Dry Bones -UN paralysis on Ukraine
Dry Bones -UN paralysis on UkraineY. Kirschen

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has given credence to the oft-used statement that “Truth is always the first casualty of war”.

Addressing the media after the UN General Assembly (UNGA) had resolved by 141 votes to 5 to demand that Russia “immediately, completely and unconditionally” withdraw its military forces from Ukraine - Guterres stated:

“The General Assembly has spoken.
As Secretary-General, it is my duty to stand by this resolution and be guided by its call.
The message of the General Assembly is loud and clear:
End hostilities in Ukraine — now.
Silence the guns — now.
Open the door to dialogue and diplomacy — now.
The territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine must be respected in line with the UN Charter.
We don’t have a moment to lose.
The brutal effects of the conflict are plain to see.
But as bad as the situation is for the people in Ukraine right now, it threatens to get much, much worse.
The ticking clock is a time bomb ...
... Today’s resolution reflects a central truth.
The world wants an end to the tremendous human suffering in Ukraine.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson supported Guterres with this equally-misleading fatuous statement:

“Rarely has the contrast between right and wrong been so stark, 141 countries voted to condemn Putin.”

The General Assembly’s message was not that loud and clear - or as stark – as a closer analysis of the recorded votes reveals (See diagram):

Notably:

  • The world’s two most populated countries – China and India – representing 36.1% of the world’s population - abstained from voting.
  • 12 countries failed to vote.
  • 35 countries abstained from voting.
  • Those 47 countries abstaining or not voting represent 54.72% of the world’s population and 24.35% of the 193 member states in the United Nations.

U.S. ambassador to the U.N. - Linda Thomas-Greenfield - said before the vote:

"We believe this is a simple vote, Vote yes if you believe U.N. member states, including your own, have a right to sovereignty and territorial integrity. Vote yes if you believe Russia should be held to account for his [Putin’s] actions. Vote yes if you believe in upholding the U.N. Charter and everything this institution stands for.”

Thomas-Greenfield’s message obviously failed to resonate with those 47 abstaining or non-voting countries.

Despite this embarrassingly-divisive vote – the UNGA can still act to protect and uphold the principles of the UN Charter by utilising that 141-5 majority to isolate Russia whilst simultaneously supporting Ukraine in its struggle to regain its territorial sovereignty and independence.

That majority vote – if repeated – could see a range of UNGA bodies immediately established and funded by all 193 member States - including:

  • A Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Ukrainian People:

To institute a programme that will enable the Ukrainian people to exercise their inalienable rights to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty without external interference; to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced.

  • A United Nations Ukrainian Works and Relief Agency: To carry out direct relief and works programmes solely for Ukrainian refugees
  • A Special Rapporteur to assess the human rights situation in the Occupied Ukrainian Territories, report publicly and work with governments and civil society to foster international cooperation.
  • A Special Committee to investigate Russian practices affecting the human rights of the Ukrainian People and other residents of the Occupied Ukrainian Territories
  • A United Nations Special Coordinator for the Russia-Ukraine conflict to report quarterly to the Secretary General, the General Assembly and the Security Council

The UN General Assembly and its Secretary-General now need to stop talking and start acting – or see their relevance and credibility sink from sight.

Author’s note: The cartoon — commissioned exclusively for this article — is by Yaakov Kirschen aka “Dry Bones”- one of Israel’s foremost political and social commentators — whose cartoons have graced the columns of Israeli and international media publications for decades.