From an article by Douglas Roche on June 9:
Many people think the UN can’t do anything because of the veto system in the Security Council in which any of its five permanent members can stop a measure from going forward. Russia used its veto to block a resolution that would have forced it to stop its aggression in Ukraine. It will likely use its veto again to stop any reform of the Security Council.
But the General Assembly, the body where all 193 member states of the UN meet, is now challenging the Security Council by expanding the concept of “uniting for peace.” The Uniting for Peace device, long on UN books, was designed to provide the UN with an alternative avenue for action when a permanent member uses its veto to obstruct the Security Council from carrying out its functions.
On March 2, 2022, the General Assembly, by a vote of 141-5-35, adopted a resolution demanding the Russian Federation immediately end its invasion of Ukraine and unconditionally withdraw all its military forces. The representative of the European Union put the matter succinctly: “This is not just about Ukraine, this is not just about Europe, this is about defending an international order based on rules. This is about whether we choose tanks and missiles or dialogue and diplomacy.”
The vote condemning Russian aggression clearly showed Russia’s isolation from the rest of the international community. Lichtenstein pushed forward by sponsoring a resolution with 83 co-sponsors (including Canada), which was adopted by consensus by the General Assembly, aimed at holding the five permanent council members accountable for their use of the veto. The assembly decided that its president shall convene a formal meeting within 10 working days of the casting of a veto by one or more permanent members of the council and hold a debate on the situation as to which the veto was cast. This Uniting for Peace resolution was seen as an important step forward in strengthening the UN’s accountability.
While it is true that the Uniting for Peace resolutions cannot by themselves stop a war, they show the growing momentum for accountability within the UN system. The new mandatory debate mechanism opens an opportunity for the General Assembly to take a strong moral position for peace. A strengthened General Assembly can become an alternate to the deadlocked Security Council.
The Lichtenstein resolution was adopted after Russia vetoed the Security Council order to withdraw its forces, so it can have an impact in the future but not to stop the current war. Instead, a new initiative must be undertaken by the UN or possibly the OSCE to adopt common security for all states as the global security principle.
Source: Douglas Roche, “The United Nations can help us get through these dark days,” The Hill Times, June 9, 2022.
The City of Ottawa joined 17 other Canadian cities in support of the International Campaign to the Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) Cities Appeal by unanimously passing a motion to join the appeal and support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Ban the Bomb Ottawa, a small group of local activists, worked with City Councillor Theresa Kavanagh to push forward a motion that Mayor Jim Watson characterized as ‘thorough’.
The group pressed the fact, among others, that the peoples of the world will not be secure until the nuclear arms race is halted and nuclear weapons are prohibited and abolished. Social media tools, an online petition and individual letters from church communities and prominent Canadians successfully urged Ottawa City Council to adopt the motion.
“THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the City of Ottawa is deeply concerned about the grave threat that nuclear weapons pose to communities throughout the world.
We firmly believe that our residents have the right to live in a world free from this threat. Any use of nuclear weapons, whether deliberate or accidental, would have catastrophic, far-reaching and long-lasting consequences for people and the environment.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the City of Ottawa join with the other Canadian cities who have signed on to the Cities Appeal and support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and call on our governments to sign and ratify it.“
Canada, which once stood up against NATO’s nuclear weapons policies, sent no observers to the June 21-23 meeting of the states parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly shows no interest in nuclear disarmament, despite Vladimir Putin’s recent threats to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
Ireland showed up and was tasked to find ways for the ProhibitionTreaty to co-operate with the Non-Proliferation Treaty. And the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) showed up; it now has 645 chapters around the world. No wonder Canada didn’t get elected to the UN Security Council.
Source: former senator Douglas Roche
Peace Magazine July-September 2022, page 2. Some rights reserved.
Search for other articles by Douglas Roche here