/United Nations/ UNGA 78: World Leaders to Deliberate Thorny Issues, Led by International Security, Food Crisis, Global Warming

The 78th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 78) is loaded with thorny files and deep disagreements looking for urgent solutions because of their significant impact on global security and for their role in forming new geopolitical and geostrategic reality and balances, whose frameworks and borders are governed by military alliances and economic interests that the international community is unfamiliar with since the end of World War II in the 40s of the last century.

World public opinion is looking forward to the results of the discussions of the presidents’ and leaders’ discussions on the simple and complex crises facing the international community and the understandings and directions that will result from them in the hope that humanity will be rid of a reality that is heading year after year towards polarity, a return to the Cold War, and more warfare and armed conflicts that unfortunately push people toward paying their cost without having any role in creating them.

The Russian-Ukrainian war and its disastrous consequences on international peace and security tops the agenda of the next UNGA session, amid calls to bring it to an end to spare the blood of the two peoples, avoid further human and material losses, prevent further “militarization” of Northern Europe, and avoid a new cold war between Moscow and Washington, a war that the world thought it was gone for good.

International calls are escalating to silence the voice of the war machine between Russia and Ukraine that has been going on for 16 months, claiming the lives of thousands of victims, both civilians and military, as well as destroying infrastructure estimated to cost hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild, and significantly threatening global food security, especially after Moscow stopped working with the Black Sea Grain Initiative on July 17, and ships loaded with grain were prevented from sailing towards world markets.

There are also fears of the outbreak of a nuclear war more than ever before, in light of the lack of signs of resolving the crisis between Moscow and the further tendency of the West to arm Ukraine with advanced equipment to help it regain its lands that are still under Russian control. Furthermore, the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) more and more toward the Russian borders with the Baltic states in northern Europe, something that Moscow categorically rejects and considers a threat to its territory and its vital and strategic interests and considers it a “disguised” declaration of a proxy war against it, launched by the Kyiv authorities on behalf of the West.

Several countries, including the State of Qatar, hope that the UNGA and leaders’ discussions will constitute an occasion to crystallize clear plans that lead towards resolving the crisis between Moscow and Kyiv and push the two parties to the conflict to sit at the negotiating table to find diplomatic solutions that stop the fighting, in compliance with the Charter of the United Nations and international law, including obligations under the Charter to settle international disputes by peaceful means.

In this context, the State of Qatar’s stance stands out, which was asserted by HE Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani during his last visit to Kyiv in July. During the visit, His Excellency reiterated the State of Qatar’s firm stance that it made since the beginning of the crisis by emphasizing the importance of respecting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders, reaffirming the need to abide by the Charter of the United Nations and international law, including obligations under the Charter to settle international disputes by peaceful means, calling for refraining from the threat of force or the use of violence and condemns such actions.

His Excellency said at the time that Qatar has warned on many occasions of the repercussions of the crisis, expressing its full readiness to contribute to any international and regional effort to reach a peaceful and immediate solution to the crisis and that Qatar is certain that the only way to succeed is to keep all channels of communication open, stressing that stopping the fighting and ensuring the protection of civilians is one of Qatar’s top priorities, fully corroborated by its stance on respecting the international law and global order and that resolving the Russian-Ukrainian crisis requires continuous and intensive cooperation.

Since the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, the world has got alerted that everyone would pay the war bill through the disruption of supply chains, while international markets are facing great difficulty in being supplied with Ukrainian grain, which accounts for 9 percent of the global market need, and corn, which Ukraine provides 16 percent of the global production, and sunflower oil, of which Ukraine produces 42 percent. Voices warning of the continuation of the crisis rose due to growing fears of an expansion of the global famine circle and a rise in grain prices to record levels, which happened over the months that followed the outbreak of the war and preceded the Black Sea Grain Initiative on July 17, signed in Istanbul July 2022. When Moscow stopped working with the agreement, the crisis returned, and an acute famine crisis became threatening according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), about 47 million people in Africa and Asia in particular.

Over the past few months, international diplomacy has been active in crystallizing practical insights that prevent a new food crisis from happening, following that one caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and one caused by the Russian-Ukrainian war in 2021. World capitals are racing against time before the UNGA 78 convenes to agree on Alternative plans that help ship millions of tons of grain piled in silos and Ukrainian ports and direct them to global markets, whether through Poland or Romania or trucks directed towards neighboring countries. These plans receive a full response from most world countries, pending United Nations approval to form the approach that exporters will follow.

Discussions of the participants of the upcoming UNGA will not be limited to the Russian-Ukrainian crisis only, as other security issues are no less important due to the size of their impacts on millions of people, especially the situation in the Sahel region, particularly after the series of coups that toppled regimes that reached power through the ballot box, as in Niger a few weeks ago, and in Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mali – where the UN forces (MINUSMA) are preparing to leave at the end of this year. The discussions will also include the Sudanese crisis, which is intensifying from one month to the next, causing a major humanitarian crisis internally and on the country’s borders with its neighbors, amid an urgent need to provide humanitarian aid to the displaced and refugees stranded in Chad, Ethiopia, Egypt and more.

The State of Qatar is mobilizing regional and international efforts aimed at the need to find a quick and effective solution to the Sudanese crisis, to protect defenseless civilians and preserve the country’s unity and cohesion, appealing to the international community to provide the necessary assistance to the Sudanese people, especially as Qatar launched on May 5 – in implementation of the directives of HH the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani – an airlift linking Doha with Port Sudan airport, through which Qatar Charity provided tens of tons of food aid, as well as developmental food and medical assistance, in addition to a field hospital were transported to Sudan, which were provided by Qatar Fund for Development, Qatar Charity, and Qatar Red Crescent Society.

Illegal immigration appears to be a separate item on the agenda of the UNGA discussions during August and a topic that has become a major concern for many countries, whether those representing a starting point or those considered as port of arrival, and the file includes countries of Europe, Africa, Asia, North America, and the Caribbean. In its April report, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimated that the first quarter of 2023 is the deadliest for illegal immigrants across the Mediterranean, with death rates never seen in six years, with a total of more than 20,000 people drowned across this waterway since 2014, while more than 300,000 were rescued.

In their analysis, observers say that the Russian-Ukrainian war distracted the world and diverted its attention from the growing phenomenon of illegal immigration due to the expansion of poverty, armed conflicts, and climate changes, as it affected the countries of Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, and the United States alike, which necessitates the need to find solutions to the issue, especially in light of the fears expressed by the host countries about the possibility that illegal immigration may lead to an outbreak of violence, crime, human and drug trafficking, unemployment, and the disruption of sustainable development, in addition to its economic repercussions on individuals and societies.

The energy issue also constitutes a major item on the discussion agenda of UNGA 78, given its recurring crises over the past three years. The energy crises started with the COVID-19 pandemic and its repercussions on the global economy and decline in global demand for crude oil, followed by the Moscow-Kyiv crisis, which resulted in the halt of gas flow through Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines, forcing consumers to find new supplying routes, whether from producing countries in northern Europe, Middle East, United States, or some African countries, such as Algeria and Nigeria. These solutions, according to European countries’ point of view in particular, remain ineffective and of high cost and do not serve the goals and development programs, in addition to their repercussions on consumers and the cost of production.

Considering these fears, Western capitals are pushing for a unified option regarding the supply of either oil or gas from new markets by the international community in New York, away from what they consider “dependence” on Russia in these products in exchange for political gains and field victories in its ongoing war in the Ukrainian territories.

In turn, the poor and developing countries follow the steps of their Western counterparts and demand the need to curb prices affected by what is happening there in the far north of Europe and see themselves affected by the Russian war machine because of the additional costs they pay to supply their needs of oil and gas. Since 2020, the energy crisis has revealed the world’s need, with both its rich and developing parts, to rapidly engage in a green economy and in renewable energy that has a lower cost and is environmentally friendly. This trend enjoys broad international consensus but remains so far only hopes and aspirations that everyone is unable to turn into reality, which was revealed by the recurring energy crises that forced many countries to return to nuclear energy, coal, and others.

European and developing and poor countries will seek to reach an international consensus during the UNGA 78 discussions that will help them overcome this circumstance and ensure a regular supply of oil and gas at a lower cost, which is contrary to the desires of some exporters. However, the concern is to ensure continuous growth of the global economy, which has barely begun to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, will constitute a pressure card in the hands of consumers, hoping that they will benefit from everyone’s aspiration to “revive” the global trade and investment movement.

Away from the sound of cannons, the war machine, the whirring of aircraft, and the conflict of economic interests, the issue of global warming and greenhouse gases looms at the top of global public opinion’s concerns without exception and at the forefront of concerns, especially after the globe witnessed this summer the highest levels of temperature ever, never seen in thousands of years, and the accompanying raging fires all over the world in the cold north of the globe as well as in its hot south, as the fires devoured vast areas of vegetation and forests, just as the rise in the temperature of the oceans and seas constituted a harbinger of a real danger threatening the planet and life on it.

In light of the failure of the industrialized countries to fulfill their obligations to reduce their carbon emissions and greenhouse gases in the medium term and the failure of Antonio Guterres’ efforts to reach binding agreements in successive climate conferences (COP), the Secretary-General of the United Nations will find himself once again forced to remind the world of their responsibilities in preserving the planet and engaging in work to reduce gas emissions as soon as possible and advance the dates that were previously set in the (third millennium) due to the growing threat to humanity and its life.

In its latest report on the emissions gap, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) noted that as climate impacts accelerate around the world, countries must increase their funding for environmental programs and implement actions designed to help vulnerable countries and communities to adapt to the climate storm, adding that the ongoing drought for several years in the Horn of Africa, unprecedented floods in South Asia, and sweltering summers in the Northern Hemisphere all point to rising climate risks, with impacts reaching 1.1C above pre-industrial temperatures.

The report emphasized that climate risks will intensify with every tenth of a degree Celsius, stressing that such trends mean that adaptation must become a focus of everyone’s attention, along with mitigation measures in the global response to climate change, and that ambitious investments will not be able to completely prevent climate effects so that everyone will find that they are forced to deal with losses and damages at costs that exceed the capabilities of poor and developing countries.

Regarding this item of discussion, during His Highness’s speech at the opening of the 5th UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) in March, HH the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani pointed out that Sharm El-Sheikh Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Egypt made an achievement in establishing a fund for compensation for losses and damages allocated to developing countries, saying “Based on our commitment to combating climate change and the internationally approved policies in this regard, we aspire that the advanced industrial countries fulfill their legal and moral responsibilities in taking more effective and efficient decisions and measures on emissions.”

Another file that is no less important than all other files is anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. The topic will grab the attention of Arab and Islamic countries, especially after the recent events caused by the incidents of burning copies of the Quran in Sweden and Denmark, the growing attacks on mosques in Western countries, and linking Islam and Muslims in particular to terrorism.

The Arab leaders will use the UNGA discussions to refute all the false accusations that have been linked, in bad faith, to Islam, and to reveal the plans that target Muslims, especially since terrorism knows no religion, which is evident in the daily violations that the Palestinians are subjected to, affecting their occupied lands and their sanctities, in international silence, as if to encourage occupation’s practices that have been ongoing for 75 years.

The ceiling of expectations from the results of the UNGA 78 does not seem high for several considerations, the most important of which is the great rift between the Western alliance led by the United States and the eastern camp led by Russia and China, the expansion of the circle of proxy wars, whether in Africa or in northern Europe, and the focus of many Western leaders on their internal crises more than focusing on foreign and international files, in addition to the great divergence in positions related to the issues on the discussion table in New York. Despite that, observers do not rule out that the discussion would come out with consensual formulas regarding the war in Ukraine, the situation in the Sahel region, the food and hunger crisis, and the indebtedness of poor countries.

Source: Qatar News Agency