UN & multilateralism September 2021- September 2022

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Alliance for Multilateralism

The parlous state of poverty eradication
Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights
This report is submitted by Philip Alston. The world is at an existential crossroads
involving a pandemic, a deep economic recession, devastating climate change, extreme
inequality, and an uprising against racist policies. Running through all of these challenges
is the longstanding neglect of extreme poverty by many governments, economists, and
human rights advocates (2 July 2020)

Two Key Takeaways from the Antonio Guterres UNGA Preview and Press Conference
(Global Dispatches) For Antonio Guterres, the 2023 opening of the United Nations General Assembly is the culmination of several frenetic weeks of international summitry. In the last few days alone he attended the African Climate Summit in Nairobi, the ASEAN Summit in Jakarta, the G-20 meeting in New Delhi — and tomorrow he’s going to Havana for the G-77+China confab.*
Today, in his Pre-UNGA press conference, the UN Secretary General acknowledged each of these meetings. “But next week begins the greatest ‘G’ of all,” he told the UN press corps. “The “G-193.” (referring to the 193 member states of the UN).
First: It is clear from his remarks that Antonio Guterres sees as his top priority next week to be the instigation of rapid progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. High Level Week kicks off on Monday with a day long summit specifically on the SDGs. Guterres expressed a degree of optimism that the SDG summit and the rest of UNGA will re-invigorate collective action on the SDGs. “I believe that next week there will be an important breakthrough in creating the conditions to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals.” he said.
Second: Antonio Guterres will use UNGA to try and revive the Black Sea Grain Initiative. In his press conference, he announced that he will be meeting with Zelenskyy, Erdogan and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for talks about rescuing this now dead deal. The UN and Turkey negotiated the deal with Ukraine and Russia, in which Russia permitted the export of Ukrainian grain to Turkey, where it would be inspected then sent off to its destinations around the world — mostly to Africa and the Middle East. When this deal was struck last year it helped bring down surging food prices in some of the poorest countries. But Russia unilaterally let the grain deal expire in July — and immediately began targeting Ukrainian food infrastructure, including bombing ports, grain silos and wheat fields.
Guterres has been testing the waters in recent weeks to see what sort of assurances Russia might demand in exchange for re-entering the grain deal.

8 September
UN General Assembly Speaker Schedule Released
Zelenskyy Gets a Primo Spot for UNGA78
(Global Dispatches) The “General Debate” (as it is formally known) kicks off at 9:00 am Tuesday, September 19 with an address from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. (It always starts on a Tuesday—baring some major unforeseen circumstance, like the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II last year.) The Secretary General is followed by the new President of the General Assembly Dennis Francis, a diplomat from Trinidad and Tobago, who will preside from the General Assembly dais for the entire week, gavel in hand.
Per longstanding tradition, Brazil delivers the first address from a national delegation. This will be Lula’s first UNGA appearance since his previous stint as Brazil’s head of state.
The second speech always goes to the host country of the United Nations — that is, the President United States. Diplomats tend jostle for seats to be in the room for the American President’s speech, which typically makes the rest of the Tuesday morning session the most desirable speaking slot. As it happens, Ukraine was given one of these primo spots in anticipation of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s first UN visit since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Notably, Russia is given a very late slot in the week, on Friday. This is because Putin will not be there in person and UN member states that do not send their Head of Government or Head of State to the General Debate are usually slated to go after all Presidents and Prime Ministers in attendance have had their turn.

9 June
Ecuador, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, Switzerland elected to U.N. Security Council
(Reuters) – The United Nations General Assembly elected Ecuador, Japan, Malta, Mozambique and Switzerland to the U.N. Security Council on Thursday for two-year term starting on Jan. 1, 2023.
All five countries ran unopposed for a spot on the 15-member body, which is charged with maintaining international peace and security. They will replace India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico and Norway.

29 April
Why Russia’s rocket attack on Kyiv is seen as an insult to the U.N.
(NPR) U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres had recently met in person with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and he was on a high-profile visit to Ukraine’s capital — but those circumstances weren’t enough to prevent Russia from launching a deadly attack on a residential area of Kyiv while Guterres visited the capital city Thursday night.
Ukrainian officials are calling the attack a “postcard from Moscow” and an insult to the United Nations.
“This says a lot about Russia’s true attitude to global institutions,” Zelenskyy said Thursday night. “About the efforts of the Russian leadership to humiliate the U.N. and everything that the organization represents.”
Guterres arrived in Ukraine after meeting with Putin on Tuesday, hoping to de-escalate the war and guarantee humanitarian aid for civilians whose lives have been upended by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On Thursday, Guterres toured the ruined town of Borodyanka, northwest of Kyiv, which was bombed and occupied.
The perception of the attack as an intentional slight was heightened by one of Guterres’ main goals: to negotiate humanitarian corridors for civilians to leave Mariupol.

5 April
Zelensky Describes Atrocities and Calls on U.N. to Act
“Now the world can see what Russia did in Bucha,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said of the slaughter of civilians, during a fiery speech to the U.N. Security Council in which he showed a graphic video of the aftermath.
In his speech…the Ukrainian president said the Security Council was useless if it could not find a way to hold the perpetrators to account.
— The Russian ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, blames Ukraine for not upholding agreements to allow for humanitarian access to civilians in Ukraine. He says, without offering proof, that Russia has “managed to save” more than 123,000 people from Mariupol.

20 January
UN chief: World worse now due to COVID, climate, conflict
As he starts his second term as U.N. secretary-general, Antonio Guterres said Thursday the world is worse in many ways than it was five years ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis and geopolitical tensions that have sparked conflicts everywhere
“The secretary-general of the U.N. has no power,” Guterres said. “We can have influence. I can persuade. I can mediate, but I have no power.”
Before he became U.N. chief, Guterres said he envisioned the post as being “a convener, a mediator, a bridge-builder and an honest broker to help find solutions that benefit everyone involved.”
He said Thursday these are things “I need to do every day.”
As an example, the secretary-general said this week he spoke to the African Union’s envoy Olusegun Obasanjo, twice with Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, and once with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in his attempt to get a cessation of hostilities in Ethiopia between the government and forces in the embattled Tigray region.


29 December
The Price of Happiness
U.N. Power Broker Jeffrey Sachs Took Millions From the UAE to Research “Well-Being”
By Mara Hvistendahl
(The Intercept) Sachs, now 67, is one of 17 celebrity U.N. Sustainable Development Goals advocates tasked by the secretary-general with promoting lofty objectives like boosting access to education, fighting the climate crisis, and ending hunger by 2030. Beyond the U.N., Sachs has been anointed an expert on a dizzying array of topics, including broadband access, energy engineering, and Covid-19. He heads a Lancet commission charged with addressing the economic and humanitarian costs of the coronavirus pandemic and, until recently, with investigating its origins.
But Sachs has another side. In 2013, he praised Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan for winning three consecutive general elections, “each time with a greater share of the popular vote,” without noting growing concerns about his repression of dissent. More recently, Sachs has downplayed concerns about China’s crackdown in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, including at a Chinese government online event hosted at a “guesthouse featuring traditional Uyghur-style decorations.” And in 2020, 16 months after the dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, he flew to Riyadh to speak at a forum hosted by a Saudi investment firm.

2 December
Haiti needs a new, improved UN mission
Charles T. Call
(Brookings) Haiti has experienced decades of insecurity and political instability, but 2021 has been alarming. … The U.S. and other international actors have an interest in responding to the humanitarian crisis and its regional migratory and security consequences. The immediate priority is restoring security to the country and providing a foundation for stable governance with reduced corruption.
The most sensible path forward for international actors is to authorize an expanded U.N. operation to include a small military component but modify it to overcome past limitations. The 13-year U.N. Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) successfully tackled some of the security problems besieging the country today. … A U.S. Institute of Peace study attributed the “resounding success” of these operations to the effort by the Brazilian military forces, working with various U.N. police units, to use the force necessary to clear neighborhoods of gang leaders. Brazilian troops conducted foot patrols, engaged with community leaders and members on the street, and developed extensive intelligence networks that were unprecedented at the time for U.N. peacekeeping. In a 2007 poll, 67% of respondents in Haiti credited the U.N. with improved security.

30 October
Letter from the United Nations: Isolationism vs. Collective Action
As the world faces the complex problems of COVID, climate change and the increasingly apparent costs of the cyber revolution, the fourth “C” on the list—China—is acting as not just a geopolitical challenge on its own but as an obstacle to resolving other challenges. Ground zero of that dynamic is the United Nations, where, as Ambassador Bob Rae writes, all the tensions play out.
(Policy) This year, the ongoing and persistent consequences of both the current pandemic and climate change stood out. COVID-19 has wrongly been described as a great leveller. It is much more a revealer and a magnifier. Well over five million people have lost their lives, and if new variants continue to emerge, it won’t be disappearing any time soon. It is a truly global event, but one that has been addressed locally and nationally, and therein lies the central problem. The virus has not made us more global in our collective outlook, it has turned each of us inward, isolated our reactions, and led to pressure on local and national governments to respond as quickly and effectively as they can to our personal needs and demands.
Climate change reflects a similar tension. The impacts grow with each passing day—severe weather events, melting ice caps, rising sea levels, droughts, floods—the signs are unmistakable and documented in scientific and other reports that point to the inexorable impacts: movement of populations, aggravating conflicts, deepening economic divides, all proceeding apace with alarming consequences for human health and even survival. As always at the UN, there is yet another conference, at Glasgow in November, known as COP26, that will deplore the reality that targets have not been met, that things are getting worse, and that we are far from bending the curve (a phrase borrowed from the struggles with COVID-19). We know for sure there will be two weeks of rhetoric. Whether this will produce a credible and effective agenda for change is less certain.

28 September

Ted Anthony: A ‘United’ Nations, navigating a fractured world
(AP) When the United Nations rose from World War II’s rubble, its birth reflected a widespread aspiration that humanity could be lifted up and dispatched down a positive path — if only there was a coherent, informed, unified effort of good faith among countries and their leaders. That would require persistence, compromise and, above all, hope.
Four generations later, the theme of this year’s mid-pandemic U.N. General Assembly leaders’ meeting reflects that ideal: “Building resilience through hope.” But at U.N. headquarters this week, while persistence seems abundant, hope is a scarce commodity.
The General Assembly is unfolding this week under a thundercloud of deep pessimism. Coherence is spotty. Two growing kinds of unwanted information — mis and dis — are scurrying around unchecked. And that unified effort of good faith? It feels absent, if not outright outdated, in an era when those responsible for the rest of us can’t even agree to check at the door to see if everyone is free of the deadly virus that has upended humanity’s best-laid plans.
For nations to commit to being united — and to actually follow through — isn’t easy in a fractured world brimming with problems that often come down hardest on the least powerful. The notion of nations playing on a level field may sound fair and just, but smaller countries insist that principle crumbles when power dynamics come into play.
What’s more, the whole concept of “multilateralism,” an ever-present U.N. priority based on distributed solutions and layers of agreements that gives smaller countries a voice, clashes with the mythology of charismatic leadership embraced by the West for centuries.
Overlaid atop all that is the problem that the United Nations’ structure doesn’t match the era in which it is operating — something its leaders and members have long acknowledged. This is, remember, an organization founded in an age — the mid-20th century — when many of the best and brightest believed the world could act in concert and coherence.
… The emotional, psychological and political baggage of a world reeling from unremitting crises is evident this year. Even compared with two or three years ago, leaders’ words and thoughts are peppered more with desperation, with exhortations like this one from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi: “Let us stand together to save ourselves before it is too late.”
And take the remarks of Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso Mendoza. When he said that “health has no ideology,” he was making a larger point. Yet he hit on part of the problem: Everything is political. Health, it turns out, has revealed fissures in ideology that were festering elsewhere but that the pandemic laid bare. Same story with climate change, as leaders reeling from a summer of natural disaster sounded ever-louder alarms.

21-27 September
Multilateralism is alive and well: Assembly President wraps up annual debate promising ‘active and inclusive’ 76th session
(UN news) Amidst the global COVID-19 crisis, the President of the General Assembly closed the UN High-Level session on Monday, crediting “sound mitigation measures” and high vaccination rates for its success.
Noting that the UN has “taken its biggest, boldest step yet to emerge from the pandemic”, Abdulla Shahid said: “We must build upon this success and continue momentum”.
“Yet, our true measure of success remains our willingness and ability to engage in dialogue and to put our faith in the multilateral system”, he said.
Mr. Shahid reported that over the last week 194 speakers took the iconic green marble podium, including 100 Heads of State, 52 Heads of Government, three Vice-Presidents, and 34 Ministers.
“I trust you are as encouraged as I am by the strong showing of our return to in-person diplomacy”, said the Assembly President, delighted that the UN’s halls and cafeterias were again “filled with dialogue…debate…laughter…and compromise”.
The Most Important U.N. Speeches This Year
Foreign Policy columnists and contributors break down the good, the bad, and the ugly from the 76th U.N. General Assembly.
The 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly, with high-level meetings wrapping up in New York this week, was dominated by the major crises facing our world today: climate change, COVID-19, and conflict.
World leaders came together, some in person and some virtually, to deliver speeches in which they explained their countries’ plans to tackle these crises and aired their political grievances. The result was a mix of bold declarations and petty squabbling, calls for unity and calls for condemnation.
Foreign Policy asked several of our columnists and contributors to weigh in on the speeches they found most compelling—or most concerning.

World leaders speak on final day of UN General Assembly
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett began day of speeches that included officials from Belarus, Syria and North Korea.
Naftali Bennett, in his first address as Israeli prime minister, gave a fiery condemnation of Iran, saying the Iran wants to rule the Middle East under a “nuclear umbrella”.
Bennett accused Tehran of crossing all “red lines” when it comes to its nuclear programme. That comes as the European powers are working to bring Tehran back to the negotiating table on the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran’s foreign minister on Friday estimated talks would start again “very soon”.
World leaders speak on fourth day of UN General Assembly
Friday’s list of speakers includes the leaders of the Palestinian Authority, Germany, Nigeria, Pakistan and Japan.
Myanmar will not address world leaders at U.N., Afghanistan will
(Reuters) – No representative from Myanmar is scheduled to address the annual high-level U.N. General Assembly, a U.N. spokesman said on Friday, amid rival claims for the country’s U.N. seat in New York after a military coup ousted the elected government.
Competing claims have also been made on Afghanistan’s U.N. seat after the Taliban seized power last month. The ambassador for the ousted government is set to give his speech on Monday.
Its relevance at stake, UN reaches toward a new generation
By Sally Ho
(AP) While the mega-popular BTS may croon that they don’t need “Permission to Dance,” the decision to allow the K-pop band to both give a serious speech to world leaders and film a sunny new music video at the U.N.’s distinctive headquarters was another of the many signs that the elders are ready — eager, even — to turn to young people for diplomacy and relevance.
‘Death sentence’: low-lying nations implore faster action on climate at U.N.
(Reuters) – Faced with what they see as an existential threat, leaders from low-lying and island nations implored rich countries at the United Nations General Assembly this week to act more forcefully against a warming planet.
The failure by developed economies to effectively curb their greenhouse gas emissions contributes to rising sea levels and especially imperils island and low-lying nations at the mercy of water.
“We simply have no higher ground to cede,” Marshall Islands President David Kabua told leaders in a pre-recorded speech at the high-level gathering on Wednesday. “The world simply cannot delay climate ambition any further.”
“The difference between 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees is a death sentence for the Maldives,” President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih told world leaders on Tuesday.
African leaders highlight vaccine inequity in UNGA speeches
Wide disparity in accessing COVID-19 vaccines featured prominently in speeches at the United Nations General Assembly.
The inequity of COVID-19 vaccine distribution came into sharper focus on Thursday as many leaders of African countries, whose populations have little to no access to the life-saving shots, stepped to the podium to speak at the United Nations General Assembly.
Already, the struggle to contain the coronavirus pandemic has featured prominently in world leaders’ speeches during the past few days – many of them delivered remotely because of the coronavirus itself. Country after country acknowledged the wide disparity in accessing the vaccine, painting a picture so bleak that a solution has at times seemed impossibly out of reach.
21 September
President Biden urges unity in first UN speech amid tensions with allies
(BBC) In his first address to the United Nations, US President Joe Biden has urged global cooperation through “a decisive decade for our world”.
His calls for unity come amid tensions with allies over the US’ Afghanistan withdrawal and a major diplomatic row with France over a submarine deal.
The US also announced it was doubling its climate finance pledge by 2024.
Reaffirming his support for democracy and diplomacy, Mr Biden said: “We must work together like never before.”
Mr Biden stressed that the US is “not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs”.
The US, he said, “is ready to work with any nation that steps up and pursues peaceful resolution to shared challenges, even if we have intense disagreements in other areas”.
Qatar’s emir urges world to engage with the Taliban
In speech to the UN General Assembly, Sheikh Tamim addresses COVID-19 pandemic, cybersecurity and conflicts in the region.
(Al Jazeera) Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has called on world leaders to remain engaged with the Taliban in Afghanistan, as he underlined his country’s commitment to contribute to the peaceful resolution of conflicts.
Speaking at the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on Tuesday, the emir stressed the significance of the continued support of the international community to the Afghan people “at this critical stage, and to separate between humanitarian aid and political differences”.

17 September
UNGA is key moment for NDCs and climate finance
The 76th session of the UN General Assembly is one of the last major opportunities to increase NDC ambition and deliver on climate finance ahead of COP26.
Anna Åberg and Dr Daniel Quiggin
(Chatham House) …the 76th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) takes place just a few weeks before COP26, one of the most important climate change conferences ever.
Delivering an ambitious COP26 outcome requires governments to raise the ambition of their 2030 emission reduction targets – known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – and developed countries to honour their 2009 pledge to mobilize $100 billion per year in climate finance to developing countries.
Making substantial progress on both these issues ahead of COP26 is critical, and the UNGA represents one of the last major high-level stages to make important announcements before Glasgow.
Meetings organized on the sidelines of UNGA can help accelerate action. On 17 September, US president Joe Biden is reconvening the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, and on 20 September UN secretary general Antonio Guterres and UK prime minister Boris Johnson are co-hosting a climate-focused closed-door meeting with world leaders.
The UNGA – a leaders-level platform on ‘neutral’ ground and with global representation – is an attractive stage for making important announcements. … With the clock ticking to COP26, it is crucial governments use the UNGA to announce stronger NDCs as well as concrete measures – such as phasing down production and use of coal, oil, and gas – essential to meeting climate targets. Special focus is on the G20 members and especially the world’s largest emitter – China.

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