United against Moscow

in conversation with Manuela Scheuermann

Black and white thinking (Issue II/2022)


The UN General Assembly after voting on the draft resolution on the situation in Ukraine. Photo: UN Photo/Mark Garten

Die UN-Generalversammlung nach der Abstimmung über den Resolutionsentwurf zur Lage in der Ukraine. Foto: UN Photo/Mark Garten

A “Uniting for Peace” resolution is the UN's last resort when the Security Council is blocked from acting, as it is by Russian veto – Russia is one of the five permanent members sitting on the UN Security Council and as such has the power to veto any significant decision.
A “Uniting for Peace” resolution comes after an emergency session of the General Assembly. That is why all UN member states came together for a two-day meeting at the beginning of March, to vote on the text of this resolution.

Professor Scheuermann, what's your take on the resolution?

I had hoped that the resolution would criticise Russia just as harshly as it did and I am impressed that 141 states voted for it. That's the largest majority ever for such a resolution, which means it has a great moral weight. It also stresses how important the UN can be, and particularly for smaller states too, not just larger ones.

Then again, Belarus, Eritrea, Syria and North Korea did vote against the resolution.

Sure, but these are some of Moscow's closest allies. What is more interesting is who abstained. A number of African states, Iran, Iraq, Nicaragua, Cuba - the usual suspects - but also India, which has always stressed the importance of national sovereignty.

So how does a resolution under the "United for Peace" framework differ from a resolution from the UN Security Council?

A Security Council resolution is binding under international law and is the UN's most powerful tool. If the Security Council had adopted the text of the “Uniting for Peace” resolution – so that includes a ceasefire, withdrawal from Ukraine, withdrawal from the occupied territories [in Ukraine] and so forth - then these points should be enforced and, if necessary, by military means. On the other hand, resolutions that come via the General Assembly can be understood simply as a very strong request.

Do you see the UN making full use of its power in this case?

I think everything possible is being done in terms of humanitarian aid, security and diplomatic terms – especially, for example, with a view to the impacts of this conflict, such as the food crisis we are expecting. It's not possible to change the Security Council and we can't ban Russia from the UN. We just have to keep going.

This interview was conducted by Gundula Haage.
The UN resolution, Aggression against Ukraine, can be downloaded here: https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/3965290?ln=en

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