The intervention of the President of the United States, Joe Biden, before the UN General Assembly, meeting this week in its 78th period of sessions, recalled this Tuesday that the attention of the international community and the activity of high diplomacy continue to be monopolized for the war in Ukraine. “Russia believes the world will get tired and allow it to brutalize Ukraine without consequences. But I ask you this: If we abandon the basic principles of the UN Charter to appease an aggressor, can any Member State feel confident that it is protected? “If we allow Ukraine to be torn apart, is the independence of any nation secure?” Biden told the plenary at the opening session of the 78th General Assembly.
“The answer is no. We must confront this brazen aggression today to deter other potential aggressors tomorrow,” she stressed, while calling for more military aid for the Kiev Government. “That is why the United States, together with our allies and partners around the world, will continue to support the brave people of Ukraine in defending their sovereignty and territorial integrity, and their freedom.”
Just as the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, did in his inaugural speech, the US president urged the reform of the Security Council, an initiative in which he confirmed the start of “serious consultations” to address its expansion. The highest executive body of the UN, made up of 15 members, of which five, including the United States and Russia, are permanent, is blocked regarding the Ukrainian conflict due to Russia’s veto power, which has left each of its resolutions in this regard on empty paper. At this UN meeting, Biden proposed quickly sending an international force to Haiti to help his police combat the organized gangs that have hijacked the country’s security.
Biden joined the message that defines this General Assembly: the achievement of a “safer, more prosperous and more equitable world for all, because we know that our future is linked to yours. And (because) no nation can face today’s challenges alone,” he said, citing as examples “unprecedented heat waves in the United States and China. Forest fires ravaging North America and southern Europe. Fifth year of drought in the Horn of Africa. Tragic floods in Libya that have killed thousands of people”, snapshots that “urgently tell what awaits us if we do not reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and begin to prepare our world for climate change.” The president gave his Administration an example in combating this climate crisis: it is “(an) existential threat not only for us, but for all of humanity.” Regarding China, he assured that his Administration does not want the relationship with Beijing to “degenerate into conflict.”
The symbolic face-to-face intervention of the president of UkraineVolodymyr Zelensky, who participated last year by videoconference, has been the spearhead of kyiv’s renewed global image campaign, as the second year of the Russian invasion passes and after new purges in the Government to combat corruption. Dressed in khaki as usual, Zelensky has accused Russia of using energy and the shortage of raw materials such as grain as a weapon of war and has denounced the kidnapping of minors from the east of the country by Moscow, a forced deportation that he has not hesitated to accept. qualify as “genocide.”
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The comedian turned statesman has proposed a “summit for peace” to world leaders, which should not be confused with the invitation to bilateral dialogue with Russia that some southern countries, such as South Africa or Brazil, propose. “Russia uses the price of food (in reference to Ukrainian grain) and nuclear energy as weapons,” he said in the speakers’ gallery during his speech, to much applause. The UN is the main architect of the so-called Black Sea initiative, which has allowed the export of cereals, the basic diet of many southern countries, despite the setbacks of Moscow, which in July refused to extend it. The World Food Program purchased 80% of Ukrainian wheat grain production in July, 30% more than the previous year.
After highlighting the agreement for grain exports sponsored by the UN, which has allowed food to be supplied to “more than 40 nations,” Zelensky, who this Wednesday will present to the Security Council the details of his peace plan, supported by the US and the European Union, also accused the Kremlin of trying to gain the support of some unidentified countries with secret arrangements and warned them that the devil cannot be trusted. If Russia emerges victorious from the war, he warned, “many seats” in the room where the UN plenary meets will be empty, because wherever “the aggressor State passes,” it will leave “dust, ashes and ruin.”
Limited political relevance
The 78th period of sessions of the UN General Assembly, the annual event of international diplomacy, the big week, in theory, of negotiation and dialogue, started this Tuesday in New York with a program dominated by the intervention of great leaders such as Biden, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Volodímir Zelenski, although the political level of the call, with the agenda marked for the second consecutive year by the war in Ukraine, is rather limited: proof of this is that the president of the United States The United States will be the only leader of the five permanent member countries of the Security Council to speak before the plenary session. Emmanuel Macron and Rishi Sunak will not intervene on the part of France and the United Kingdom, not to mention Russia, relegated to the irrelevant session on Saturday, or China, which will not send its presidents either. The so-called global south, meanwhile, seeks to make itself heard above mentions of the war in Ukraine.
In his opening speech, Guterres opened the session with an express mention to the Derna catastrophe (Libya), where, he said, crises accumulate: that of an entrenched conflict, that of “climate chaos” and that resulting from the inability of its leaders – the two sides of the war that divide the country – to reach a peaceful agreement to resolve the misgovernment that has prevailed since 2011. Guterres, who never tires of repeating the pressing need to confront the climate emergency and move towards global equity and solidarity, has assumed that multilateral institutions are unable to respond to the challenges. “The world has changed, but our institutions have not,” said Guterres. “We cannot effectively confront problems as they are if institutions do not reflect the world as it is (now).”
“The time has come to renew multilateral institutions based on the economic and political realities of the 21st century, based on equity, solidarity and universality, anchored in the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law. This means reforming the Security Council in line with today’s world,” he said about the highest executive body of the organization, gripped by the veto power of Russia and China, and tied and inoperative in practiceas has been demonstrated Russian invasion of Ukraine. Failure to reform these institutions will lead “to greater fragmentation” in a world marked “by rising authoritarianism.”
After Guterres, and before Biden, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took the floor. “Brazil has returned to the forefront of the global community, to help face humanity’s global challenges, which can be summarized in one: inequality,” said the Brazilian president, who returned to the rostrum of the 20th Assembly. years after his first term. Lula emerged as the standard bearer of the global south, with a strong call to eradicate hunger and poverty, keys to inequality. “Hunger must be a central issue,” declared Lula, recalling that “735 million human beings are going to sleep tonight without knowing if they are going to eat tomorrow.”
The Brazilian president also raised the validity of democracy to combat plagues such as misinformation and the danger of “far-right adventurers” and proposed dialogue to resolve the Ukraine conflictwhose prolongation is an example, in his opinion, of the inability of the organization and the international community. Returning to his nuanced proposal of a third way to solve the conflictLula urged Russia and Ukraine to sit at the negotiating table, although Guterres considered that now is not the time.
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