Ukraine war overshadows other global crises at UN, critics say | United Nations News

In speech after keynote, world leaders focused on this year’s consumption theme United Nations General Assembly: Russia’s War in Ukraine.

A few, such as Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, urge the world not to forget everything else.

He’s also quick to point out the biggest military confrontation in Europe since World War Two, but isn’t just there to discuss the conflict itself – as well as the disruption to food and fuel markets. and fertilizers.

“The ongoing war in Ukraine is making it more difficult,” lamented Buhari, “to deal with the perennial issues that come up every year in the discussion of this council.”

He went on to name a few issues: inequality, nuclear disarmament, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more. one million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar lived in limbo for many years in Bangladesh.

President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari speaking at the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari speaking at the 77th Session of the UNGA at United Nations headquarters in New York, on Friday [John Angelillo via AP]

‘The world fell apart’

In an environment where words are parsed, confrontations are calibrated, and worries that war and its broader effects may worsen, no one can deny the importance of the conflict. But comments like Buhari quietly speak to a certain insecurity, sometimes frustration, about the absorption of the international community in Ukraine.

Those whispers were audible enough that the United Nations Ambassador of the United States, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, made the point in previewing Washington’s plans to tackle climate change, food insecurity, health and other issues during the annual meeting of the diplomatic community.

“Other countries have expressed concern that when we focus on Ukraine, we are not paying attention to what is happening in other crises around the world,” she said.

However, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken complained at a Security Council meeting a few days later that the Russian invasion was distracting the United Nations from other important issues.

For years at the conference, there was a hot spot or news development that took up a lot of diplomatic oxygen. As former UN official Jan Egeland put it, “the world focuses on one crisis at a time.”

Egeland, now secretary-general of international aid, said: “But I cannot, in my many years as a humanitarian worker or diplomat, cannot remember any time when the focus was solely on a conflict while the world is falling apart elsewhere. Norwegian Refugee Council group.

Certainly, no one is surprised by the attention paid to a conflict with the echoes of the Cold War, oblique nuclear threat from Russian President Vladimir Putin, the shelling jeopardized the continent’s largest nuclear power plant and had far-reaching economic effects. The urgency only increased during the week-long meeting as Russia mobilized some of its military reserves.

President Andrzej Duda of Poland – standing in front of Ukraine – stressed in his speech “we must not show any “war fatigue” related to the conflict. But he also notes that a recent trip to Africa made him think about how the West treats other conflicts.

“Are we equally resolute in the tragedies in Syria, Libya, Yemen?” he asked himself and the society. And hasn’t the West returned to “business as usual” after the wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Horn of Africa?

“While condemning the invasion of Ukraine,” Duda added, “do we take it seriously against mercenaries who seek to destabilize the Sahel and threaten many other countries in Africa? are not?”

He’s not the only one asking.

After more than seven months of war, there have been observations from several quarters that rich and powerful nations have mobilized money, military aid, the General Assembly voted in favor of Ukraine and asylum for Ukraine. how quickly their inhabitants, compared to the global response to some other conflict.

‘Feeling ignored’

South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor last month told reporters – and visiting Blinken – that while the fighting was going badly, “we should be equally concerned about what is happening to the Palestinian people. as well as us with what is happening to the Ukrainian people. “

At UNGA, she added that, from South Africa’s vantage point, “our biggest global challenges are poverty, inequality, unemployment and feelings of being ignored and completely excluded.” .

Tuvalu’s prime minister, Kaaries Natano, says war should not be “an excuse” for countries to ignore their financial commitments to his island nation’s top priority: fighting climate change. .

Part of Bolivian President Luis Arce’s speech compared the untold billions of dollars spent on wars in Ukraine over several months to the $11 billion pledged to the United Nations Green Climate Fund. funding for more than a decade.

Most leaders spend time on non-Ukrainian issues that they allotted, if not always enforced, 15 minutes in front of the mic. And some people only mention the war when it’s over, or not at all.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro has devoted his time to taming capitalism, consumerism and the US-led war on drugs, with a particular focus on eradicating the coca plant.

Krygyzstan President Sadyr Japarov, who has close ties to Russia, intervened in his homeland’s border dispute with Tajikistan. King Abdullah II of Jordan briefly addressed the impact of war on food supplies, then turned to sustainable economic growth, Syrian refugees, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Ukraine is undeniably a major concern for the European Union. But the head of foreign policy Josep Borrell insists the bloc is not paying attention to other issues. “It is not a matter of choosing between Ukraine and other countries. We can do it all at once,” he said.

‘Starving in the dark’

However, diplomatic attention and time are valuable, sought-after resources. So willpower and money to help.

Figures from the United Nations humanitarian office show that governments and private organizations have spent about $3.7 billion in aid to Ukrainians and Ukrainian refugees this year. About $2 billion has been donated to war-torn Yemen, where the United Nations says more than 17 million people are struggling with acute hunger.

And those are big campaigns. Only $428 million has been donated to Myanmar and to the Rohingya people in Bangladesh.

Egeland’s organization helps people who are uprooted around the world, including in Ukraine. But he said he felt an “urgent need to pay attention to absolute freefall elsewhere”.

“The situation is not better in Congo or Yemen, Myanmar or Venezuela because it has gotten much worse in Europe, in and around Ukraine,” Egeland said. “We need to fight for those who are starving in the shadows of this terrible war in Ukraine.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks at the United Nations Security Council while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, speaks at a Security Council meeting on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, listens [Bryan R Smith/AFP]

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