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For Peace And Justice


A look at Malaysia’s role in the United Nations.

Photo : UN/Pasqual Gorriz

The UN flag featuring the organisation’s emblem.

Established after World War II, the United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organisation meant to prevent future wars, with the aims of maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and achieving international cooperation. The 193 UN member countries represent almost all of the world's sovereign states, and is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organisation in the world.

The UN is headquartered in New York City, with main offices in Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna and The Hague. In an effort to replace the ineffectual League of Nations, 50 governments met in San Francisco to draft the UN Charter, which took effect on 24 October 1945. The organisation's objectives include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development, and upholding international law. Six main bodies in the organisation are the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice and the UN Secretariat, with a multitude of specialised agencies that help achieve the UN’s goals in various areas of world development. This includes the World Bank, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Malaya, Malaysia and the UN
Tun. Dr. Ismail Abd Rahman (left) with Sir Leslie Munro, President of the 12th General Assembly (right) on 15 October 1957. (Photo : UN)

Malaysia became the 82nd member of the United Nations as the Federation of Malaya on 17 September 1957, soon after negotiating its independence from British colonial rule. The country’s first ambassador to the United Nations was Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, who served from 1957 until 1959, concurrently as ambassador to the UN as well as to the United States of America.

As a UN member, Malaysia is a strong proponent of multilateralism and international cooperation. The country’s presence in the organisation is to help formulate, coordinate, defend and advance Malaysia's positions and interests on all three pillars of the United Nations (Peace and Security, Human Rights and Development).

Malaysia in the UN
Former President of the United Nations General Assembly’s 51st session, Razali Ismail (Photo: UN/Evan Schneider )

Despite not being as prominent as certain Western and East Asian nations, Malaysia has been a vocal and expressive member of the UN and has made many meaningful contributions.

Former Malaysian ambassador to Cuba, Razali Ismail was elected the President of the United Nations General Assembly’s 51st session, presiding from 17 September 1996 to 15 September 1997. He was the third representative from Southeast Asia to preside over the world body after Dr. Carlos Pena Romulo (the Philippines) and Adam Malik (Indonesia).

Malaysia served as a non-permanent member of the Security Council for four terms - in 1965, 1989–1990, 1999–2000 and 2015–2016. In 2015, Malaysia introduced a draft resolution, calling for the establishment of an international criminal tribunal, in response to the downing of MH17. It failed to pass as a result of Russia's veto. The country also made history when the resolution 2334 that Malaysia sponsored in 2016 became the first resolution adopted by the Security Council on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in eight years. Via the resolution, the Security Council reaffirmed that Israel’s establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and is a violation of international law.

Perhaps the best contributions in the UN is from involvement in peacekeeping and observer missions. Since October 1960, Malaysia has participated in over 30 peacekeeping operations with the deployment of over 29,000 peacekeepers from the Malaysian Armed Forces and the Royal Malaysian Police.

One of the most noteworthy peacekeeping contributions is playing a major role in Operation Gothic Serpent at the Battle of Mogadishu and Battle of Bakara Market in 1993 during the Somali Civil War. The Malaysian peacekeeping forces helped rescue personnel from two American Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters that were shot down by Somali militia loyal to presidential challenger Mohamed Farrah Aidid. This valiant defense and rescue effort was the inspiration behind the boxoffice film Black Hawk Down starring Josh Harnett and Ewan McGregor. Malaysia’s MALBAT (Malaysian Battalion) - Malaysian armed forces stationed overseas, is also acclaimed for their role as the Protection Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Bosnian War that ravaged from 1992-1995.

UNIFIL’s Malaysian contingent commander, Colonel Azhan bin Hj Md Othman in Chama, south Lebanon 0n 13 March 2019. (Photo: United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)/Pasqual Gorriz)
World Peace

Malaysia’s noteworthy involvement in the UN is proof of our aspiration for a fairer and more equitable world safe from conflict and strife. International participation and cooperation has been a hallmark of our young country, one that is evident not just via our involvements with the UN but also our roles in other international platforms such as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

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