UNSC fails to endorse ceasefire

Published December 1, 2023
A Palestinian child sells products in an open-air market at a refugee camp in Gaza, amid the ruins of houses and buildings destroyed in Israeli strikes.—Reuters
A Palestinian child sells products in an open-air market at a refugee camp in Gaza, amid the ruins of houses and buildings destroyed in Israeli strikes.—Reuters

UNITED NATIONS: The UN General Assembly and Security Council deliberated on the Palestinian issue over the past two days, but failed to endorse a ceasefire despite the acknowledged urgency for peace in Gaza, where over 14,000 civilians have been killed since Oct 7.

No concrete call for a ceasefire was made, and despite UN officials conveying the seriousness of the situation in Gaza to the 15-member Council, including a plea by Secretary General António Guterres for a “true humanitarian ceasefire”, the member states did not endorse the call for peace.

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan pointed out that the Council’s “inability to call for an effective ceasefire with one voice” exposed weaknesses in the UN system. He warned that “this paralysis” would reverberate in coping with other global crises and erode the Council’s credibility.

In another debate on Gaza, Pakistan’s UN envoy Munir Akram highlighted the lack of consensus among the five permanent members as a hindrance to decisive action during a global crisis.

He noted that the council passed a resolution on Gaza in November after the endorsement of all five permanent members, but only after the resolution was “cleansed” of controversial points, including a call for a ceasefire.

Pakistan has long advocated for reforms to end veto system

Pakistan, along with other non-permanent members, has long advocated for reforms to end the veto system preventing the council from making meaningful decisions.

Ambassador Akram attributed the Council’s frequent failure to respond effectively to the inability of its permanent members to agree on decisive action.

UN General Assembly’s President Dennis Francis, participating in the debate on Gaza, warned that without structural reform, the council’s performance, legitimacy, and the UN’s credibility and relevance would suffer. He noted that global violence and war persist while the UN appears paralysed due to the council’s divisions.

Pakistan supports reforms, but opposes adding new permanent members, as demanded by Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan, arguing that it would statistically reduce representation for other member states. Ambassador Akram suggested adding longer-term seats to the 15-member Security Council if done equitably.

Ambassador Jamal Fares Alrowaiei of Bahrain, speaking for the Arab Group, criticised the arbitrary use of the veto, which has marred the council’s credibility. He urged member states to enhance conflict prevention efforts for greater representation, transparency, neutrality, and credibility.

Deputy Permanent Representative Nedra P. Miguel, speaking for the L.69 group of developing countries, stressed that the Security Council is “no longer fit for purpose” and called for urgent reform. She criticised the over-representation of Western countries, stating it doesn’t reflect the UN’s diverse composition or current geopolitical realities.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2023

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