Perpetual crises

Marwan Bishara
Thursday, Sep 22, 2022

The Russian war in Ukraine has already dominated the agenda of the UN Security Council (UNSC) and left no space for other urgent issues that require international attention. While the UNSC has made some progress on the diplomatic or humanitarian fronts in Libya, Yemen and Mali, it has failed miserably in Ukraine, as the world powers continue to use its platform to score points against each other.

Expect more of the same this week, as dozens of world leaders in love with the sound of their own voices turn the ‘high-level debate’ into low-level diatribe, boast of their achievements, or blame others for their failures. Their speeches will contain lofty language and alarmist expressions about the planet’s future, but will only pay lip service to remedies, responsibilities and commitments.

And so, Ukraine will continue to harden and deepen the divide between the United States and Europe in the West and Russia and China in the East. With the four comprising some 60 percent of the world economy, and all the veto powers at the UNSC, expect their conflict and collision to sap the energies of the United Nations and paralyse the multilateralism that could help the world to tackle global disasters. They also happen to be the biggest polluters in the world.

The EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell is correct to say that the Russian war in Ukraine has shown that we live in a world “shaped by raw power politics, where everything is weaponised” in a fierce battle of narratives. However, to be clear, both Eastern and Western powers are to blame for those geopolitical tensions. Sadly, Western powers have not lived up to their lofty values and the Eastern powers have failed to take their international responsibilities seriously, with both sides hypocritically citing international law and norms only when convenient.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is also right to say that “the choices we make – or fail to make – today could result in further breakdown and a future of perpetual crises, or a breakthrough to a better, more sustainable, peaceful future for our people and planet.” That will depend on the United Nations being united.

Hyperbole aside, we are better off as a human civilisation than we have ever been in terms of quality of life, health, wealth, and life expectancy, as well as education, science, discovery, industry, technology and so on. And we are more capable than ever before of taking on global challenges if the will is there to do so.

But we have utterly failed to take care of the more vulnerable and less fortunate. A million more people have died of Covid-19 unnecessarily so far this year, well after vaccines were developed. And more than 800 million have gone hungry, or 150 million more people than before the pandemic.

Excerpted: ‘World powers are paralysing the UN and pulverising the planet’.