unga 77

Written by Hamra Tariq 12:00 pm Articles, Current Affairs, International Relations, Published Content

UNGA 77: Ukraine War Overshadows Other Issues

The 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 77) opened on 13 September 2022, and the week-long debates were heavily dominated by one conflict—the Russia-Ukraine war. It drowned out other important matters like the food crisis, the energy crisis, and the conflicts elsewhere. Moreover, many leaders were displeased with the West’s bias towards Ukraine.
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Hamra Tariq is an undergraduate student currently pursuing her international relations degree at Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore. She has a keen interest in South Asian politics, the Indo-Pacific, and the shift in the global order.

Ukraine War Dominates the UNGA 77

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, while addressing an environmental conference in Stockholm in June earlier, this year showed concern over the Ukraine war diverting attention from other issues like climate change. He also emphasized the “suicidal” dependency of the world on fossil fuels. 

With this warning clearly communicated by the UN chief himself before, the Ukraine war evidently took the center stage at the United Nations General Assembly, amid other global issues like food insecurity, humanitarian and other political crises around the world.

Some aid groups from around the world are concerned that the diplomatic encounters against each other over the Ukraine war will undermine the opportunity at UNGA 77 to address other global issues that deserve to be highlighted. Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for Guterres, has admitted that “war does take up a lot of space” and makes it hard to underline other key global issues. 

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The Discontent of Global Leaders 

Simultaneously, Guterres acknowledges the fact that the international community at large and the UN itself have been “paralyzed” by geopolitical divides. The global South particularly fights to put a stop to the much-discussed conflict and geopolitical turbulence from crowding the debate on other existential threats, globally.

Several world leaders registered their concerns at the UNGA 77. The president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, while addressing the UNGA urged the international community to not forget other issues. He brought up the Ukraine conflict quickly, not to mention the conflict itself or its repercussions.

He lamented that the ongoing conflict in Ukraine will hinder the ability of the international community to work together to resolve conflicts elsewhere. He further stated, “The ongoing conflict in Ukraine is making it more difficult to tackle the perennial issues that feature annually in the deliberations of this assembly.” He highlighted a few issues including the Palestine conflict, nuclear disarmament, and the right of repatriation to Rohingya refugees.

Similarly, the Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic, Kenneth Darroux, condemned Russia’s intervention in Ukraine but cautioned that the war should not divert attention from other issues that the world is encountering. President Andrzej Duda of Poland stressed his case in favor of Ukraine, but simultaneously mentioned his visit to Africa and asked, “Were we as determined during the tragedies in Libya, Syria, and Yemen?”

He carried on to say that the reaction to international conflicts must be principled, strong, and identical. The global response to other conflicts has been highly contradicting when compared with Ukraine. According to Al Jazeera, South Africa’s foreign minister, Naledi Pandor, mentioned to reporters last month that although the war is condemnable, “we should be equally concerned about the plight of Palestinians as we are concerned about what is happening to the people of Ukraine.”

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During her address at the UNGA 77, she expressed that from South Africa’s standpoint the greatest challenges include poverty, unemployment, inequality, and the fate of being excluded and entirely ignored in the global community. Bolivia’s President Luis Arce, who is in his second year in office, lashed out at the capitalist world system during his speech at the UNGA 77, criticizing the investments of capitalist nations in the war in comparison to contributions towards “integral and sustainable development.”

He said that at least twenty times more sum of resources were spent on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine than the finances committed to Green Climate Fund over more than a decade. He claimed that many conflicts between people are encouraged by enterprises in order to impose a form of capitalism that annihilates cultural and environmental legacy. 

Serbian President, Aleksandar Vučić, while addressing the 77th session of the UNGA in New York, criticized the world leaders and said that problem-solving and attaining peace has never been the ultimate aim. Instead, everyone is seeking their own interest. In his address to the assembly, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg highlighted complaints about “double standards” in Europe, including the idea that a strong response to Russia’s invasion is primarily due to physical and cultural proximity or the fact that Ukrainians “look like us.”

The Biased Approach of the West 

The domination of the Ukraine war by the Western allies can be best summarized through this comment by India’s Minister for External Affairs S. Jaishankar, “Europe has to grow out of the mindset that its problems are the world’s problems but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems.”

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Although he said this in response to the pressure on India to take a firm stance on Russia back in June, it clearly explains the priorities of the West that deems just itself as the international community. The official UN figures clear off the dust, if any, from the double standard approach of the international community.

According to data from the humanitarian office, this year, governments and private organizations contributed roughly 3.7 billion dollars to aid Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees. On the other hand, for Yemen, a war-torn country for years and where over 17 million people are experiencing acute hunger, about 2 billion dollars have been raised.

There is a dire need to support those who are starving in the shadows of war in Ukraine. The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, replied to the concerns ahead of the summit. She asserted that the US, the African and European unions will co-host a meeting on food security, for instance, so the war “will not be the only thing that we’re dealing with.”

Despite this stance, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken lodged a complaint in front of the Security Council meeting that Russia’s invasion was distracting the UN from taking an action on other important matters. According to former UN official, Jan Egeland, the world manages to pay attention to “one crisis at a time.”  Still, he further remarked that during his life as a diplomat or as a humanitarian worker, he does not “remember that the focus was so strongly on one conflict while the world was falling apart elsewhere.”

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