Global: Developing countries are worried that the Ukraine crisis has once again become the dominant topic of the General Assembly

13 days ago • 7 pageviews

Source: Global Times

Starting from September 18, local time, the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly will open the week of high-level meetings and last until September 26. This year, the General Assembly has focused more on the countries of the Global South than ever before, with several high-level meetings during the General Assembly focusing on priorities for developing countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia, including climate, health and financing for development. The countries of the South have also influenced and responded to the agenda of the General Assembly with a stronger spirit of solidarity and cooperation and a sense of "ownership". According to the head of an international organization, this year is "the year when the countries of the Global South set the agenda." ”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres Infographic

For this year's week of high-level meetings of the General Assembly, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has long pinned high hopes on "creating the conditions to save the Sustainable Development Goals." A "rescue" speaks of the current dilemma facing global development, and also reflects the unstoppable rift between developing and developed countries. What Guterres mentioned is a fundamental change in the current international situation, that is, the collective rise of developing countries, which brings a call for a more just and reasonable international order, and the United States and the West have tried to smear, attack and suppress this call in order to seize the dominance in their hands. It has to be said that this contradiction is a deep-seated factor in the current geopolitical division.

For example, the international community, mainly developing countries, most hopes that the General Assembly will discuss how to solve poverty, alleviate high inflation, cope with climate change, and promote sustainable development through multilateral dialogue. The theme of the general debate of the General Assembly — peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability — is also a strong expression of this strong aspiration. What these countries are most worried about is that the Ukraine crisis "will once again become the dominant topic in the General Assembly, affecting people's attention to development issues", and it can be said that the chatter of war and the overt and covert threats to other countries to choose sides are the last thing these countries want to hear. However, while the United States attaches importance to the "Global South", it also declares that the Ukrainian crisis and development issues "must be addressed simultaneously, and one is indispensable." This shows that the United States is well aware of the demands of developing countries, but insists on carrying private goods in multilateral forums.

There are many similar examples, all of which invariably prove that it is the muddy waters that bring geopolitical calculations into multilateral forums that undermine efforts for global cooperation, squander many opportunities for compromise, reconciliation and cooperation between developing and developed countries, and severely limit the full functioning of otherwise good multilateral platforms. This is very deplorable.

United Nations General Assembly Hall Infographic

In this process, the United States and the West have used their powerful public opinion tools to continuously demonize the reasonable and legitimate demands of developing countries. On the eve of the opening of the series of important sessions of the General Assembly, from the 15th to the 16th local time, the "Group of 77 and China" summit was held in Havana, Cuba, and the participants unanimously adopted the Havana Declaration, especially emphasizing "the right to development in an increasingly exclusive, unfair, unjust and predatory international order". This became a collective chant by the vast number of developing countries before the week of the high-level meeting of the General Assembly. But the extent to which the voices and concerns of the countries of the Global South and the Secretary-General of the United Nations could be heeded by the representatives of developed countries in the New York General Assembly were a question mark.

The United States and other Western countries are significantly increasing their efforts to woo the "Global South", but it is clear that this is not to give developing countries a more equal status and development opportunities, but to try to continue to confining them to the periphery of the "center-periphery" system. The objective reality is that the vast number of developing countries are more sober and capable of maintaining independence than before, which is not only reflected in the prudence and balance in handling the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, but also in the soberness and calmness in the face of the confrontation between China and Russia by the United States. The United Nations General Assembly is the most globally representative multilateral occasion, and the United States and the West should be humble here and clearly see the mainstream orientation of the international community.

Further reading:

Media: The "climax" of the UN General Assembly is approaching Zelensky will deliver a live speech

Starting from 18 September, a series of important summits and high-level dialogues of the General Assembly will be held one after another

In recent days, New York has been in a state of contradiction. A large number of foreign dignitaries are flocking to United Nations Headquarters from around the world to attend the week of high-level meetings of the United Nations General Assembly, which begins on 18 September. It's an annual event that New York is proud of, but the New York police are also at odds with security and traffic issues.

The world is equally contradictory. Geopolitical rivalry, political feuds, economic turmoil and ecological crisis... A series of unstable and uncertain factors are testing the 78-year-old international organization of the United Nations. It is hoped that the United Nations will continue to emerge from the strength and focus on the most pressing global challenges of our time. But people are also worried that, in a world of deepening divisions, how can the United Nations overcome interference and overcome difficulties to maximize consensus for peace and development. How will politicians interact on the United Nations stage in the coming week? What are the highlights to look forward to?

The situation of sustainable development is serious

According to Xinhua News Agency and CCTV news reports, the current session of the UN General Assembly opened on September 5, and from September 18, a series of important summits and high-level dialogues will be held successively, which will push the atmosphere of the conference to a climax.

Among them, the general debate of the General Assembly, known as the "Summit of World Leaders", will be launched on September 19. Heads of state, heads of government and high-level representatives from the 193 Member States of the United Nations will deliver speeches on the stage, focusing on world trends and events and exploring solutions to global challenges. This is also a rare opportunity for developing countries to express their views and explain their national policies and priorities in international forums.

The theme of this year's debate is long, "Rebuilding trust, reinvigorating solidarity: stepping up action to implement the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals to advance peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all".

Until then, the General Assembly will spearhead the SDG Summit on 18 September to discuss how to "accelerate progress" towards achieving the SDGs, including ending extreme poverty, reducing inequalities and promoting quality education.

"The sustainable development agenda is a major focus of this year's General Assembly." Zhang Guihong, director of the Center for the Study of United Nations and International Organizations at Fudan University, pointed out that it was proposed by the United Nations in 2015 and contains 17 categories of sustainable development goals and 169 sub-goals, which are planned to be achieved by 2030. Under its framework, the United Nations holds annual ministerial meetings and summits every four years. This year's summit is particularly significant, both for the first time since the pandemic began and at the midpoint of the 2015-2030 period.

However, compared to pre-pandemic times, "the current global sustainable development situation is grim. Most of the 17 categories of targets show signs of derailment or even regression. As it stands, countries have little chance of achieving the SDGs by 2030. Jia Lieying, director of the United Nations Research Center of Beijing Language and Culture University, pointed out.

The UN report shows that more than a third of the 17 categories of goals have stalled or reversed, nearly half have made slow progress, and only 15% are still on track. Among them, the number of people living in extreme poverty has rebounded; It may take nearly 300 years to achieve full gender equality.

The reason for this is not only objective factors such as economic recession and climate change caused by the epidemic, but also due to the decline in the willingness of some developed countries and little action. Whether it's vaccine sharing, debt relief, climate finance, and alleviating food disruptions, many developed countries are on the move.

Against a bleak backdrop, "this summit will focus on how to accelerate the sustainable development agenda in the remaining seven years into a political declaration." Zhang Guihong pointed out that whether it can become a turning point in the United Nations sustainable development agenda is highly anticipated.

The leaders expressed their views in their speeches

The West has always been keen to express understanding in the face of developing countries' development concerns, but its attention may still be drawn to the current political hotspot, the Ukraine crisis.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will speak in the general debate on September 19, address the Security Council on the 20th, and meet with US President Biden at the White House on the 21st.

In front of Zelensky and Biden, he will address the Security Council

This will be Zelensky's first appearance at a UN meeting since the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine. It is estimated that he will have the opportunity to engage more with the leaders of the South. He may highlight Ukraine's efforts to provide food to countries such as Africa and the Middle East, and may seek to push other countries to support a series of initiatives in support of Ukraine.

However, Zelensky still needs to proceed cautiously. Against the backdrop of the Ukrainian crisis, the rift between the Western and non-Western worlds has deepened. Some developing countries may be frustrated that the General Assembly has focused too much on Ukraine.

According to the two scholars, peace and security have always been important issues for the United Nations General Assembly. Therefore, the Ukraine crisis will remain a hot topic at this session of the General Assembly.

"The United Nations has always attached great importance to peace and security, and it has always pushed multiple wheels to turn together." Jia Lieying pointed out that peace and development themselves are inseparable. The prolongation of the Ukraine crisis will also have a huge impact on global sustainable development.

Zhang Guihong pointed out that since the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the United Nations General Assembly has held emergency meetings many times and adopted a series of resolutions. During this session, the United Nations will continue to issue calls for an end to the conflict as soon as possible. However, compared with the Ukraine crisis, this session of the General Assembly may be more concerned with economic and social development issues, including climate ambition summits, financing meetings, development summits, etc. After all, the attitude of many developing countries is basically clear, that is, to maintain a more neutral position.

According to the White House, Biden will also address the United Nations General Assembly on September 19. He will reportedly focus on issues that resonate with the countries of the "Global South".

The outside world will be concerned about whether he will give new hints on the issue of Security Council reform. In last year's speech at the UN General Assembly, Biden's statement of support for the inclusion of new permanent members in the Security Council made some countries "thrilled".

"Since the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the issue of Security Council reform has been promoted to a certain extent, which has attracted attention from the outside world." Zhang Guihong pointed out that during the General Assembly last year, Biden made a relatively clear statement for the first time. The United Nations also adopted a resolution last year that attached "interpretation" conditions to the veto power of the five permanent members. This year, Biden may still be involved in this issue, but it is estimated that there will be no breakthrough statement. Because the issue of Security Council reform has a long history and the factors involved are complex, it is still difficult to achieve a major breakthrough.

Biden supports the Security Council to absorb new permanent members Data map Xinhua News Agency (photo by Shen Ting)

"Security Council reform is a perennial issue." Jia Lieying pointed out that it involves the revision of the UN Charter, and the hard conditions are very strict and it is not easy to reach an agreement. In particular, the struggle over the reform of the permanent members of the Security Council has become even more intense. Therefore, even if the United States is more radical in words, in reality it is still easier said than done.

China's support is getting stronger

According to China's Foreign Ministry, Vice President Han Zheng will attend the general debate of the UN General Assembly, the UN Sustainable Development Goals Summit, the Climate Ambition Summit and other activities from September 18 to 23, and hold bilateral meetings with the UN Secretary-General, the current President of the UN General Assembly and leaders of relevant countries.

"Vice Chairman Han Zheng will continue to express China's support for the security and development of the United Nations." Zhang Guihong pointed out that China will also host a high-level meeting to showcase the results of cooperation on global development initiatives. The initiative was put forward by President Xi Jinping during the general debate of the General Assembly two years ago. After two years of development, some early results have been produced. The United Nations has established the Group of Friends of the Global Development Initiative, which has been joined by more than 70 countries. At this meeting, China will demonstrate to the international community the positive role of this initiative in promoting the United Nations sustainable development agenda, which may attract more countries to join it.

Jia Lieying pointed out that China has always upheld the central role of the United Nations in international affairs, and its support for the United Nations has been consistent, firm and reliable, and its support has become more and more intense.

"In the past three years, President Xi Jinping's three initiatives (Global Development Initiative, Global Security Initiative, and Global Civilization Initiative) reflect China's view on global governance and show that China's support for the United Nations is becoming more and more grounded." Jia Lieying said that taking the global development initiative as an example, China's cooperation and support for third world countries in terms of capital, technology and capacity building have gradually increased, providing assistance for accelerating the implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda.

There is no substitute for the role of the United Nations

With seven high-level meetings, 193 statements by leaders or high-level representatives, and more than 300 side events, the United Nations will spend the week busy and bustling ahead. However, as the diplomatic bubble dissipates and some countries are replacing collective action with more "small multilateral" "small blocs", the UN's presence seems to be getting lower and smaller.

"At present, the fragmentation of world politics is becoming clearer, and global peace and development are at a crossroads." Jia Lieying pointed out that according to the UN Charter, the main task of the United Nations is to prevent war, achieve peace, and promote cooperation and development. The achievement of the Goals is inseparable from the trust and support of all countries in the United Nations and the concerted efforts of all countries.

However, trust and solidarity are scarce in the international community and have been the subject of debate at this session of the General Assembly.

"The world is at a turning point, and so is the United Nations itself." Zhang Guihong pointed out that the United Nations will celebrate its 80th anniversary the year after its founding. In the face of world changes and real challenges, its existing architecture is mismatched and incompetent. Therefore, it needs to be reformed, not only in terms of technology, but also in terms of functionality and mission. The United Nations will hold a summit of the future next year. The High-level Committee has made a number of proposals for institutional reform, and the United Nations Secretariat has drafted a number of policy briefs proposing some major changes such as capacity-building and cultural construction.

Looking ahead, both scholars are confident that the United Nations will play a greater role in global governance.

"Since the end of the cold war, a variety of subregional, regional and cross-regional multilateral mechanisms have emerged on a global scale, each with a specific role to play. However, the universality, representativeness and authority of the United Nations remain irreplaceable. Zhang Guihong pointed out that it has a complete set of systems, in addition to the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Secretariat and other major organs, many specialized agencies play a special role in handling global affairs, advocating the global agenda, and formulating global rules. The global governance structure it builds is different from the "small group" cobbled together by individual countries, and is inclusive, networked and aims to safeguard the common interests of all mankind.

Jia Lieying gives her own observations from the perspective of history and the present.

Looking back at history, during the cold war, bloc politics and camp confrontation were more prominent than now, which plunged the world into serious divisions, but the United Nations still did a lot to promote peace and development.

At this juncture, people's enthusiasm and expectations for the United Nations are rekindled. Therefore, at this time, the revitalization of the United Nations is ushering in an opportunity, and the guidance of the United Nations Secretary-General in this regard is particularly crucial, and the trust of civil society forces such as non-governmental organizations is also important. In addition, the United Nations also needs to carry out practical reforms in how to reflect the current distribution of international political power and improve its efficiency.

"In the long term, I am optimistic about the future of the United Nations." Jia Lieying said.