UN readies for hot-button climate change debate - GulfToday

UN readies for hot-button climate change debate

Michael Jansen

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The UN General Assembly Hall is empty before the start of the SDG Moment event as part of the UN General Assembly 76th session General Debate at United Nations Headquarters, in New York.  File/Reuters

The UN General Assembly Hall is empty before the start of the SDG Moment event as part of the UN General Assembly 76th session General Debate at United Nations Headquarters, in New York. File/Reuters

The UN General Assembly is set to open debate in its 78th session tomorrow. The over ambitious theme of this session is, “Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and the sustainability for all.”

The theme is over-ambitious because it is unlikely that the 193-member Assembly can agree on any major issues facing the globe’s eight billion inhabitants of whom nearly one-quarter, or 1.9 billion, lives in poverty and one-quarter dwells in war zones. Last year 84 million people were forcibly displaced by conflict, violence, and human rights violations. Displacement has continued and accelerated in 2023.

The Assembly has become an expanded debating club. At plenary sessions world leaders spout on issues of interest to them and on the sidelines hold covert conversations to promote their differing and diverging agendas. The entire assemblage rarely agrees even though the Assembly’s job is to recommend a course of action. In certain cases, the Assembly has given itself the authority to take or urge action when there is a threat to peace or an aggression and only when the Security Council has failed to act.

In such cases the Assembly can recommend collective action as it did in November 1950 by adopting its “Uniting for Peace” resolution which has been used 13 times between 1951 and 2023. In this region, it was employed in 1958 to call for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon and Jordan, in 1980 to call on Israel to reverse its annexation of occupied East Jerusalem, in 1982 to brand Israel a non-peace loving state for its invasion of Lebanon and call on members to sanction Israel, and in 1997 to call upon the International Court of Justice to issue a report on Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Rebukes directed at Israel are always rejected by the US in the Assembly or the Security Council.

This year there might, just might be serious recommendations on climate change/global warming which affects every man, woman, and child who lives on this planet. These recommendations could be presented to COP28, the huge climate change conference due to meet in Dubai from November 30th-December 12th. It remains to be seen if China, the US, the European Union, India, Russia and Japan, the globe’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases, will curb these emissions.

The UN was established on October 24th, 1945, and had 51 founding members. Its primary mission was peacemaking. The UN charter was drafted in December 29tn, 1941, during World War II by US President Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Roosevelt’s adviser Harry Hopkins. The first meetings of the General Assembly and the Security Council took place in London beginning in January 1946. In 1947, the UN moved to temporary quarters at Lake Success in New York state. It was there that Britain submitted the “question of Palestine” with the aim of terminating the mandate granted by the League of Nations after World War I.

While readers in this region must be weary of words upon words about Palestine, its treatment by the UN fixed a pattern of bullying by the five permanent members, especially the US. This began with the General Assembly’s Palestine partition resolution 181 of November 29th, 1947, which gave Israeli colonists, who were for one-third of the population, 55 per cent of the country and native Palestinians 45 per cent. The resolution – which amounted to a recommendation not an action plan – was adopted by 33 votes in favour against 13 opposed and 10 abstentions. The necessary votes for passage were rounded up only after the US resorted to bribery, blackmail and political pressure on the Philippines, Liberia, China, Haiti, Ethiopia, and Greece.

Having secured questionable approval of statehood, Israel’s underground army conquered 78 per cent of Palestine and drove 750,000 Palestinians from their homes, lands, villages, towns and cities and seized west Jerusalem which was meant to be under international administration, according to the partition plan.

This case was a critical test of the General Assembly’s ability to act independently of the major powers. The Assembly failed miserably. Subsequently, it and the Security Council have repeatedly failed to address threats of war. As a permanent member of the Security Council, the US has used its veto 83 times, 42 to protect Israel. It has acted with impunity despite breaches of the peace in the 1967 war to conquer Palestine, the 1956 Anglo-French-Israeli attack on Egypt, the 1967 war against Palestine, Egypt, Jordan and Syria, the 1978 occupation of southern Lebanon, the 1982 and 2006 wars on Lebanon. Israel is in constant violation of international law in Palestine.

Israel’s treatment of occupied Palestinians tops the list as Israel is in breach of a host of UN resolutions and of inter- national law on which the world order is supposed to be based. Israel dismissed Assembly resolution 194 of December 1948 which called for the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes at the “earliest practicable date” and compensation for their losses. Israel was admitted to the UN on May 11th, 1949, on condition that it implemented UN resolutions on Palestine. Israel shrugged off this stipulation and remains the only conditional UN member.

In this region, Israel’s impunity has encouraged others to commit aggression without fear of UN action. Israel has bombed Syria for a decade and has carried out attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear research sites. Turkey has occupied 36 per cent of Cyprus and seized the Afrin district in northern Syria and occupied enclaves on the Syrian side of the border.

Since October 2015 the US has trained and armed the Kurdish-majority Syrian Democratic Forces and protected its illegal occupation of 25 per cent of Syrian territory in the northeast and east where the Kurds have established an administration in violation of Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity which the UN is supposed to protect.

The UN Security Council broke this pattern on November 29th, 1990, by responding to Iraq’s August invasion of Kuwait by adopting resolution 678 which allowed a US-led multinational force to take “all necessary measures” if Iraq did not comply with Council resolutions to withdraw by January 15, 1991. However, in 2002, George W. Bush did not secure UN approval of his invasion of Iraq which was proclaimed illegal by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The International Commission of Jurists ruled that the war was aggression as it was waged without a Council mandate. No one thinks of indicting Bush although his war devastated Iraq and destabilised the entire region.

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