Missed opportunity? Anwar did not just address the UN

THE United Nations General Assembly's (UNGA) major annual meeting is held in September. Heads of government take turns to express views on issues that affect the world.

The late Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who once served as the permanent representative of the United States to the UN during the Reagan administration, said this: "The UN General Assembly is a Turkish Bath."

She was not referring to UNGA as a talking shop. Rather, she was alluding to how leaders such as Palestine Liberation Organisation chairman Yasser Arafat were allowed to speak at UNGA.

Allowing leaders to let off steam, even to hyperventilate, excoriating others for sins of omission and commission, enables them to become amenable to dialogue and less antagonistic.

It is not always the case that this will work flawlessly to prevent conflicts, or protect the world from threats such as climate change.

The fact is, if there is no UNGA, one would have to be created. Without it, there would definitely be more conflicts.

The trip to New York is not all about the UN alone. The are other activities. In any attempt to judge a leader's presence at UNGA, a critic has to understand international relations in depth.

This appreciation does not flow from writing books, academic papers and opinion pieces. Output does not signify quality.

The late professor Leo Gross, for example, did not write many books and papers. Yet, he is a known entity in the world of international legal studies to this day.

He became a powerful and lucid critic of books on world issues and international law.

In looking at some people who spoke of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's "missed opportunity at the UN", one must say that he did not address only the UN.

Anwar was also there to engage American policymakers, large would-be investors, leading intellectuals at the Council on Foreign Relations —- one of the oldest think tanks in the West —- and old friends in the US, too. These interactions would pave the way for his involvement in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco this November.

On the sidelines of UNGA, both before and after his speech, Anwar met with leaders of Indonesia, Turkiye and Iran. These meetings enabled them to understand how the developing world can unite into a more cohesive whole, in the face of global inflation and unstable supply chains.

Anyone unconvinced that Anwar has touched on substantive issues might one to hear his approach to the South China Sea and other matters, articulated in an interview with Bloomberg in New York.

There was also his engagement with the audience at the Council on Foreign Relations, which showed his method in projecting Malaysian foreign policy beyond what Wisma Putra has been actively doing. In all, it is far too easy to be a dismissive armchair critic.

Anwar's UNGA address should not be taken lightly, least of all by anyone who is not clued in to the currents of world politics.

Speaking at any event organised by the UN is never a missed opportunity.

The writer is the president and chief executive officer of EMIR Research, a think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research

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