• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

UNGA and the parade of speakers

UNGA and the parade of speakers

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is a gathering that includes all presidents and heads of government from the 193 recognized independent countries around the world. It can be seen as a form of world government, as it operates on a “one-man-one-vote” or “one-head-of-state-one-vote” system, which is considered to be a democratic approach.

The UNGA is actually quite interesting when you take a closer look. While it may seem like it holds all the power, the truth is that the real power lies with the 15-member National Security Council. This council consists of five permanent members – the UK, France, USA, China, and Russia – who have a significant say in decision-making.

While the UNGA may seem like a democratic gathering, the power dynamics behind the scenes tell a different story

Now, here’s where it gets a bit arbitrary and outdated. The other 10 members of the council rotate among the rest of the UN members. This arrangement was actually put in place after World War II, favouring the victorious nations. However, it’s worth noting that some major players in the global economy, like Germany, Japan, Australia, Canada, Italy, and India, are not included as permanent members. Africa is not represented as a permanent member.

Read also: Tinubu to UNGA: Africa doesn’t wish to replace old shackles with new ones

So, while the UNGA may seem like a democratic gathering, the power dynamics behind the scenes tell a different story. It’s a complex system that could definitely use some creative rethinking to better reflect the realities of our modern world.

The 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly recently concluded in New York. During this session, world leaders came together to participate in high-level discussions on global issues, with a focus on 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.”

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) of 2020, was marked by significant discussions on various global issues. The COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian-Ukraine War were prominent topics of debate. The world is currently facing unprecedented challenges, including the perils of climate change, increasing inequality, and setbacks in global progress. These issues were at the forefront of discussions during the UN General Assembly. Additionally, the session took place during a time when the Earth was experiencing accelerated global warming. This has led to worsening poverty, food insecurity, and escalating humanitarian needs due to conflicts, inflation, and other factors.

Read also: 78th UNGA: Tinubu meets with OIC leadership, AU chairman

The high-level meetings during the UNGA were held amidst various global challenges. These challenges included the ongoing Russian-Ukraine crisis, emerging political crises in the West African subregion, global economic instability, and natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and fires. Given these circumstances, the chosen theme for this year’s UNGA is highly relevant.

Since its establishment in 1945 after World War II, the United Nations (UN) has faced criticism from international relations experts and public intellectuals. They argue that the organization has not lived up to the vision of its founders. In their view, the world today is plagued by various challenges such as inequality, poverty, hunger, armed conflicts, terrorism, insecurity, climate change, and pandemics. These issues have raised doubts about the effectiveness of the UN in addressing global problems.

During the past week, world leaders, including African leaders, have taken turns addressing the UNGA from the iconic green rostrum. These leaders have not only been speaking to the international community but also directly to their own citizens, emphasizing the importance of global issues and their impact on their respective countries. However, despite these discussions, the pressing challenges of hunger, inequality, climate change, and insecurity continue to loom over the world.

Read also: UNGA78: Tinubu denounces autocratic, coup regimes in Africa

African leaders emphasized the disproportionate impact of climate change on their continent, despite Africa’s lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to developed economies. They specifically mentioned the devastating flood in Libya caused by Storm Daniel, which tragically resulted in the loss of over 11,000 lives.

African leaders urged the international community to fulfil their previous pledge of providing $100 billion in annual climate finance. Nigeria’s President and the head of ECOWAS, Bola Tinubu, also addressed the issue of coups in the region and emphasized the importance of promoting democracy.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is responsible for upholding global peace and implementing its resolutions. Despite its efforts to condemn and resolve the conflict in Ukraine, the UNSC has been unsuccessful. This is largely due to the divergent interests of its five permanent members. Each member prioritizes their own national interests, resulting in varying interpretations of “world peace.”

Read also: Tinubu bans officials with no specific roles from attending UNGA

No country can claim to have completely clean hands when it comes to international affairs. For example, the United States has consistently used its veto power to block resolutions against Israel. The US sees Israel as a crucial ally in preventing the spread of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East, so it often supports Israel even when evidence of wrongdoing is presented.

Russia has exercised its veto power to block resolutions against Syria, citing similar reasons. China has also used its veto power to protect its actions in Tibet and Hong Kong. With each permanent member having the ability to veto resolutions, the Security Council is prone to permanent gridlock.

The United Nations was unable to intervene and bring an end to the Korean War in 1956, resulting in North and South Korea remaining technically at war to this day. Similarly, the UN was unable to effectively address the Nigerian civil war from 1966 to 1970. The conflict between Israel and Palestine has been a longstanding and highly complex issue for the UNSC, persisting since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

Despite the concerning situation in Ukraine since February 2022, many leaders in both the Security Council and the General Assembly do not consider it to meet the criteria for a “threat to world peace.”

Read also: Tinubu seeks US support for economy, accepts Biden’s UNGA invitation

While China may not approve of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, the United States and other Western countries view President Xi Jinping as a threat to their interests in the Pacific Region and beyond. They are actively working to undermine the Chinese Communist regime, particularly in the areas of technology and trade.

The situation in the breakaway region of Taiwan is also a potential flashpoint that could escalate similarly to the conflict in Ukraine if not handled with utmost diplomacy. As a result, President Xi Jinping is faced with limited options regarding his stance on the Ukraine issue. It is possible that rational thinking and diplomacy may prevail, or as some scholars suggest, it may require a catastrophic nuclear event on the battlefield to finally prompt the much-needed reform of the Security Council. However, by the time such a stage is reached, the world as we know it may no longer be worth preserving.

Fortunately, all the speakers have brilliantly concluded their remarks, and the next session of the UNGA will convene in September of next year at the organization’s headquarters in New York. We anticipate that similar issues will be addressed during the 79th General Assembly in 2024, also in the same venue. Thank you.