How the United Nations suffers a series of setbacks in their central tasks


Geneva A trip to Pakistan made a lasting impression on UN Secretary-General António Guterres. There, where climate change has contributed to catastrophic flooding, he looked like through a "window into the future", "a future with permanent and omnipresent climate chaos on an unimaginable scale".

This is what Guterres said shortly before the United Nations summit, which begins this Tuesday in New York. However, the progressive global warming with its devastating consequences is only one of several crises that are on the program of the week-long general debate of the General Assembly.

Armed conflicts such as Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, famine in many parts of the world, growing poverty, the corona pandemic that has not yet been overcome and a trend towards autocracy and oppression - US President Joe Biden, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz and many other states see themselves at the summit - and heads of government, ministers and numerous experts are confronted with huge global challenges.

Yet some of these crises are accelerating others: Russia's aggression against Ukraine has hampered grain exports from the country, which in turn has led to food shortages and higher grain prices around the world.

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Global warming, in turn, leads to drought and hunger - and also causes countries to falter politically. "A further internal weakening of the nuclear-armed state of Pakistan could have unforeseeable consequences," warns a diplomat, referring to the flood of the century in the Asian country.

>> Read also: Gates, Soros and UN are demanding billions in aid for Africa

All in all, the United Nations have recently had to endure serious setbacks in their key fields of action: securing peace, protecting human rights and economic and social development. The UN, according to the diagnosis by the US ambassador to the organization, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, "is facing a crisis of confidence".

This crisis is unlikely to be defused at the summit either. In general, according to diplomats, little impetus will emanate from the meeting that will improve the state of the world and make it more peaceful.

The UN Security Council is scheduled to discuss the war in Ukraine again on Thursday. At the high-level meeting, however, only verbal attacks by the Russian representatives on the West and vice versa are to be expected - as has been the case at several Ukraine meetings of the most powerful UN body before. As a veto power, permanent member Russia prevents all decisions that it does not like.

This blockade attitude is not a new phenomenon. "Anyone surprised by the Security Council's paralysis in Ukraine simply hasn't been paying close attention to the body over the past few years," said Richard Gowan, UN director at the International Crisis Group. "In other major crises, such as the war in Ethiopia and the coup in Myanmar, the Council has also not acted decisively due to tensions between the permanent members." In addition to Russia, the five permanent members with veto power include the USA, China, Great Britain and France.

standstill in the fight against poverty

The never-ending conflict in Syria also demonstrates the paralysis of the Security Council. Just a few days ago, a UN commission of inquiry warned of an "intensification" of violence along the Syrian-Turkish border at the expense of millions of civilians.

The Security Council, however, remains inactive in the search for peace solutions - Russia is slowing down the community here. Apart from minimal compromises for the humanitarian care of the population, the "Security Council" achieves nothing in the Syrian conflict.

In another key area of ​​the UN's work, respect for and promotion of human rights, even minimal understandings between the great powers no longer seem achievable. So the US and European representatives have no choice but to denounce the atrocities committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine or China's crimes in the state re-education camps in Xinjiang province, each supported by Moscow and Beijing.

The international community is also making no progress on the issues of development and poverty reduction. According to the UN, around 828 million people were suffering from hunger in 2021, before Russia attacked Ukraine. That was 150 million more than in 2019.

"There is a real risk that these numbers will increase further in the coming months," warns World Food Program executive director David Beasley. "The result will be global destabilization, hunger and mass migration on an unprecedented scale."

More Handelsblatt articles on the food crisis



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