German Foreign Minister arrives in Kyiv for surprise visit
NEW YORK: In speech after speech, world leaders have dwelt on the topic occupying this year’s UN General Assembly meeting: Russia’s war in Ukraine.
A few, like Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, have made the world remember everything else.
He too was quick to talk about the biggest military confrontation in Europe since the Second World War.
But he was not there to discuss the conflict itself, nor its disruption of food, fuel and fertilizer markets.
“The ongoing war in Ukraine makes it more difficult,” Buhari lamented, “to resolve the recurring issues that figure in the deliberations of this assembly every year.”
The ongoing war in Ukraine makes it more difficult to resolve the recurring issues that figure in the deliberations of this assembly every year.
President Muhammadu Buhari
He then named a few: inequality, nuclear disarmament, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the more than one million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar who have lived in uncertainty for years in Bangladesh.
In an environment where words are parsed, confrontations are calibrated, and concern is high that war and its wider effects could escalate, no one denied the significance of the conflict.
But comments like Buhari’s quietly expressed some unease, sometimes bordering on frustration, at the international community’s absorption in Ukraine.
These whispers are loud enough that US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield made a point of outlining Washington’s plans to tackle climate change, food insecurity, health and other problems at the first annual gathering of the diplomatic community.
“Other countries have expressed concern that while we are focusing on Ukraine, we are not paying attention to what is happening in other crises around the world,” she said. , swearing that was not the case.
Yet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken complained at a Security Council meeting days later that the Russian invasion was preventing the UN from working on other important issues.
For many years in the Assembly, there has been a hot spot or a current development that takes a lot of diplomatic oxygen. As former UN official Jan Egeland puts it, “the world manages to focus on one crisis at a time”.
“But I cannot, in these many years as an aid worker or a diplomat, remember a time when the focus was so heavily on a single conflict while the world elsewhere was collapsing,” he said. said Egeland, now secretary general of an international aid group. called the Norwegian Refugee Council, said in a telephone interview.
Certainly, no one was surprised by the attention paid to a conflict with echoes of the Cold War. The urgency only intensified during the week-long meeting as Russia mobilized some of its military reserves.
Ukraine is undeniably a major concern for the European Union. But foreign policy chief Josep Borrell insisted the bloc had not lost sight of other issues.
“It is not a question of choosing between Ukraine and the others. We can do everything at the same time,” he said on the eve of the meeting.
King Abdullah of Jordan briefly mentioned the effects of war on food supply, then moved on to sustainable economic growth, Syrian refugees and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
President Andrzej Duda of Poland — on the doorstep of Ukraine — stressed in his speech that “we must not show any ‘war fatigue’” regarding the conflict.
But he also noted that a recent trip to Africa had made him reflect on how the West had dealt with other conflicts.
During seven months of war, some have made sharp observations about the speed and extent with which rich and powerful nations mobilized money, military aid, General Assembly votes to support Ukraine and providing refuge for its people, compared to the global response to other conflicts.
Last month, South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor told reporters that while the war is terrible, “we should be just as concerned about what is happening to the Palestinian people as what is happening to the Ukrainian people”. .
Speaking at the General Assembly, she added that, from South Africa’s perspective, “our greatest global challenges are poverty, inequality, unemployment and a sense of being totally ignored and excluded.”
Tuvalu Prime Minister Kausea Natano said in an interview on the sidelines of the assembly that the war should “not be an excuse” for countries to ignore their financial commitments to a top priority for his island nation: the fight against climate change.
Part of Bolivian President Luis Arce’s speech compared the billions of dollars spent fighting in Ukraine in a matter of months to the $11 billion committed to the UN-sponsored Green Climate Fund for more than a decade.
To be sure, most leaders have devoted time to issues beyond Ukraine in their allotted, if not always enforced, 15 minutes on the mic. And some only mentioned the war in passing, if at all.
Colombian President Gustavo Petro has spent his time castigating capitalism, consumerism and the US-led war on drugs, especially its emphasis on eradicating the coca plant.