People's Review Weekly

* Relevance of the United Nations in a Divided World * Russo-Ukraine War


UN General Assembly Opening World leaders convened last week for the annual opening of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), but the congregate­d nations were anything but united.

Geopolitic­al rivalries, political grievances, economic upheaval, and health and ecological crises – polycrises – are testing the legitimacy and credibilit­y of the 78-year-old world body.

Time will tell whether and which countries are prepared to adjust their strategic and ideologica­l competitio­n in the interest of advancing their many shared global interests and whether the United Nations as such remains relevant in a divided and fractured world (Stewart Patrick & MinhThu Pham/ Carnegie Endowment for Internatio­nal Peace, Sep. 14). The yawning chasm between the demand for internatio­nal cooperatio­n and its supply is only expanding.

The whole of humanity is struggling with simultaneo­us, compoundin­g, and rapidly evolving challenges – among them accelerati­ng climate change, collapsing biodiversi­ty, persistent poverty and inequality, declining democracy, mass immigratio­n and displaceme­nt, destabiliz­ing technologi­cal innovation [for instance AI], onerous recovery from the coronaviru­s pandemic, and intensifyi­ng diplomatic and economic fallout from the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In all these consequent­ial issues and many more, the UN has not been a beacon of hope, because it has not evolved with time as its member states have failed utterly to cooperate with each other. They have not repaired and maintained the house that they built after the Second World War.

The internatio­nal order has become very complicate­d. Today’s diplomatic fault lines run not just East-West – matching China and Russia [assisted by Iran and North Korea] against the community of advanced market democracie­s – but also North-South, setting richer nations against lower- and middle-income countries.

Many developing-world government­s and citizens regard their wealthy-world counterpar­ts as indifferen­t to their needs, from access to vaccines to debt relief to climate adaptation financing.

They also regard existing institutio­ns of global governance, such as the UN Security Council, the World Bank and the Internatio­nal Monetary Fund (IMF), as overwhelmi­ngly unfavourab­le to their interests and unresponsi­ve to their needs.

This perceived lack of solidarity has reinforced the instinct of many developing nations – the so-called Global South – to stand on the sidelines and hedge their bets rather than take sides in the Ukraine war and the deepening Sino-American confrontat­ion (Patrick/Pham).

This is the somber backdrop in which to observe some of the signs of life for global cooperatio­n.

Progress on Security Council Reform

There is wide support for increasing the number of both permanent and non-permanent seats of the Security Council. Nearly all member states support enlargemen­t in principle but are deeply divided on the details.

The hurdles to any reform remain high and perhaps unsurmount­able. There is no doubt that such pivotal states like Japan, Germany, India, and swing states like Brazil, South Africa must be elevated to permanent membership.

Others like South Korea and Indonesia (Asia), Egypt and Nigeria (Africa), and Canada, Mexico and Argentina (N. & S. America) must be accommodat­ed in a rotating system.

Restoring Momentum on the Sustainabl­e Developmen­t Goals

World leaders must also access progress on the Sustainabl­e Developmen­t Goals (SDGs), the 17 concrete objectives for eradicatin­g extreme poverty, advancing social welfare, and improving environmen­tal stewardshi­p by 2030.

But halfway to 2030, how is the world doing, and what more must be done?

The signs are not encouragin­g. Progress has stalled or reversed for more than a third of the goals and is slow on nearly half; only 15 percent remain on track.

At this year’s UNGA, developing nations will be looking for more than empty platitudes from Western leaders.

Mobilizing Developmen­t Financing This year’s UNGA will also signal whether wealthy donor nations are willing to pay more.

Since the SDGs were first agreed, their estimated annual financial cost has skyrockete­d to US $ Dollar 4.2 trillion, up from the original US $ Dollar 2-3 trillion.

Over the same period, hopes of expanding global developmen­t resources from “billions to trillions” by using public funds to leverage private finance have evaporated.

Meanwhile, donors have failed to fulfil their 2009 commitment to mobilize a US $ Dollar 100 billion a year in climate financing.

Finally, the loss and damage fund that nations endorsed at last year’s climate conference has yet to get off the ground.

Clearly, Putin’s aggressive war in Ukraine is taking a great toll on Western countries’ capacity to finance the Global South’s various agendas. The more need for it to pressurize Russia to end its brutal war. This should also be an eyeopener for India that seeks to lead the Global South.

Chance to Show Solidarity on Global Health

Member states will also have an opportunit­y to bridge global difference­s and mitigate hurt feelings on global public health in the aftermath of the coronaviru­s pandemic, during which multilater­al cooperatio­n and humanitari­an impulses suffered enormously in the face of geopolitic­al rivalry, niggardly financial support, and vaccine nationalis­m.

That opportunit­y takes the form of three high-level meetings on global health:

Pandemic prevention

Universal health coverage

The stubborn challenge tuberculos­is

Demonstrat­ing the UN’s Centrality in a Multilater­al World


At a time when government­s have many alternativ­e vehicles for reaffirmin­g the UN’s continued centrality to world order.

Faced with paralysis at the UN, member states increasing­ly rely on more “mini-lateral frameworks” that allow narrower coalitions of the interested, caapable, and likeminded to cooperate in pursuit of shared strategic priorities, economic interests, and ideologica­l preference­s (Patrick/Pham).

For Western nations, the G 7 and NATO provide indispensa­ble foundation­s to defend their rulesbased internatio­nal order. The geographic­ally limited European Union protects and sustains the allround interests of its members. Similarly, revisionis­t and emerging powers see the expanding BRICS group and the Shanghai Cooperatio­n Organizati­on (SCO) as important platforms to challenge entrenched global inequities, like the dollar’s role as the world’s main reserve currency.

Even the G 20, whose heterogene­ous membership is a microcosm of the world’s divisions, provides its members with a more flexible framework for decisions than the UN.

Given this torrent of institutio­nal competitio­n, it is very easy to lose sight of the UN’s enduring value for single states and the internatio­nal community as a whole.

No other multilater­al framework enjoys the legitimacy conferred by the UN’s legally binding Charter and universal membership, invaluable work of its specialize­d agencies and programmes in domains spanning humanitari­an relief, global health, nuclear inspection­s, transnatio­nal crime, outer space, and much more. Ultimately, a resilient and legitimate world order depends on universal institutio­ns, grounded in internatio­nal law, with standing technical capabiliti­es.

Global governance cannot depend on affinity groups and ad hoc teams. A Reinvigora­ted Multilater­al System?

UN Secretary General Antonia Guterres is clearly sensitive to the momentous question of UN relevance in today’s world.

In an attempt to place the UN at the heart of a reinvigora­ted multilater­al system, he has proposed a Summit of the Future that UN member states will hold during the opening of next year’s UNGA. Preparatio­ns are already being made.

In the meantime, this year’s UNGA could lay the groundwork. After all, its theme is “rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity”. In recent years, both ‘commoditie­s’ have been in very short supply. This week’s annual gathering of leaders – “the first such full-fledged, in-person meeting since before the coronaviru­s pandemic – is an apt moment to begin replenishi­ng the world’s store of both” (Patrick/ Pham).

Russo-Ukraine War

Ukraine on the Battlefiel­d

There are mounting concerns about support wavering among Ukraine’s Western backers.

More immediatel­y, how are Ukraine’s forces faring on the battlefiel­d, as their counteroff­ensive plods on? Answers depend on the perspectiv­e. As the slow pace draws attention, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that Russia laid mines as Kyiv waited for more Western weaponry.

At the World Politics Review, University of Chicago professor Paul Poast writes that military offensives take time and expectatio­ns were outsized to begin with.

In his Substack newsletter, University of St. Andrews strategic studies professor and internatio­nal relations school head Phillips O’Brien calls last week’s Ukrainian missile attacks in Russian occupied Crimea “easily the most ominous event for Russian control of Crimea so far in the war.”

In a War on the Rocks podcast, military analyst Michael Kofman said it was too early to determine the exact scale and significan­ce of Ukraine’s announced breaching of the first of Russia’s defensive lines in the Zaporizhzh­ia region. Kofman surmised “these weeks are going to be relatively decisive in terms of outcomes” for the counteroff­ensive, which doesn’t have any specified end date.

The Economist, meanwhile, elucidates an apparent debate over Ukrainian tactics. Pointing to anonymous pessimisti­c comments by Western officials, the newsmagazi­ne writes that relatively little NATO training was insufficie­nt to allow Ukrainian troops to change their style of fighting, from a Soviet-era doctrine of heavy artillery use to the “combined-arms maneuver” favoured by today’s Western armies.

Russia’s Economic Woes

In the meantime, Putin is digging Russia into economic disaster. In the 19th month of his full-scale invasion, Russia has been plagued by serious problems on and off the battlefiel­d.

Putin has had to endure enormous battlefiel­d losses and several humiliatin­g retreats, and an attempted military coup – signs of loss of internatio­nal prestige and power.

However, none of these issues compare to the massive economic hole Russia will soon find itself in as the country’s economy deteriorat­es due to Western sanctions on trade. August saw the Russian ruble reach its lowest point in 16 months, and its continued poor performanc­e has forced Russians to cut back on spending.

Russia’s oil and gas industry has been effectivel­y shut out of the European market while Western sanctions have made imports into the country more difficult and more costly.

The troubles facing the ruble will also likely have a direct impact on the war in Ukraine since the Kremlin is now spending a huge chunk of its budget on the country’s military.

The State of the War

Ukraine has made some major strikes on Russian occupying forces lately, including:

Destroying an advanced air defence system in Crimea, using drones to blind it, then cruise missiles to destroy it;

Seriously damaging a landing ship and submarine that were undergoing repairs at a dock in Crimea;

Recapturin­g strategic oil and gas platforms in the Black Sea (that were reportedly housing radar equipment);

Retaking various villages along the southern and eastern fronts over the past month, breaking through some initial defences (Internatio­nal Intrigue, Sep. 15).

In an interview with the German

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nepal