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By Richard Fowler- The United Nations (U.N.) met for its 77th General Assembly amid the world’s slow turn from COVID-19, the next chapter of the war between Russia and Ukraine, and an overall return to normalcy prolonged by price instability, food insecurity, and high energy costs.
Though themed as a “watershed moment,” the first in-person meeting of world leaders since the start of the global pandemic highlighted many issues facing Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America.
Dignitaries met in late September amid market shortages and rising inflation caused by Russia’s unprovoked conflict with Ukraine. Such conditions have affected many African countries heavily dependent on grain and fertilizer imports from the two nations.
While it remains indecisive on the exact reform measures to be taken, the assembly ends with a clear call for structural change in the U.N. Security Council – a critical organ of the entity charged with maintaining international peace and security.
“It is time for multilateralism to reflect the voice of the farmers, represent the hopes of villagers, champion the aspirations of pastoralists, defend the rights of fisherfolk, express the dreams of traders, respect the wishes of workers, said William Ruto, president of Kenya. “and indeed, protect the welfare of all peoples of the Global South.”
The International Monetary Fund’s latest inflation data shows that inflation reached nearly 6 percent in the Caribbean, while it exceeded 9 percent in South America and more than 12 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.
This all stems from the increased cost of energy and food during the Russia-Ukraine war. While 25 African countries voted to abstain or did not vote on the U.N. resolution condemning the war in Ukraine in early 2022, Africa has borne the brunt of the trade impact of the conflict.
According to the U.N. Development Programme, the war has reduced the continent’s wheat, grain, and fertilizer supply, especially in the drought-stricken eastern horn region. Since February, most, if not all, of the grain and fertilizer imports from Russia and Ukraine to the port cities of East Africa have been halted.
As the risk of further hunger increases, Putin’s conflict has decimated agricultural productivity and decreased the GDP of many African nations trying to make out of the pandemic and remove their citizenry from the grips of poverty.
By disrupting the modest economic and tourism growth taking place throughout the continent, the conflict and its unpredictable nature have put Africa in real danger, says Macky Sall, president of Senegal.
Annual United Nations General Assembly Brings World Leaders Together In Person, And Virtually
“I have come to say that Africa has suffered enough of the burden of history,” declared Sall, also the current chairman of the African Union, during his address to the U.N. General Assembly. “… [I]t does not want to be the breeding ground of a new Cold War, but rather a pole of stability and opportunity open to all its partners, on a mutually beneficial basis.”
With the war now in Ukraine’s favor, the first shipment of grain from the country reached parts of East Africa in late August. Last year, the World Food Program purchased 50 percent of its grain to feed 130 million Ukrainians. With more grain ships leaving the besieged European nation, experts predict it might take months to solve the food supply chain problem in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia.
“I have come to say that we do not ignore that Africa, faced with challenges, needs to be pacified and stabilized,” Sall said. “But I have also come to say that we also have Africa as a provider of solutions.”
The Eritrean-Ethiopian War
The Ethiopian-Tigraian conflict has also affected access to food for many in the drought-stricken region. With peace negotiations between Ethiopia and Tigray underway and an informal cessation of hostilities reached in talks brokered by the African Union, modern solutions are familiar to Sall and his African head of state counterparts.
That’s why, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the top of the agenda at this year’s General Assembly, reforming the U.N. Security Council took center stage.
“The divergence between developed and developing countries, between North and South, between the privileged and the rest, is becoming more dangerous by the day,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said on the matter “It is at the root of the geopolitical tensions and lack of trust that poison every area of global cooperation, from vaccines to sanctions to trade.”
Today, the U.N. Security Council – the body responsible for establishing peacekeeping operations, enacting global sanctions and authorizing international military action – consists of 15 members, five of which are permanent: China, France, Russia, the United States (U.S.), and the United Kingdom. Permanent members can veto any substantive Security Council resolution, including the admission of new member states to the U.N. or nominees for the post of Secretary-General.
The ten other council members are elected on a regional basis for two-year terms.
As part of the search for solutions that will enhance Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America’s role in the most prominent global order, there has been a movement afoot to expand the number of permanent members and limit the use of the veto.
World Leaders Gather At 77th United Nations General Assembly
During U.S President Joe Biden’s address to the General Assembly, he signaled America’s support for reforms to the council, including the aforementioned points.
“The United States supports increasing the number of both permanent and non-permanent representatives of the Council,” Biden said. “This includes permanent seats for those nations we’ve long supported and permanent seats for countries in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.”
Andrew Holness, prime minister of Jamaica, agreed. He has proposed adding a permanent rotating seat to the body for small-island developing states — a move he believes will improve the work and service of the council.
“This critical organ must work more transparently and responsibly,” Holness said.” It must be more representative of today’s world and prepare for tomorrow’s world.”
While the General Assembly didn’t take up any reform measures this year, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made reform more likely. That could open the door for an African, Caribbean, or Latin American country to have a permanent seat at the council and greater representation on security, economics, and international cooperation issues. (Forbes)