Ensuring sustainable development and peace: who at the UN is against?

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March 2021 marks a year since the World Health Organization announced that the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 has turned into a pandemic. Despite the very negative socio-economic consequences for the international community, the countries of the North led by the United States have not changed their course to prevent the UN General Assembly from adopting resolutions (14 in total) aimed at ensuring sustainable development and stable peace and at countering the recourse to unilateral financial measures, which have remained intact and intended to curb the efforts of the international community to guarantee the right to development and to a decent life. Since the resolutions are adopted by a majority of the votes of all the UN member states (193), the efforts of the Global North are in vain anyway. The article explores the positions of states when voting on United Nations General Assembly resolutions relating to the issues addressed in this article.

Promote sustainable development and stable peace

In the context of global economic inequalities, the North-South dichotomy is a conflict of interest between industrialized and developing countries. The conflict is linked to the growing gap in socio-economic and cultural development between the “rich” countries of the North and the “poor” countries of the South. According to the UN, the number of people living in extreme poverty has increased from 36% in 1990 to 10% in 2015. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the pace of change is slowing and the world is at risk of death. ‘undo decades of progress in the fight against poverty.

The gap in the distribution of capital, income and quality of life is causing socio-economic and political upheaval around the world, posing a challenge to the security and stability of the global economy.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the international community has made serious efforts to counter the North-South dichotomy and eliminate the consequences of global inequalities.

For example, on September 8, 2000, the Millennium Summit adopted a Declaration that included a roadmap to 2015. The document contained eight goals, 18 targets and 48 indicators to measure achievement of the Millennium Development Goals ( OMD). .

The United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development from September 25 to 27, 2015 unanimously endorsed the Sustainable Development Agenda. The document, titled “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, and informally dubbed “Sustainable Development Goals,” or SDGs, contains a set of goals (17 in total) for international cooperation. in global development. As part of the implementation of the Global Agenda, it entered into force on January 1, 2016.

However, from 2016, the United States, the European Union and their satellites, including Ukraine, began to vote against the adoption of the resolution “Sustainable development: implementation of Agenda 21, the Program for the further implementation of Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development ”—something previously adopted without a vote. In 2019, most opponents, with the exception of the United States and Israel, “abstained”.

The vote on the fundamental resolution “The right to development” showed a certain split between the countries of the North. However, the backbone of the “wealthy” nations of Western Europe and the United States (as well as Ukraine, which sided with them) consistently voted “against” the motion. Vote on resolutions such as “Implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the Secretary-General on the causes of conflicts and the promotion of sustainable peace and sustainable development in Africa” and “New partnership for the development of Africa”. Africa: progress in implementation and international support ”also showed differences of opinion.

The Member States of the European Union and Ukraine support the United States in their vote against the resolution “Promotion of peace as a vital requirement for the full enjoyment of all human rights by all”, which, among other things, underlines that the ever-widening gap between the developed and developing worlds poses a major threat to global prosperity, peace, security and stability. A similar situation occurred with the resolution “Eradication of rural poverty to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.

We should also note that the position of the United States under the Trump administration changed drastically – and this position was only supported by Israel, as well as by Libya in one case – when voting on subsequent resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly:

  1. “The Right to Food” (in 2009-2016, the resolution passed without a vote; the US and Israel have voted against since 2017).
  2. “Global health and foreign policy: strengthening the resilience of the health system through affordable health care for all” (in 2008-2017, the resolution was adopted without a vote; in 2018, the United States and Libya voted against; in 2019, it was adopted without a vote; in 2020, only the United States voted against).
  3. “International Financial System and Development” (in 2000-2016, the resolution was passed without a vote; in 2017, the United States and Israel voted against; in 2018-2019, only the United States voted against).
  4. “International trade and development” (in 2011-2016, the resolution passed without a vote; in 2017 and 2020, the United States and Israel voted against; in 2018 and 2019, only the United States voted against).
  5. “Commodities” (in 2004-2015, the resolution was passed without a vote every two years; in 2017, the United States and Israel voted against; in 2019, the United States alone voted against).

Use of unilateral financial and economic measures

Global economic inequality along the axis of provisional “North-South” confrontation was particularly evident during the pandemic, when the effect of the sanctions grew in urgency (Venezuela, Iran).

In order to help the international community overcome the consequences of the coronavirus, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed the heads of the G20 member states at the very start of the pandemic (March 25, 2020), calling on them to lift their sanctions so that states would have access to food, essential goods and medical aid to fight COVID-19. Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for a relaxation of sanctions against states battling COVID-19. Restrictive measures can hamper the effective response to the pandemic, which will inevitably have a negative impact on other states. The United Nations and the international community have put the fight against the pandemic and its consequences high on their agenda.

During an extraordinary G20 summit on March 26, 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed to introduce green corridors free from trade wars and sanctions and open mainly to essential goods, food, medicines, medical equipment. personal protection needed precisely to fight the pandemic. On the same day, the eight states currently under restrictive measures, namely Russia, Venezuela, Iran, China, North Korea, Cuba, Nicaragua and Syria, sent a letter to Antonio Guterres on the negative impact of sanctions on the human rights agenda and economic growth.

On April 3, 2020, Alena Douhan, United Nations special rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, called for the lifting or at least the suspension of sanctions within the framework of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to her, the unilateral measures adopted to circumvent the UN Security Council affect economic, social and civil rights and, above all, the right to development. The pandemic has obviously led to unemployment, the bankruptcy of certain economic sectors and the decline in incomes, thus exacerbating the negative effect of unilateral economic restrictions. The sanctions policy is hampering the recovery of markets and the global economy, which has a knock-on effect on the development of emerging markets.

Despite calls from the United Nations, the countries of the North do not consider it necessary to modify their sanctions policy. In December 2020, the United States, the European Union and the few states that have joined their ranks, including Ukraine, voted against the resolution on human rights and unilateral coercive measures which calls, among others , to stop the use of essential goods as a tool of political coercion, especially in the context of global health issues, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the same time, the United States and the European Union generally vote differently on the resolution “Unilateral economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries” since 2001, EU countries have refrained from vote, while the United States and Israel voted against. However, when voting on the resolution “Towards a new international economic order” (a supplement to the existing resolution on the “International financial system and development”), where the General Assembly calls for an international order based on the principles of “Sovereign equality, interdependence, common interest, cooperation and solidarity among all states” and also recommends that states “refrain from promulgating and applying unilateral economic, financial or trade measures” , the EU and their satellite states, including Ukraine, support the US and vote against such motions.

Russia and the Sustainable Development Goals

Russia supports the adoption of the resolutions listed above of the United Nations General Assembly and actively promotes the development goals, both by incorporating them into its national projects and strategic development planning and by giving to other countries access to financial resources. Over the past two years, Russia has provided humanitarian assistance to 21 states in Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa, with a total value of more than $ 25 million. Interest in providing international aid has only grown amid the pandemic: Russia has provided anti-coronavirus aid in the form of medical equipment and supplies, personal protective equipment and medical ventilators in more than 20 states.

On March 17, 2020, the Government of the Russian Federation approved the Priority Action Plan to Ensure Sustainable Economic Development under Conditions Exacerbated by the Spread of COVID-19, which aims to achieve the SDGs nationwide. The anti-crisis plan includes the following measures: provision of essential goods; support for economic sectors in the area at risk; support for small and medium-sized enterprises; and general system-wide measures (establishment of a guarantee fund for the restructuring of loans to enterprises affected by the worsening situation due to the spread of COVID-19; establishment of a list of enterprises of the Russian economy; and operational monitoring of the financial and economic situation of the federating organizations).

Currently, the SDGs in Russia are integrated into national projects and other strategic and programmatic documents, such as the Food Security Doctrine of the Russian Federation, as well as state programs, such as “Educational Development “,” Accessible environment “,” Promoting employment “and” Global development of rural territories “. In 2020, twelve national projects as well as the Global Plan for the modernization and extension of the trunk infrastructure cover 107 of the 169 objectives set by the UN.

From our partner RIAC


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