Paralyzed in the Ukraine war, but otherwise very active in many places. Switzerland is also feeling this after a month on the UN committee.
The UN Security Council extends the mandate for the blue helmet operation in divided Cyprus. It won’t make headlines. But it is important for the population of the Mediterranean island, because tensions are currently increasing rather than decreasing.
Better than his reputation
The UN Security Council is not blocked at all, says Karin Landgren, head of the non-governmental organization Security Council Report. Despite paralysis on the Ukraine issue due to Russian vetoes, many activities continued almost normally.
The Security Council carries on other business regardless of the Ukraine war.
The statistics prove it: last year, a good 50 resolutions were passed. That’s only slightly less than 2021, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Nine out of ten draft resolutions were approved in 2022; more than half even to unanimous. Only in about half a dozen cases did one of the five major powers veto, in four out of five cases it was Russia.
Poisoned debates with Russia
Long-time UN observers are even surprised at how well the Security Council continues to function. For example Richard Gowan, UN director at the International Crisis Group: The veto powers have succeeded in separating the Ukraine question from the other issues, where there is currently no consensus. At least so far.
Of course it is serious when the most influential UN body is unable to act in the Ukraine war of all things. Because it’s about something very fundamental: Democracy versus authoritarianism and the basic rules of international law. Gowan is talking about poisoned debates here.
Aggressor permanently exposed
But it is important that they take place at all and that a global platform exists, emphasizes Olof Skoog, the EU ambassador to the UN: This is how the Russians have to explain themselves to the world public and it becomes clear how weak Moscow’s arguments are.
It is one of the few platforms where Russia is exposed to public opinion and its weak position exposed.
Judging the work of the Security Council solely on the basis of the Ukraine issue is a Western point of view. For many crisis regions in third world countries, other UN decisions are just as important, emphasizes Skoog.
Afghanistan – Myanmar – Syria
For example, the UN engagement in Afghanistan under the Taliban. Or mandates for blue helmet operations. Or, just before Christmas, the first – albeit weak – resolution condemning the military regime in Myanmar.
In addition, at the beginning of January, the temporary extension of the opening of a border crossing for humanitarian aid deliveries to Syria came as a surprise. Russia had initially firmly rejected this, but then reluctantly agreed after tough negotiations.
Switzerland has been there for a month
In the end, the Security Council was unanimous, as Swiss Ambassador Pascale Baeriswyl summed up at the time. Switzerland distinguished itself on this topic, together with Brazil, even as a co-author of the compromise resolution. According to Baeriswyl, these decisions are vital for the survival of millions of people.
Such decisions are vital for the survival of millions of people in need, in this case in Syria.
Nobody denies that the mood in the Security Council is currently bad. Less between the UN ambassadors than people, but between some states. Reaching agreement has become much more difficult, but not impossible. The role of countries that are committed to building bridges, like Switzerland, is thus becoming even more important.