UN chief visits Odesa, confronts the limits of war’s influence in Ukraine

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said during a visit to Odesa, Ukraine, on Friday that the port – where grain shipments have begun departing under an international agreement in recent days – is symbol of what the world can achieve when countries work together for the common good.

But he said richer nations need to support developing nations by helping them buy grain.

“A country cannot feed itself if it is starving for resources,” Guterres told reporters in Odesa, Ukraine’s largest port city.

He visited the city to see progress on the fragile UN and Turkey-brokered deal to free grain after it was stuck for months amid Russia’s war in Ukraine. . Russia’s months-long blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports has exacerbated the global food crisis, caused famine in Africa and contributed to rising grain prices.

Guterres called on the private sector to work together to get more food and fertilizer out of Ukraine and Russia, warning that “without fertilizer by 2022, there may not be enough food by 2023.” “. However, his remarks made in the midst of a conflict underscored the limits of his organization’s influence when one of its most powerful members instigated a war.

On Thursday, when he meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey in Lviv, western Ukraine, heralding the effectiveness of the agreement, while also confirming the United Nations’ role as a mediator. But Mr. Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister, admits that the unresolved issue that brought him to Ukraine was war.

As head of a global organization whose charter is committed to ending the “scourge of war”, he has repeatedly called for a political solution to end the conflict and has offered reconciliation, but very few results. According to Mr. Guterres’ spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, from the start of the Russian invasion in late February until April, Mr. Guterres couldn’t even make a phone call to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin.

Some of the most effective efforts to punish Russia have been tough economic sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union, but those efforts take place outside the Security Council, the external structure of the United States. within the United Nations has the power to impose sanctions.

While the war has put limits on the UN’s ability to resolve global conflicts, it also highlights the vital humanitarian role the organization plays, providing aid, food and healthcare. health for millions of Ukrainian refugees. Guterres himself served as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees from June 2005 to December 2015, taking on the role of secretary general in 2017.

But Russia holds a veto over the Security Council, robbing it of its ability to pass legally binding resolutions that hold Moscow accountable. And Russia has a powerful ally, with its own veto, on the council: China.

Among the council’s most prominent recent failures has been the years-long civil war in Syria, in which Russia has blocked decisive action. The alliances of China and Russia prevent the Security Council from taking active action against atrocities against the Rohingya ethnic group in Myanmar. North Korea, which China also protects, has constantly being ignored UN bans on conducting nuclear tests.

Circumstances where the council can act include imposing painful sanctions on Iran about its nuclear program. The Council also authorized military intervention support Libya rebels in 2011, despite Russia’s reluctance – but the assassination of the Libyan dictator, Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi, reinforced Russia’s suspicions of the organization.

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