their voice, giving them their choice and in a way reflecting the concerns of the women. Today, with the Finance Minister having prioritized gender responsive planning and budgeting, we are looking at say of the women at every stage.

Q: As India is one of the largest South Asian nation, what difference would it make on the table?

A: Being a member of the ECOSOC brings the power of negotiation, your are at the table when you are negotiating. Like, in diplomacy we say, If you’re not on the table, you’re probably on the men. Hence, I think it’s very important to have that voice as an emerging superpower because our story is unique, our story needs to be told by us, our story needs to be heard by others as much as we want to hear others’.

So, the big difference like I said is that global dialogue and friendship within that framework of enhanced accountability and responsibility that India has signed up to which I think in itself is a great show of commitment.

The UN is an intergovernmental body where 193 countries convene, collate and we need to discuss the world’s biggest problem and at a seat at the table absolutely matters to us. Today, the world is at a stage, where no global conversation can be had if you miss India out.

We must also remind ourselves that when we are talking about ‘Aatmnirbhar Bharat’, we are not talking about the inward looking India, we are talking about an India that is positioned well to participate in the outer world and that is the positioning of the ‘Aatmnirbhar Bharat’.

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