UN, Reform & multilateralism October 2023-

Written by  //  November 15, 2023  //  Multilateralism, United Nations  //  No comments

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


Ceasefire or pause? Words UN members can’t agree on to stop Israel’s bombs
A look at the words dividing UN Security Council members in their efforts to temporarily halt fighting in Gaza.
Ceasefire – essentially means that the fighting stops. A ceasefire is subject to agreement by all parties and usually involves a formal political process with commitments to de-escalate conflict, such as withdrawing weapons or repositioning forces. It tends to cover the entire geographical area on which the war is being waged. It may lead to a permanent settlement.
This is the long-term option rejected by the US, the UK and other countries, which back Israel’s right to defend itself — by continuing its war on Gaza. By contrast, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has publicly called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.
Cessation of hostilities is generally less structured. Agreements don’t tend to cover issues like objectives, timelines, security and monitoring. They enable parties to break from fighting as a step to talking and perhaps moving towards a sustained ceasefire. In this sense, cessation could be viewed as a potential stepping stone towards ending the war.
Truce is even looser than a cessation of hostilities, with no formal negotiations. Parties in conflict may have decided to take a break after intensive combat. By their very nature, truces may come and go during a conflict, sometimes applying to specific areas. They can enable activities like the removal of the wounded or burial of the dead. It is understood that opposing forces should not change positions while a truce is in force.
Humanitarian pause refers to the temporary cessation of fighting, purely for humanitarian reasons…effectively a truce to allow passage of aid or displaced people.
Days of tranquility: a mechanism that would grant medics and other personnel access to war zones on specific days. It is often used by UNICEF to ensure that children have access to healthcare during conflict.

Photo by the blowup on Unsplash

UN Security Council adopts resolution calling for urgent humanitarian pauses and corridors in Gaza
(AP) — The U.N. Security Council approved a resolution Wednesday calling for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza Strip” after four failed attempts to respond to the Israel-Hamas war.

13 November
This Rare UN Peacekeeping Success Offers Model for Gaza
The Croatia mission was heavily armed, fully in charge and had a clear task.
Mark Champion
(Bloomberg) … That leaves the United Nations, widely dismissed due to its dismal record in keeping the peace where that doesn’t already exist. The list of horror stories, from Bosnia to Rwanda, is long. Yet there is one success that offers useful lessons to any transition force, or even a model: the 1996-1998 mission known as UNTAES, to a 2,600-square kilometer (1,000-square mile) area of Eastern Croatia.
the mission was one of few in UN peacekeeping history to be given full authority to administer the territory, rather than having to act at the discretion of a host state. The task was to hand over control to Croatian authorities at the end of the transition period, but how to get there was up to the UN personnel on the ground. In the meantime, the mission ran local services by retaining — rather than purging — the rebel Serbian authority’s functionaries. A mass grave was uncovered, indicted war criminals were pursued and, in one case, arrested.

11 November
Can the next UN vote stop Israel’s war on Gaza?
Malta has circulated a new draft resolution focusing on Gaza’s children, Al Jazeera has learned. Will the US veto it?
Tense and difficult negotiations continue at the United Nations Security Council in an effort to break the deadlock crippling the world’s most powerful decision-making authority – as death and despair rain down on Gaza.
Al Jazeera has learned that Malta’s ambassador to the UN, Vanessa Frazier, has circulated a new resolution among the Council members for consideration and a potential vote, hoping to finally pass a resolution on the war on Gaza, after serial failed efforts over the past month.
Malta is one of 10 elected members of the Council and has been the penholder on children in armed conflict since 2022. This position gives Malta the opportunity to play a leading role in the UNSC’s efforts to protect children in conflict zones. Diplomatic sources have told Al Jazeera that this new resolution is being drafted with a focus on children in the hopes that all 15 members of the UNSC can agree on protections for children in the ongoing conflict.

8 November
UN chief: Gaza death toll suggests Israel’s tactics are ‘clearly wrong’
Secretary-General António Guterres jabs Israel again.
(Politico Eu) U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday said the death toll in Gaza amid Israel’s war with Hamas demonstrates something is wrong with Israel’s military operations.
“There are violations by Hamas when they have human shields. But when one looks at the number of civilians that were killed with the military operations, there is something that is clearly wrong,” he said at the Reuters NEXT conference.
Guterres made those remarks as Israel continues to attack Gaza by air, expand its ground operation and impose a complete siege on 2.2 million people in Gaza, ignoring international calls for a cease-fire and pauses in the war.

2 November
Why did the United Nations hand a human rights job to Iran’s ambassador?
Andrew Tettenborn
(Spectator, UK) What does Iran have to teach the world about human rights? The United Nations appears to think we have plenty to learn from a pariah state which backs Hamas, arrests and beats women for failing to wear a hijab, executes protesters and hangs gay people. In Geneva, the Social Forum of the UN Human Rights Council – essentially a human rights jamboree – opens today; its chair is Ali Bahreini, Iran’s UN ambassador, who will oversee a conference discussing the contribution of science, technology and innovation to the promotion of human rights. Iran, which has used facial recognition technology to identify dissidents, is likely to have some expertise here.
The appointment is symptomatic of the way in which the UN is abandoning its role as honest broker and becoming partisan. The mask slipped last Tuesday when UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, having formulaically deplored Hamas’s raid of 7 October, made it abundantly clear he was not on Israel’s side. Referring to ‘years of suffocating occupation,’ he called, in effect, for an immediate ceasefire from the IDF, even as rockets fired from Gaza City continued to rain on civilians in southern Israel. Israel reacted furiously, saying it would deny visas to UN officials: Guterres, given a chance to retract and save face, instead doubled down, calling again this week for an immediate ceasefire. As the UN gets closer to becoming like Dr Johnson’s Ireland (a place where no-one ‘wears even the mask of incorruption’), it cannot really complain if its authority begins to drain away.
It’s true that, although there is a great deal wrong with the UN, the organisation still does much to keep the peace – at least where major powers are not directly involved and the Security Council cannot be stymied by a veto from Russia or China. However, with an organisation that has no troops of its own, any peacemaking ability depends on retaining world respect, which, in turn, depends on remaining ostensibly impartial. As soon as it, or its institutions, is seen to have been captured by a given interest group, this advantage evaporates. Members will be less prepared to provide it with troops, even if asked by the Security Council; warring parties will be less inclined to respect any troops in blue helmets who do arrive. Slowly but surely the UN is in danger of becoming either just an institution like the medieval papacy, to be brought in on behalf of whichever side can persuade it to intervene, or a well-meaning but ultimately ineffective organisation like the League of Nations in the 1930s.
31 October
Top UN official in New York steps down citing ‘genocide’ of Palestinian civilians
Craig Mokhiber, director of human rights body, accuses the US, UK and much of Europe as ‘wholly complicit in the horrific assault’
(The Guardian) The outgoing director’s departure letter did not mention the 7 October attack by Hamas on southern Israel killing more than 1,400 people and taking 240 hostages. Even more contentiously, his letter calls for the effective end to the state of Israel.
Mokhiber has worked for the UN since 1992, serving in a number of increasingly prominent roles. He led the high commissioner’s work on devising a human rights-based approach to development, and acted as a senior human rights adviser in Palestine, Afghanistan and Sudan.
A lawyer who specialises in international human rights law, he lived in Gaza in the 1990s.
In his role as director of the New York office of the high commissioner for human rights, he has come under occasional fire from pro-Israeli groups for his comments on social media.

30 October
Gaza needs equitable, long-term solution
UN deliberations show that an intractable deadlock prevails in the global political arena
Uday Bhaskar
(The Tribune, India) The vote at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Friday, which saw India’s abstention, is illustrative of the political deadlock over the war in Gaza.
A Jordan-drafted resolution that called for an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities, but did not make any mention of Hamas, got 120 votes in favour, 14 against and 45 abstentions.
Among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the US voted against the UNGA resolution; Russia, China and France were in favour; and the UK abstained. During the negotiations, Canada and the US co-sponsored an amendment seeking the introduction of a paragraph which would state that the UNGA “unequivocally rejects and condemns the terrorist attacks by Hamas that took place in Israel starting on October 7 and the taking of hostages, demands the safety, well-being and humane treatment of the hostages in compliance with international law, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.”
India voted in favour of the Canadian amendment, along with 87 other nations, while 55 member states voted against and 23 abstained. However, this fell short of the required majority and the final resolution had no mention of Hamas as a group or its terrorist tag.

27 October
The First Step Toward World Peace: Fix the United Nations
Louise Blais, a former Canadian ambassador to the UN, and consul general in Atlanta. She is now an advisor to the Pendleton Group and diplomat in residence at l’Université Laval.
The saddest part of the spectacle of three competing UN Security Council resolutions on the Israel-Hamas conflict all failing this week is that it was classic UNSC intractability and, as such, not a surprise.
(Policy) The inability of the Council to uphold and apply the UN Charter is all-too familiar. Decades of gridlock and self-interest on the part of certain members of the P5 were capped in 2022, when Russia, the aggressor, was able to veto Ukraine-related resolutions. That crisis could have been a turning point. A moment of reckoning for the United Nations. An “enough is enough” catalytic opportunity for a majority of the 193 to put their collective feet down.
The UN Charter provided the tool to do so in Article 27(3) which states that a party to a dispute in the Council (including both permanent and elected members) shall abstain from voting in decisions under Chapter VI of the Charter. In fact, in the first six years of the UN — between 1946 and 1952 — Security Council members regularly adhered to the obligatory abstention rule. Members that voluntarily abstained during this period include the UK, France, India, Pakistan.
Alas, over time, the P5 have curtailed the application of this mechanism. While there were private conversations about invoking Article 27(3) over Russia’s behavior, none of the 10 elected members had the courage, vision or backing to put forward a resolution. One can only assume that the other veto wielding powers; the US, UK, France and China had zero interest in supporting such a move for fear it would limit their own power in the future.
… I would argue that the General Assembly needs to pass an existential resolution; one that gives it precedence over the UNSC in times of conflict so that all countries who wish it can speak as equal members in the Great Hall of the UNGA, not as an afterthought to glaring inaction on the part of the UNSC. This way, each member state can speak, not as invited non-voting presenters in the undemocratic, cynical club that is the UN Security Council, but as equal nations.
Such a resolution should stipulate that the General Assembly can instruct the Security Council to take action to protect civilian life. This is possible. But it takes conviction.
The will of the two-thirds majority of the General Assembly is as close as you can get to fairness, legitimacy and the values that underpin the UN. I have rarely seen that majority act immorally. It is the ultimate protection against the self-dealing and gamesmanship of the UNSC.

25-27 October
Here’s Where Every Country Stands on a Humanitarian Truce for Israel and Gaza
Results from a vote at the United Nations General Assembly
(Global Dispatches) …the United Nations General Assembly suspended its emergency meeting on Israel and Gaza to hold a vote on a resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian truce. The resolution was drafted by Jordan and co-sponsored by more than 40 other UN member states. This vote comes on the heels of failed efforts at the Security Council earlier this week to secure “humanitarian pauses” (as the United States insisted) or “an immediate ceasefire” (as the Russians demanded).
With those votes failing at the 15 member Security Council, the locus of diplomatic action shifted to the 193 member UN General Assembly. Here, every country has a vote and no country has a veto. The resolutions are not binding, but they are an important reflection of international sentiment. Today, it was clear that the overwhelming majority of UN member states want an immediate humanitarian truce.
The voting began with a Canadian amendment to the Jordan draft which included a direct condemnation of Hamas’ October 7 terrorist attack. Canada, the United States and many western countries insisted that this condemnatory language be included in order to secure their support. That amendment failed to garner the required two-thirds majority to pass, failing with a tally of 88 in favor, 53 against, and 23 abstentions.
With that amendment failed, the General Assembly voted on the original resolution which called for “an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities.” This language was crafted as a compromise…but its intention was clear: the fighting needs to halt immediately for humanitarian reasons.
After the Canadian amendment failed most European (and western) countries opted to abstain from the resolution, rather than joining the United States in voting against it. This includes Canada! It would seem that very few countries are willing to be on the record opposing a humanitarian truce as the conditions in Gaza so rapidly deteriorate.

UN rejects Canadian push to call out ‘deliberate cruelty’ of Hamas attacks
(CTV) …On the second day of an emergency session of the UN General Assembly, delegates debated the language of a draft resolution calling for a “truce” to allow aid to enter the Gaza Strip and trapped civilians to escape. But the resolution, introduced by the UN’s 22-nation Arab coalition, made no mention of Hamas, the attacks or the tactics employed by a group that has long been considered a terrorist organization by Canada and the U.S., among others.

UN General Assembly set to vote on nonbinding resolution calling for a `humanitarian truce’ in Gaza
(AP) The assembly’s emergency special session on Israeli actions, which began Wednesday, continued Friday with U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield echoing Israel’s envoy in calling the resolution to be voted on “outrageous” for never mentioning Hamas and saying it is “detrimental” to the vision of a two-state solution.
She said the United States backed a Canadian amendment, which will be voted on first, that would unequivocally reject and condemn the Oct. 7 “terrorist attacks” by Hamas and demand the immediate and unconditional release of hostages taken by Hamas. For adoption, the amendment must be approved by two-thirds of assembly members.
Jordan’s U.N. Ambassador Mahmoud Hmoud, speaking on behalf of the U.N.’s 22-nation Arab group, which drafted the resolution, called for an afternoon vote before all 112 speakers get to the assembly’s rostrum, because of the urgency of taking action.
The Arab group is seeking action by the 193-member world body because of the failure of the more powerful 15-member Security Council to agree on a resolution after four attempts.
At UN podium, Israel’s envoy plays gruesome Hamas attack video
(Reuters) Ambassador Gilad Erdan told diplomats the victim seen in the few seconds of footage he played for them on a tablet was not Israeli or Jewish, but an agricultural worker from Thailand.
Erdan’s comments were delivered as the assembly began a two-day meeting on the Middle East on Thursday.
It is due to vote on Friday on a resolution drafted by Arab states that calls for a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
At each seat in the hall at United Nations headquarters, Israeli diplomats placed a print out of a QR code with the title “Free Gaza from Hamas, scan to see Hamas’ atrocities”. It linked to photos and videos from the Oct. 7 attack.

US and Russia Offer Competing Security Council Resolutions on Gaza Crisis | Updates from a Dramatic Week at the UN
What’s even the difference between a “humanitarian pause” vs “ceasefire?”
Why “Humanitarian Pauses” vs “Ceasefire” is Becoming the Central Debate at the UN
(Global Dispatches) …an extremely contentious debate underway at the United Nations this week over whether to endorse a “humanitarian pause,” a “ceasefire,” — or neither.
Antonio Guterres is in a bit of trouble with Israel right now. At a Security Council meeting yesterday, Guterres reiterated his calls for a ceasefire, called for the immediate release of Israeli hostages, and unequivocally condemned the Hamas terrorist attack, saying “nothing can justify the deliberate killing, injuring and kidnapping of civilians.”
But then he added: “It is important to also recognize that the Hamas attacks did not happen in a vacuum. The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation.” (But he stressed again, “the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks of Hamas. And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”)
The Israelis took extreme exception to this. The Israeli foreign minister was intended to have a meeting with Antonio Guterres, along with family members of hostages. That meeting was cancelled. Then, Israeli’s UN ambassador went a step further and called for Antonio Guterres’ resignation.
…things escalated sharply overnight when Israel’s UN Ambassador said that Israel had denied a visa to Martin Griffiths, a British national and the UN’s top humanitarian official. “Due to his [Guterres’s] remarks, we will refuse to issue visas to UN representatives,” [Gilad] Erdan told Army Radio. “We have already refused a visa for Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths. The time has come to teach them a lesson.”
This is a big deal. Griffiths is the UN official most responsible for coordinating aid deliveries to Gaza from Egypt. That Israel is denying Griffiths a visa suggests that Israel’s commitment to allowing humanitarian aid to enter Gaza is rather tenuous — and a concession to the international community that can be easily revoked. Given the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza (the UN says its relief agencies will run out of fuel tonight) this is not a good sign at all.
Is Israel’s UN ban a blow to peace efforts?
If it was permanent, I’d say yes as it is. I think we won’t be talking about it in a few days. Look, obviously, on the back of these horrific terrorist attacks, everyone in Israel is on edge and more willing to lash out when they hear anything that sounds not 100% aligned with the message they want to hear. I’m empathetic to that, and I expect they’re going to back away, especially because the Secretary-General has been consistent in talking about how he has condemned Hamas terrorist attacks.

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