UN Reform & multilateralism August 2021-

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UNGA Resolution 377
Multilateralism needs an overhaul.
– Here’s where to start


Unblocking the UN Security Council: The Uniting for Peace Resolution
Andrew J. Carswell
(Journal of Conflict and Security Law) The United Nations Security Council’s recent blocked attempts to address the deteriorating political and humanitarian situation in Syria have renewed calls for UN reform. From the Cold War until the present day, the fact that the UN system has failed to live up to the lofty expectations of its framers can be attributed in significant part to the threat and exercise of the veto by individual Permanent Five (P5) members of the Council. This situation can be attributed to an unequal—but politically necessary—compromise that took place between the great Allied victors of the Second World War and the remainder of the UN membership. The result was a division of powers between the Security Council and the General Assembly that has never found a satisfactory equilibrium. In light of this predicament, the author argues that a 1950 General Assembly resolution should be re-examined in the modern context as a possible means of mitigating the bad faith exercise of the veto. The ‘Uniting for Peace’ resolution, drafted by a P5 member, revealed the latent powers of the General Assembly existing within the UN Charter to make recommendations in lieu of a blocked Council, up to and including the use of force. However, it went too far when it assigned to the Assembly a role that effectively usurped the primary role of the Security Council in the maintenance of international peace and security. When P5 members realized that it potentially restricted their respective sovereign interests, it was relegated to obscurity. Nevertheless, read down to reflect a constitutional balance between the UN’s primary organs, the resolution represents a viable tool capable of overcoming the worst effects of a veto exercised in circumstances that cry out for an international response. (13 August 2013)

Photo by the blowup on Unsplash

20 September
Zelensky takes aim at the UN Security Council
(GZERO) He joined the chorus of others calling for urgent reform of the powerful body, arguing that Russia’s veto power is undermining the Council’s mission. “Ukrainian soldiers are doing with their blood what the UN the Security Council should do by its voting,” he said.
Crucially, Zelensky proposed a change to rules that would allow the UN General Assembly – composed of 193 states – to override UNSC resolutions with a two-thirds majority. But as things are currently structured, that vote itself would be subject to … a UN Security Council veto.
Zelensky Tells U.N. Security Council It’s Useless While Russia Has a Veto –
(NYT)The Ukrainian president joined many world leaders in calling for changes at the Security Council, where five permanent members wield veto power — a high barrier to taking action
(CBC radio The Current) Canada’s Ambassador to the UN Bob Rae discusses escalating tensions at this week’s UN General Assembly, where Ukraine contested Russia’s veto power and Canada sought out allies in its diplomatic dispute with India. (podcast)

18-19 September
The main storylines at a gloomy United Nations
Analysis by Ishaan Tharoor
(WaPo) …some of the United Nations’ current structures — in particular, the Security Council — have proved more dysfunctional than helpful. The veto-wielding influence of the five permanent members has made the body the repeated source of global opprobrium. On the economic front, countries in the developing world have been clamoring for a greater stake in institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
But amid great power tussles, the likelihood for significant reforms seems remote. “The gap between the demand for international cooperation and its supply is widening. Humanity is grappling with simultaneous, compounding, and rapidly evolving challenges,” wrote Stewart Patrick and Minh Thu Pham of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, listing out a range of crises including economic inequity, climate change, global refugee spikes, fraying democracies and the fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“On these and other issues, the U.N. has fallen short, both because it is no longer fit for purpose and because its member states do not trust one another,” they added.
UN General Assembly: What to expect as world leaders gather this week
World leaders head to New York to take part in high-level United Nations talks. Here’s all you need to know.
(Al Jazeera) This year’s General Debate is being held under the theme, “Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all”.
What topics will be discussed?
The invasion has renewed calls to expand decision-making power on the 15-member UN Security Council, where Russia is among the five permanent members – alongside China, France, the United Kingdom and the US – who wield veto power.
Concerns over China, maritime security in the Pacific, supply-chain disruptions and human rights are also likely to emerge, particularly as some observers have questioned Beijing’s growing influence at the UN.
Recent coups in Africa, notably in Niger, may also receive heightened attention, as will ongoing conflicts in Sudan and Ethiopia. Meanwhile, ongoing humanitarian crises in places such as Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa and Latin America – and their role in a global migration crisis – may also feature prominently.
These Stories Will Drive the Agenda During UNGA78
A preview of the most important week of international diplomacy
(Global Dispatches) UNGA78 will be the first time that Volodymyr Zelenskyy sets foot in United Nations since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He is scheduled to deliver his General Assembly address on Tuesday, just a couple hours after President Biden. This is a prime speaking slot.
Ukraine + The Black Sea Grain Initiative
For Antonio Guterres, UNGA is an opportunity to try and revive the Black Sea Grain Initiative. The UN helped broker this deal in which Russia permitted the export of Ukrainian grain to Turkey, where it would be inspected then sent along to destinations in the Middle East and Africa. Russia unilaterally let that deal lapse in July — and subsequently began a war on food, bombing grain silos, ports, and setting fire to 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. Last week, he announced that he will be holding a series of bi-lateral meetings with Zelenskyy, Erdogan and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss reviving the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Do not expect any major breakthroughs during UNGA—Russia seems intransigent. But do expect this to be a major focus of Antonio Guterres throughout the week that may bear fruit down the road.
Rescuing the Sustainable Development Goals
The SDGs are suffering. 2023 marks the halfway point of the Sustainable Development Goals, and most of the them are off track. COVID had a particularly deleterious impact on the SDGs, which are due in 2030. Not only did progress stall during the pandemic, but many of the goals saw substantial reversals. One of they key focuses of UNGA this year is to reinvigorate progress on the SDGs.
To that end, there are several key meetings throughout the week—top among them an SDG Summit that kicks off High Level Week on Monday morning.
Financing For Development
A second key meeting directly related to the SDGs is a “High Level Dialogue on Financing for Development.” Don’t let the dry name fool you—this is one of the most important happenings at the UN this week. A meaningful outcome will determine progress on both the SDGs and Paris Climate Agreement.
Three Global Health Meetings
UNGA78 is very much a global health focused affair. There are no fewer than three major health related high level meetings this week. On Wednesday, leaders will gather for the High Level Meeting on Pandemic Preparedness. … A second key meeting on Wednesday is around Universal Health Coverage. Officials see “UHC” as a clear pathway for progress on all the health related SDGs.
The final major health event is a summit on Tuberculosis. TB is one of the world’s leading killers—despite being preventable and easily treated.
Climate Ambition Summit
Climate concerns will pervade all UNGA events, particularly in light of the record breaking heat this summer and devastating flooding last week in Libya. The climate centerpiece of UNGA78 will be the Secretary General’s Climate Ambition Summit on Wednesday. Antonio Guterres has long identified climate as his top priority as Secretary General and he is using his conventing power around a summit in which the price of admission are concrete climate commitments—so expect new announcements from both government leaders and the private sector at this event.

16 September
Bob Rae says countries must work together to shore up infrastructure as disasters multiply
Canada’s Ambassador to the UN Bob Rae says the recent deadly calamities in Libya and Morocco should be convincing the governments of the world to work together to harden vital infrastructure against natural disasters.
(The House, CBC radio) Rae, the former NDP premier of Ontario, told host Catherine Cullen that Canada must work with other nations to shore up infrastructure to prepare for future natural catastrophes — including ones driven by climate change, which are expected to become more common.
“What we bring to the table has to be engagement, a willingness to really listen carefully to what’s being said and how can we be constructive partners with everybody else in trying to make sure the global responses to these crises are more effective than they have been so far,” Rae said.
… Rae also said Trudeau would be leading a meeting at the UN on the situation in Haiti to try to push toward a solution.

15 September
Brookings experts on what to watch for at the 2023 UN General Assembly
George Ingram, Bruce Jones, John W. McArthur, Anthony F. Pipa, Amna Qayyum, Danielle Resnick, Landry Signé, and Priya Vora
A summit of renewal for the SDGs?
By John W. McArthur
U.N. summits can be important drivers of public attention and debate, but the bigger test is how they drive follow-on action. In the lead-up to this SDG summit, diplomatic negotiations have been fraught, and the political outcome document will not likely play a decisive role on its own. Constraints within the global financing architecture for sustainable development have been central to many tensions, with a number of emerging markets and developing economies keen for systemic reforms.
New South rising
By Bruce Jones
As more leaders than ever gather in New York for the U.N. meetings, there are many issues on the formal agenda: climate, sustainable development, health, debt, food security, the fallout from the Ukraine war. In real terms, though, one issue dominates: the Global South’s push for new agency and new weight in the changing order.
Priorities for Africa
By Landry Signé
…this year will be unique for Africa given the myriad of challenges faced by the continent. Beyond the UNGA general debates, where we expect African countries to make their voices loud and clear regarding their role in reimagining multilateralism to solve African and global challenges, three summits and high-level dialogues will be consequential for African countries.
SDG Summit (September 18-19); … High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development (September 20); and Climate Ambition Summit (September 20)
Africa remains one of the regions of the world with an enormous gap between the SDG targets and achievements. Most African countries are making but little progress, and estimates show that most targets will be missed by 2030 unless policymakers adopt and successfully implement transformational policies. …

14 September
UN Chief: Urgent global problems can’t be fixed until Ukraine war ends
One of the biggest questions ahead of this year’s annual UN General Assembly (UNGA) week of high-level meetings is how much time will be spent talking about Ukraine. The war dominated last year’s UNGA, but much of the developing world, including many of the African nations that make up the Global South, want to shift the focus to getting international development back on track–to talking about debt relief and increasing access to financing. They want to see real progress on the much-vaunted “Sustainable Development Goals” that member nations have vowed to accomplish by 2030.  What they don’t want to do is to spend the entire week talking about a distant European war.
In an exclusive interview with GZERO World, UN Secretary-General António Guterres assures Ian Bremmer that global development will be front and center at this year’s summit. And yet, he also says that “the single most important thing is to have peace in Ukraine….The war in Ukraine is a complicating actor in everything else. And so, the first thing that we need is to stop that war.”
It remains to be seen if the Ukraine war will suck all the oxygen out of the room, and if member nations can agree on which urgent global challenges to tackle first.

8 September
UN General Assembly Speaker Schedule Released
(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.

7 July
How America Can Win Over the Global South
It’s Time to Expand the UN Security Council
(Foreign Affairs) Across much of the world, there is growing resentment about the amount of attention and money that the West is funneling toward Ukraine. Countries outside Europe are plagued by war and hardship, yet their suffering commands only a fraction of the attention paid to Kyiv. …
This discontent poses a challenge for the Biden administration. In fighting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression, and in dealing with the economic, political, and territorial ambitions of an ascendant China, the United States will need to look beyond its stalwart Western allies and shore up support worldwide. It will especially need to bolster its ties to the many rising powers, such as Brazil and India, that currently balance between Washington and its main rivals. …
These countries have diverse interests, making it impossible for the United States to please them all. But there is a way for Washington to take the lead in supporting these countries’ ambitions and reflecting their increasing clout: jump-starting the long-stalled debate over expanding the UN Security Council. Many of the world’s most powerful developing states have long sought a place in the body, and a credible U.S. drive to add them would have singular, symbolic significance. If successful, the drive could also yield practical benefits. An updated global security architecture would fortify the post-1945 rules-based system that the Biden administration champions, tamp down on geopolitical resentments fostered by the West’s perceived influence hoarding, and offer possible ways to more effectively isolate and stigmatize China and Russia when they breach global norms.

28 June
UN Security Council Reform: What the World Thinks
(Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) To illuminate the shifting diplomatic landscape, fifteen scholars from around the world address whether the UN Security Council can be reformed, and what potential routes might help realize this goal.

  1. Cutting the Gordian Knot: Global Perspectives on UN Security Council Reform
    Stewart Patrick
  2. Africa
    Sithembile Mbete
  3. Brazil
    Matias Spektor
  4. China
    Zhang Guihong
  5. France
    Alexandra Novosseloff
  6. Germany
    Christoph Heusgen
  7. India
    Rohan Mukherjee
  8. Japan
    Phillip Y. Lipscy
  9. Mexico
    Miguel Ruiz Cabañas Izquierdo
  10. Nigeria
    Adekeye Adebajo
  11. Russia
    Andrey Kolosovskiy
  12. Singapore
    Joel Ng
  13. South Africa
    Priyal Singh
  14. Turkiye
    Barçin Yinanç
  15. United Kingdom
    Richard Gowan
  16. United States
    Anjali Dayal

28 May
Poutine, son veto et la crédibilité de l’ONU
La Russie a récemment assumé la présidence du Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU. Comment est-ce compatible avec sa mission de maintien de la paix ?
— Jacques Châles
(La Presse) « Si on n’avait pas le système diplomatique multilatéral qu’on a là, si on n’avait pas la Russie et même la Chine aux côtés d’autres puissances globales dans la même salle, on n’aurait pas de forum. Ce serait pire. »
— Fannie Lafontaine, titulaire de la Chaire de recherche du Canada sur la justice internationale pénale et les droits fondamentaux, de l’Université Laval
L’experte pense toutefois que « l’avenir va certainement passer par des réformes ». Notamment pour faire davantage de place aux pays du continent africain.
Chose certaine, l’idée d’une réforme du Conseil de sécurité est en train de faire son chemin. L’automne dernier, lors de l’Assemblée générale des Nations unies, plusieurs chefs d’État ont réclamé des changements. Y compris le président américain, Joe Biden.
« Le temps est venu où cette institution doit devenir plus inclusive afin de mieux répondre aux besoins du monde d’aujourd’hui », a-t-il dit.

1-2 April
Kinsman solo; Russia chairing the UN Security Council
(CTV) It seems the “peace loving” Russia’s ambassador has taken the Chair of the Security Council with no apparent challenge at the outset. The discussions will no doubt become more difficult once the Council faces some serious, substantive rather than procedural issues. The Council president will be in a tricky situation, splitting his official Council role and his being the representative of his country at war- now that the term can be used without fear of a jail sentence.
Apart from substance, what to look for? More closed door sessions and probably a number of non council member states, including Ukraine seeking to address the council. On verra.
I suppose that the Council still has a separate, adjoining “private” room, set up and run more or less the same way as the council itself. That used to be and probably is now, where the informal, off the record,discussions could be more candid- and often heated- than in the sessions open to the media and a small audience. But official statements and any voting of course would take place in the formal setting, once the Council members file out Into and take their places in the “real” chamber. (Chuck Svoboda)
Russia takes UN Security Council presidency
Moscow will hold the UN Security Council’s rotating presidency for the month of April. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has vowed to increase munitions supplies to Russian forces in Ukraine.
the United States urged Russia to “conduct itself professionally” while holding the position. The US said that there was no way to prevent Russia from assuming the presidency.
UN member states take on the rotating presidency of the Security Council in alphabetical order according to the English-language names of each country.
The council’s presidency will be held by Russia for the month of April, after which it will be replaced by Switzerland. Russia’s presidency follows that of Mozambique.
Ukraine furious over Russian UN Security Council presidency

29 March
How a small island got world’s highest court to take on climate justice
The small Pacific island nation of Vanuatu won a major victory to advance international climate law Wednesday after it persuaded the U.N. General Assembly to ask the world’s highest international court to rule on the obligations of countries to address climate change. …
Wednesday’s decision was also a measure of how much global attitudes about the urgency of addressing climate change have shifted in recent years. A similar effort in 2011 by two other island nations, Palau and the Marshall Islands, failed at the United Nations. This time, Vanuatu obtained co-sponsorship from more than 120 countries, including Britain, France, Germany and other industrialized nations with a long history of high emissions.

20 March
Timothy Snyder: Putin’s legal troubles
A quick survey of recent and drastic problems
…a good case can be made that Russia has no right to chair the Security Council at all, since the Russian Federation never formally joined the United Nations. The Soviet Union was a permanent member of the Security Council; but the Soviet Union is not Russia, and ceased to exist more than thirty years ago. All of the other post-Soviet states were either already members of the UN as Soviet republics (Ukraine or Belarus) or went through the application procedure to join. Russia never in fact did this. Ukrainian diplomats refer to Russia as “occupying the seat of the Soviet Union,” and this formulation is precise. There is no doubt that Russia’s formal role at the UN has provided cover for its crimes, so the crimes are as good a reason as any to reconsider that formal role.

5th United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5)
5 – 9 March 2023
Doha, The State of Qatar
LDC5: World leaders back ‘blueprint for recovery, renewal, resilience’ in least developed countries
The Fifth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) concluded on Thursday with countries adopting concrete measures to implement the Doha Programme of Action (DPoA) – which aims to renew and strengthen commitments between LDCs and their development partners – marking a transformative turning point for the world’s most vulnerable countries.
The Doha Political Declaration was adopted to a round of applause in the plenary hall of the Qatar National Convention Centre, where LDC5 has been under way since 5 March.
Ushering in new era of solidarity, and enormous socio-economic benefits for world’s Least Developed Countries, today’s action comes nearly one year after the DPoA was adopted at the first part of the Conference on 17 March 2022 in New York.
The Declaration outlines measures to promote transformation and unlock the potential of LDCs, including the development of a system of reserves or alternative means, ranging from cash transfers to comprehensive multi-hazard crisis mitigation and resilience-building measures for the least developed countries.
LDC5: Proposed online university sparks hope of bridging education gap in least developed countries
(UN News) A proposed new global online university “has enormous potential to lend hope, learning and access to marginalized groups who presently could not reach higher education.” This is the message of Rabab Fatima, Secretary-General of…LDC5. “Clearly, the education systems in the LDCs require significant development to equip their young people with the skills they need for the future,” said Ms. Fatima, who is also the UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS)
‘Courage and audacity’: Young voices steer change at UN meeting
From climate change to digital inclusion, young delegates make their opinions heard at the UN’s Least Developed Countries conference.
(Al Jazeera) Representatives from the world’s poorest nations gathered for a five-day conference to determine how to achieve crucial development goals – from food security to access to clean energy by 2030.
But among the business suits and dry speeches, young delegates emerged to make sure their views were also part of the debate.
There are 46 LDCs and the summit is usually held every 10 years. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was postponed twice. This was the fifth such summit but the first where a number of roundtables, forums, and meetings were specifically designed for young participants to empower them in furthering progress.
About 60 percent of the population in the least developed countries are below 25 years of age, according to UN data. The number of those aged 15 to 24 is projected to grow to 336 million by 2050.

7 March
New UN rights chief opens ‘communication’ with China
Volker Türk’s first speech falls short of activists’ hopes for a tougher stand after UN report on abuses in Xinjiang.
(Al Jazeera) The new United Nations human rights chief has said his office has opened “channels of communication” to help follow up on concerns about the rights of minorities in the western Xinjiang region of China, including Uighur Muslims and Tibetans.
In a highly anticipated address on Tuesday, which marked the first presentation of the office’s annual report since he took office in October, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk noted that his office had called for a “concrete follow-up” on abuses including arbitrary detentions and family separations in Xinjiang.
Türk has been under pressure from Western nations and rights organisations to take a firm stand on Xinjiang following a bombshell report published in August by his predecessor, Michelle Bachelet, which cited possible crimes against humanity.
His remarks fell short of activists’ hopes for a stronger message to Beijing. The former head of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, said that Türk had “mouthed not a word of criticism of China”.

5 March
5th UN Conference on least developed countries opens in Qatar
Heads of states and officials from different nations met in Doha on Sunday for the opening of the 5th United Nations Conference on the least developed countries.
The conference opened with remarks from the president of the conference Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, Emir of Qatar, in which he criticised delays of humanitarian aid to Syria following the devastating earthquake. …
Climate change and its effects on least developed countries was one of main topics discussed during the opening.
Csaba Kőrösi, President of the 77th session of the General Assembly warned of the “ominous” effects of climate change on least developed countries, stating that the demand for water is expected to exceed supply by 40% by the end of the decade.

6 February
UN chief fears world is heading towards ‘wider war’ over Russia-Ukraine conflict
António Guterres warns in speech to general assembly that ‘chances of escalation and bloodshed are growing’
The secretary general laid out his priorities for the year in a gloomy speech to the UN general assembly that focused on Russia’s invasion, the climate crisis and extreme poverty.
“We have started 2023 staring down the barrel of a confluence of challenges unlike any in our lifetimes,” he told diplomats in New York.
Guterres noted that top scientists and security experts had moved the Doomsday Clock to just 90 seconds to midnight last month, the closest it has ever been to signalling the annihilation of humanity.
The Doomsday Clock is now at 90 seconds to midnight — the closest we have ever been to global catastrophe
The secretary general said he was taking it as a warning sign.
“We need to wake up – and get to work,” he implored, as he read out a list of urgent issues for 2023.
Top of the list was Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“The prospects for peace keep diminishing. The chances of further escalation and bloodshed keep growing,” he said.
Guterres referenced other threats to peace, from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Afghanistan, Myanmar, the Sahel and Haiti.
“If every country fulfilled its obligations under the [UN] charter, the right to peace would be guaranteed,” he said.
He added it is “time to transform our approach to peace by recommitting to the charter – putting human rights and dignity first, with prevention at the heart”.

22 January
Willis Sparks: The UN rule you may not know
Maybe you’ve heard that debate is underway at the United Nations about how to respond to Russia’s invasion … and you’re wondering what’s the point … because you’re remembering that Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, can veto just about anything it doesn’t like. Like any move to condemn Russia for invading Ukraine, for example. But this is the importance of UN General Assembly Resolution 377(V). Dating from 1950, this so-called Uniting for Peace Resolution offers a way past the veto. It stipulates that, in the case of an act of war, the General Assembly shall “consider the matter immediately with a view to making recommendations to members for collective measures.” In other words, the GA can vote to essentially override Russia’s veto. And since the GA voted in 2014 that the Russian seizure of Crimea violated Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the body will probably take a similar view of Russia’s all-out war on the rest of Ukraine. The GA could order a UN investigation, call for more sanctions on Russia, or even move to kick Russia out of some UN bodies. Whether any of this will amount to more than powerful symbolism or add anything meaningful to the ongoing international response to Russia’s invasion is another matter. (2 March 2022)

UN official: Security Council Is “dysfunctional” – but UN is not
Volker Türk, the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is surprisingly candid about one of his organization’s most famous shortcomings.
The Security Council, which includes Russia as a permanent member, is “dysfunctional” on Ukraine, while the General Assembly has seen a sort of revival in how much it’s been able to help the country.
In a GZERO World interview on the ground in Davos, Türk tells Ian Bremmer that believes it is critical that the Ukrainians, just as much as the Russians, abide by international human rights law. And he’s been in close contact with the Ukrainian prosecutor general, who assures him he is investigating potential war crimes within his country’s military.

12 January
Ending Putin’s war in Ukraine starts with ending impunity: Canada’s UN ambassador
As another year begins, global crises continue to multiply, and the institutions put in place at the end of the Second World War to solve such problems are beset by crises of their own. Rae acknowledges the UN is flawed, but he has faith in multilateral organizations as the best starting point for collectively overcoming global challenges.


23 December
Diplomacy isn’t dead, but sometimes you can’t reason with a bully, says Bob Rae
War in Ukraine is not something global community can turn away from: Rae
Canada’s Ambassador to the UN Bob Rae says Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has ‘unleashed a global crisis,’ with consequences for inflation and the cost of living globally, food supply, energy stability and worldwide supply chains
Putin holds power to stop war: Rae
As the conflict currently stands, Rae said he’s not sure what there is to negotiate.
Ukraine does not intend to surrender, and Russia’s actions so far would cast doubt that even a temporary truce is not just “a build up for the next attack,” he said.
“President Putin has said so clearly on so many occasions that he does not believe in the separateness, in the otherness, in the distinctive identity of Ukraine,” Rae said.
“As long as he maintains the position that he has a right to do what he’s doing and that nobody can stop him … there won’t be a really secure peace.”

2 October
U.N. reform is a self-defeating idea — literally
By the (WaPo) Editorial Board
Russia’s war against Ukraine exposed and exploited weaknesses in existing international systems, the most glaring of which could be the legal framework of the United Nations. One of five veto-wielding permanent members of the U.N.’s highest peacekeeping authority, the Security Council, Moscow used that position to thwart measures such as global sanctions that might have helped rein in its aggression. [Russia vetoes UN resolution calling its referendums illegal] This abuse of power, in the cause of destroying a recognized U.N. member no less, certainly made President Biden’s appeal for U.N. reforms during his Sept. 21 address to the General Assembly a timely one. The situation unfortunately also illustrates why the president should not spend too much more of his valuable time on this oft-stated but elusive goal.

In proposing that not just Moscow but all permanent Security Council members — including the United States, China, France and Britain — should avoid using the veto, and that they should express detailed reasons when they do, Mr. Biden was associating the United States with long-standing complaints from among the U.N.’s 188 other member states about the “P-5’s” undue clout. Ditto for his promise to support permanent membership for one country each from Africa and Latin America, as well as for other “nations we’ve long supported” — likely a reference to Japan and Germany.
This suggestion might help Mr. Biden curry a little short-run diplomatic favor with these nations, but any such plan is a nonstarter because — Catch-22! — China and Russia would veto it. No doubt Beijing and Moscow have their own ideas for new permanent Security Council members, but it’s unlikely Japan and Germany — with which they have warred in the past, and which are current U.S. military allies — are on the list. Maybe China would recommend its friend Pakistan instead of India, another frequently mentioned candidate. India is arguably deserving, given its vast size and nuclear arsenal — and arguably not, given its recent authoritarian drift and acquisition of those weapons outside of the U.N.’s nonproliferation treaty regime.

21-22 September
Multilateralism needs an overhaul. Here’s where to start.
By Yomna Gaafar
The world leaders gathering in New York this week face a world growing more volatile by the day—and they are acting within a system ill-equipped to handle the moment. To meet today’s challenges and take advantage of tomorrow’s opportunities, they must change how they work and rethink multilateralism.
(Atlantic Council) The UN General Assembly is gathering this week at a precarious time for multilateralism. Global economic uncertainty and a major war in Europe have put escalating pressure on the kinds of cooperation and institutions that flowered following World War II and have helped lift millions of people from poverty, promote shared prosperity, and avoid major conflicts. But it will not be possible to solve twenty-first-century challenges with a system designed for the twentieth century. This is an urgent moment to rethink and reform these vital institutions.
Drowning island nations: ‘This is how a Pacific atoll dies’
While world leaders from wealthy countries acknowledge the “existential threat” of climate change, Tuvalu Prime Minister Kausea Natano is racing to save his tiny island nation from drowning by raising it 13 to 16 feet (4 to 5 meters) above sea level through land reclamation.
While experts issue warnings about the eventual uninhabitability of the Marshall Islands, President David Kabua must reconcile the inequity of a seawall built to protect one house that is now flooding another one next door.
That is the reality of climate change: Some people get to talk about it from afar, while others must live it every day.
Natano and Kabua tried to show that reality on Wednesday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. Together they launched the Rising Nations Initiative, a global partnership aimed to preserve the sovereignty, heritage and rights of Pacific atoll island nations whose very existence has been threatened by climate change.
Five key takeaways from Joe Biden’s UNGA speech
In wide-reaching UN address, US president slams Russia and says Washington not seeking ‘cold war’ with Beijing
Calls for reforming UN Security Council
Biden called for reforms to the UN Security Council (UNSC) to make it more inclusive and better equipped to respond to global challenges.
He said the number of countries who sit on the 15-member body should be increased. Currently, the UNSC has five permanent members – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the US – and 10 rotating states elected to two-year terms.
“We have long supported permanent seats for countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean,” Biden told the General Assembly.
… “Members of the UN Security Council, including the United States, should consistently uphold and defend the UN Charter and refrain from the use of the veto except in rare, extraordinary situations to ensure that the council remains credible and effective,” Biden said.
At UN, Russia’s war in Ukraine is both text and subtext
(AP) — After two years of discourse dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s U.N. General Assembly has a new occupant of center stage: the war in Ukraine.
The pleas made by leaders from around the world for peace were both an altruistic amplification of besieged Ukrainians’ plight as well as born from self-interest. As several speeches made clear, the repercussions of the Russian invasion have been felt even thousands of miles away.
“It is not just the dismay that we feel at seeing such deliberate devastation of cities and towns in Europe in the year 2022. We are feeling this war directly in our lives in Africa,” Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo said Wednesday. “Every bullet, every bomb, every shell that hits a target in Ukraine, hits our pockets and our economies in Africa.”
The speeches that elided any direct reference to the conflict were few, but the war resonated even in the absence of its direct invocation. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the president of Kazakhstan, never let the words “Ukraine” or “Russia” slip from his lips, but he made several seemingly pointed allusions.
One day after Zelenskyy speech, US, Russia square off at UN
(AP) — One day after Ukraine’s president laid out a forceful case against Russia’s invasion at the United Nations, the United States made its own assertions in front of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday about why Russia should face further censure and isolation. Minutes later, Russia came right back, calling the claims unfair and saying Ukraine is to blame.
Antony Blinken, the United States’ top diplomat, spoke to Security Council members on Thursday, detailing allegations of what he called war crimes and other atrocities committed by Russia and urging them to “send a clear message” to the country to stop its nuclear threats.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, addressed the Security Council shortly afterward, repeating his country’s frequent claims that Kyiv has long oppressed Russian speakers in Ukraine’s east — one of the explanations Moscow has offered for the invasion.
Biden criticizes Iran and China on human rights and security issues.
President Biden pledged that the United States would work to defend human rights throughout the world, and called out abuses by China, Iran, Afghanistan and Myanmar.
In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, President Biden criticized the governments of Iran and China for their human rights records, while vowing that the United States would always stand up for those rights.
Alluding to the protests that have erupted in Iran over the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was arrested by the country’s morality police last week allegedly for violating dress codes, Mr. Biden said the United States stood with “the brave citizens and brave women of Iran, who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights.”
And with talks stalled on restoring the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which President Donald J. Trump abandoned, Mr. Biden implicitly threatened to use force if necessary to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but said that he wanted to prevent conflict.
Biden called for reforms to the UN Security Council (UNSC) to make it more inclusive and better equipped to respond to global challenges.
He said the number of countries who sit on the 15-member body should be increased. Currently, the UNSC has five permanent members – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the US – and 10 rotating states elected to two-year terms.
“We have long supported permanent seats for countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean,” Biden told the General Assembly.
Permanent members of the council have veto power that limits the council’s ability to pass resolutions against them or their allies.
Although Washington has deployed its veto power on the Security Council dozens of times to shield Israel, a top US ally, from criticism over violations of international law, Biden said on Wednesday that vetoes should be used sparingly.
At UN, hope peeks through the gloom despite a global morass
(AP) Hope: It can be hard to find anywhere these days, much less for the people who walk the floors of the United Nations, where shouldering the world’s weight is central to the job description. After all, this is an institution that listened last year as the president of the not-yet-at-war nation of Ukraine described it as being “like a retired superhero who has long forgotten how great they once were.”
And when world leaders are trying to solve some of humanity’s thorniest problems — or, to be frank, sometimes to impede solutions to those same problems — it’s easy, from a distance, to lose sight of hope through the haze of negative adjectives.
Yet beneath the layers of existential gloom Tuesday — and this is no doubt a pandemic-exhausted group of people representing a world in a really bad mood from so many disquieting challenges — there were signs of brightness poking through like persistent clovers in the sidewalk cracks.

20 September
Russia’s Invasion Shadows U.N. Assembly Amid ‘Colossal Global Dysfunction’
Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Emmanuel Macron of France used the gathering as a stage to cast themselves as would-be peacemakers in the war in Ukraine.
(NYT) Divided by war, strained by shortages and faced with the cataclysm of global warming, dozens of world leaders convened at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday for the first full, in-person General Assembly since the pandemic began.
Among all the global crises, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine dominated the day, with heads of state addressing the violence of the conflict, the chaos in supply chains, the soaring energy prices and the other ripple effects of the war.
“We cannot go on like this,” said António Guterres, the U.N. secretary general, in opening remarks to the assembly. “We have a duty to act. And yet we are gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction.” …
As a member of the U.N. Security Council, Russia holds veto power over its actions, leaving nations and allied blocs to come up with their own policies — and forcing Mr. Guterres to focus on specific crises, like a deal to get grain exports out of Ukraine’s ports and a mission to stabilize a Russian-controlled nuclear plant in Ukraine.

19 September
Ian Bremmer: War in Ukraine looms large as world leaders meet at the United Nations
The mood in New York ahead of the 77th UN General Assembly is understandably bleak.
World leaders are gathering this week in sunny New York City for the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, after more than two years of limited in-person attendance due to pandemic restrictions.
The mood is sure to be gloomy. From the war in Ukraine to growing food insecurity, the global energy crisis, and the devastating impacts of climate change, there is no shortage of problems to discuss.
… Tensions are running especially high this year, as geopolitical rifts between the United States and its allies on one side, and Russia, China, and most developing nations on the other, are hardening on the back of the Russia-Ukraine war and its knock-on effects. These growing divides “are paralyzing the global response to the dramatic challenges we face,” Guterres said.
President Volodymyr Zelensky will address the General Assembly via a pre-recorded video—an exception granted exclusively to him—while Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba is attending in person. Russian President Vladimir Putin, the proverbial elephant in the room, is staying home, instead sending a delegation headed by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov—a wise decision in light of the lukewarm reception Putin got at the presumptively much friendlier Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Uzbekistan last week.
The leaders of Russia, China, India and Ethiopia will miss the General Assembly.
They will be represented by ministers who, in accordance with United Nations protocol, will deliver speeches later in the week after all the heads of states and governments have spoken at the General Assembly hall.
World leaders meet this week at UN General Assembly: All you need to know
The opening of the 77th session comes as the planet is beset with crises on nearly every front. Russia’s war in Ukraine, inflation and economic instability, terrorism and ideological extremism, environmental degradation and devastating floods, droughts and fires and the ongoing pandemic are just a few of the rampant perils.
Highlights: United Nations General Assembly High-Level Week 2022
The seventy-seventh session of the General Assembly opened on 13 September under the theme, “A watershed moment: transformative solutions to interlocking challenges.”
The theme stems from the recognition that the world is at a critical moment in the history of the United Nations due to complex and interconnected crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, humanitarian challenges of unprecedented nature, a tipping point in climate change as well as growing concerns about threats to the global economy.
It is therefore necessary to find and focus on joint solutions to these crises and build a more sustainable and resilient world for all and for the generations to come.

9 September
Austrian Takes Over as Top U.N. Human Rights Official
One of Volker Türk’s toughest challenges will be determining what to do about a highly critical report on China that his predecessor, Michelle Bachelet, released just before departing.
A week after Michelle Bachelet stepped down as the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, the U.N. has approved Volker Türk, an Austrian who is a trusted adviser to the secretary general, to take on the notoriously challenging job. … When Mr. Guterres led the U.N. refugee agency between 2005 and 2015, Mr. Türk worked alongside him, rising to become assistant high commissioner for protection. And when Mr. Guterres moved to New York to lead the United Nations, Mr. Türk followed to join the secretary general’s executive office, where he has worked since 2019 as undersecretary general for policy.
Among the most visible challenges awaiting him in his new post is how to follow up on the blistering report Ms. Bachelet released minutes before departing last week on China’s mass detention of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim groups in its far western region of Xinjiang. The report accused China of serious human rights violations and found that the country might have committed crimes against humanity in its crackdown in the region.
31 August
U.N. Says China May Have Committed ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ in Xinjiang
The organization’s human rights office delivered its much-delayed report minutes before Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, was to leave office.
In a long-awaited report released on Wednesday, the United Nations’ human rights office accused China of serious human rights violations that “may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity,” in its mass detention of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim groups in its far western region of Xinjiang.
The assessment was released shortly before midnight in Geneva and minutes before Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, was set to leave office.
The release ended a nearly year-long delay that had exposed Ms. Bachelet and her office to fierce pushback by rights groups, activists and others who had accused her of caving to Beijing, which had sought to block the report.
The report is “an unprecedented challenge to Beijing’s lies and horrific treatment of Uyghurs,” said Sophie Richardson, the China director for Human Rights Watch. “The high commissioner’s damning findings explain why the Chinese government fought tooth and nail to prevent the publication of her Xinjiang report, which lays bare China’s sweeping rights abuses.”

4 July
Rethinking the Global Order
Turki bin Faisal al-Saud
For decades, it has been obvious that the UN system needs to be reformed to account for the realities of the twenty-first century. Yet recommendations to restructure global governance have been ignored by those with the power to carry them out, leaving us with a world of multiplying crises for which there are few solutions.
(Project Syndicate) Intensifying great-power confrontations and deglobalization are jeopardizing world peace and security. New crises seem to be lurking around every corner, but appropriate solutions are nowhere to be seen – not in the Far East, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, or Latin America. The popular mood has darkened, reinvigorating populism, nationalism, Islamophobia, and other atavistic trends that threaten the progressive achievements humanity has made since World War II. The Ukraine crisis itself is a symptom of deeper structural problems in the international order. That order, led by the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), has failed to live up to the principles of good governance enshrined in the UN Charter.
… while our increasingly integrated world has changed dramatically since the UN’s founding, our organizing principles still reflect the mentality of the post-war and Cold War era. Within the current framework, a failure to respond to global challenges is a failure of the entire international community. Can the system be reformed? Calls since the early 1990s to restructure the UN system – the avatar for the broader international order – have consistently fallen on deaf ears. Worse, Russia and China are now using their seats at the helm of the international order to push for a more multipolar system. Rather than working to reform the current framework, they are challenging its validity.

29 June
New report by UN Human Rights shows the shocking toll of the war in Ukraine
The armed attack of the Russian Federation on Ukraine has led to a grave deterioration of the human rights situation in the country with thousands of civilians killed and injured, massive destruction to civilian infrastructure and housing, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance, torture and ill-treatment, and conflict-related sexual violence, says the new UN Human Rights report issued today.
The report is based on findings by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) and covers the period from 24 February until 15 May 2022.

27 April
UN takes a step towards addressing ‘veto problem’ which stopped it condemning Russia
Emma McClean, Senior lecturer in Law & Aidan Hehir, Reader in International Relations, University of Westminster
(The Conversation) The “veto problem” has plagued the UN since its inception and efforts have been made over the years to reform this. One or another of the P5 – the US, Russia, China, the UK and France – has always stymied those efforts in the past. But now, thanks to some imaginative thinking by the UN General Assembly, there is at least some progress in this area.
From now on, the General Assembly will automatically review any use of the veto by any of the P5. Within ten days of casting its veto, the P5 state is “invited” to justify its use of the veto before the General Assembly.
The problem of the veto has been a bleeding sore for the UN, effectively dashing hopes and expectations of using the United Nations to maintain a truly collective security. While France and the UK have not formally used their veto since 1989, Russia and the US continue to deploy it and China, having only used it once during the Cold War, has used it 13 times since 1990.
Unsurprisingly, there have been numerous proposals to solve the veto problem – most of which got no further than policy exhortations. By contrast, the most recent proposal for a review of veto use – launched in early April – gathered sufficient momentum not only to be debated, but to be “adopted by consensus” – reflecting the agreement of the entire General Assembly – in less than a month.

21 April
‘This is not about Russia, this is about multilateralism’
Christian Wenaweser, Liechtenstein’s UN Ambassador, on how his country’s veto initiative could help restore the United Nations’ effectiveness
(IPS) … The veto initiative is a simple idea, but we think it politically very meaningful. It simply says that every time a veto is cast in the Security Council, there is automatically a meeting convened by the General Assembly to discuss the proposed veto in the Security Council. So it’s an automatic mandate. It’s not subject to any further intervention or decision
We’re doing it because we believe in strong multilateralism. We have followed with growing concern the inability of the Security Council to take effective action against threats to international peace and security due to the very deep political divisions among the permanent members in the Council.
We are concerned about the negative impact that this has on the effectiveness of the United Nations. So if you look at our statements in the last five years or so, we have consistently advocated for a strong role of the General Assembly in matters of international peace and security as mandated by the Charter of the United Nations. This initiative is a meaningful step in that direction.We’re doing it because we believe in strong multilateralism. We have followed with growing concern the inability of the Security Council to take effective action against threats to international peace and security due to the very deep political divisions among the permanent members in the Council.
We are concerned about the negative impact that this has on the effectiveness of the United Nations. So if you look at our statements in the last five years or so, we have consistently advocated for a strong role of the General Assembly in matters of international peace and security as mandated by the Charter of the United Nations. This initiative is a meaningful step in that direction.
What are the chances for this resolution being adopted? There was some speculation that it is going to be discussed this week and there’s going to be a vote in the coming days.
The vote is not going to be this week. This week we will have a formal presentation with the membership. We will then look to get a date in the General Assembly soon thereafter. We are getting a strong positive response to this. So we are very confident that our text will be adopted.

15 April
A U.N. Security Council Permanent Member’s De Facto Immunity From Article 6 Expulsion: Russia’s Fact or Fiction?
(Lawfare) The conventional wisdom says that Russia cannot be expelled from the U.N., let alone kicked off its seat on the Security Council, because it is a permanent member of that council. In the weeks since Russia’s attack on Ukraine, much has been said and written on its legal implications. From an international law perspective, this failure in diplomacy and deterrence is a case study for students and observers of just war theory, economic warfare, “lawfare,” treaty obligations, jus in bello principles of the law of armed conflict, and the effect of modern technology on the proliferation of propaganda and misinformation as well as on the documentation of unlawful use of force in real time. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack has been so explicitly worthy of public condemnation and political sanction that reasonable people might expect that one simple and predictable consequence would be to expel Russia from the U.N., the important international organization devoted to protecting “peace, justice, respect, human rights, tolerance and solidarity” across the globe. But the resounding, though reluctant, retort has been to say that such expulsion is legally impossible.
Rather than swiftly dismissing the ability of the U.N. to expel Russia, a close reading of the U.N. Charter’s text and a mostly forgotten decades-old discussion by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) may reasonably suggest that the General Assembly does have that legal authority, regardless of any vote taken or not taken by the Security Council.
Can we? and Should we? are, of course, different questions. This post concerns only the narrower subject of interpreting the expulsion provision of the U.N. Charter; it also avoids the distinct legal and policy matter of whether the Russian Federation is, lawfully, a member of the Security Council at all when the charter itself assigned the responsibility to the U.S.S.R. and was never amended to reflect its dissolution.

10 April
After Russia’s Ukraine Invasion, Sharp Focus On Calls For UN Reform
Russia-Ukraine War: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a blistering call for the UN to exclude Russia from the Security Council, asked bluntly, “Are you ready to close the UN”

7 April
‘You don’t resign after you’re fired’: Russia quits human rights council after suspension – video
The UN general assembly has voted to suspend Russia from its leading human rights body over allegations of horrific rights violations by Russian soldiers in Ukraine, which the US and Ukraine say are tantamount to war crimes. Speaking after the vote, Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Gennady Kuzmin described the move as an ‘illegitimate and politically motivated step’ and said Russia had decided to quit the human rights council altogether. Under Thursday’s resolution, the general assembly could have later agreed to end the suspension, but that cannot happen now Russia has quit.
Jeremy Kinsman: Russia booted from the UN Human Rights Council – what does it mean? (CTV video)

6 April
What can the UN do to stop war?
Can the General Assembly step in when the Security Council is unable to take a decision on stopping a war?
(New Delhi TV) According to the General Assembly’s 1950 resolution 377A (V), widely known as ‘Uniting for Peace’, if the Security Council is unable to act because of the lack of unanimity among its five veto-wielding permanent members, the Assembly has the power to make recommendations to the wider UN membership for collective measures to maintain or restore international peace and security.
In addition, the General Assembly may meet in Emergency Special Session if requested by nine members of the Security Council or by a majority of the Members of the Assembly.
However, unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, meaning that countries are not obligated to implement them.

15 March
Russia’s veto makes a mockery of the United Nations Security Council
(Atlantic Council) “This is an extraordinary moment,” declared US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield during a recent UN General Assembly (UNGA) emergency special session on Ukraine. “Now, at more than any other point in recent history, the United Nations is being challenged. If the United Nations has any purpose, it is to prevent war, it is to condemn war, to stop war.”
With this purpose in mind, in a sweeping show of international unity, 141 countries voted in favor of an UNGA resolution demanding an immediate end to the Russian offensive in Ukraine. While non-binding and largely symbolic, this overwhelming show of global support for Ukraine came at a time when it was doubly needed, both for Ukraine itself and for the sake of the UN.
Only four countries joined Russia in voting against the resolution. To the surprise of nobody, the list included Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, and Syria. Thirty-five nations abstained.

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