ANALYSIS - 77th Session of UN General Assembly and global security

Alongside armed conflicts threatening lives of millions and shaking communities, new threats make security more challenging

2022-09-20 11:13:39

- The writer is faculty member of Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt University and international law expert.


The idea of the UN emerged over the philosophy of the fundamental role of preserving peace and security for a stable and peaceful international community.

The UN was established as a global organization following the scourges of the War II, primarily to “maintain international peace and security” by taking “effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace” as defined in the text of the UN Charter.

Though the Security Council is the principal organ responsible for maintaining international peace and security, the UN General Assembly has a great influence on a wide spectrum of matters bearing on international peace.

The influence emerges from the fact that it represents all the member states as well as it is the main policy-making organ of the UN.

The Assembly becomes eventually a unique forum for all 193 states of the world to come together and address the most urgent global challenges.

The negotiations and deliberations made at the regular sessions of the General Assembly every year have therefore significant implications.

The Assembly holds its regular sessions every year on the second week in September.

The general debate as part of its ordinary session called the High-Level Week commenced on Tuesday, with heads of states or governments participating and delivering their speeches.

This year's session opened on Sept. 13 under the theme, “A Watershed Moment: Transformative Solutions to Interlocking Challenges”.

The theme has been chosen due to the world's being at a critical moment as a result of complex and interconnected crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, humanitarian challenges, a tipping point in climate change as well as growing concerns about threats to the global economy and security.

Issues challenging international security

More than three-quarters of a century after the establishment of the UN, the aim to protect international peace and security remains as relevant and urgent as ever.

Like in distinctive periods since the establishment of the organization, such as the Cold War and the post-Cold War eras, today's perception of global security is also distinctive and self-contained.

Alongside the armed conflicts threatening the lives of millions of shaking their communities, new threats however prevail in our time, which make the content of security a distinctive one.

Today, the global pandemic of COVID-19, ongoing Russian military attack, and resulting global challenges of food security, health security, poverty as well as economic challenges, and risks of military clashes demonstrate that the concept of international security is more heterogeneous and interconnected than ever before.

There are other issues some of which threaten international security in many respects.

The worsening climate crisis is still a matter of great concern.

Moreover, the world faces a deepening cost-of-living crisis that endures especially in developing countries.

Education is another issue due to the lost opportunities in many developing and underdeveloped countries during the pandemic.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also pointed out the actions of populist politicians who, he said, are showing “a shocking disregard for the poorest and most vulnerable in our world.”

Food security refers to having safe and enough nutritious food.

Due to the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, this year and probably the next year seems to be the most food insecure years on record globally.

According to the forecasts, the Russia-Ukraine conflict could drive 40 million more people worldwide into extreme poverty and food insecurity.

The lack of safe and enough food may therefore destabilize societies, increase hunger and malnutrition, conflict and migration, and may cause serious economic problems.

Guterres emphasized that although the Black Sea Grain Initiative enabled food and fertilizer supplies and played a part in reducing global food prices, there is still a real risk of multiple famines this year.

That is why this year's sessions address this significant challenge.

COVID-19 and military aggression

COVID-19 has shown the seriousness of the global infection.

If an infectious disease spreads widely, people can lose their jobs and entire communities suffer, leading to creating many threats to international security in many areas.

The task of improving health conditions and health security globally obliges the member states and the UN to work for ending the COVID-19 pandemic and to prevent other possible threats to global health.

Thus, strengthening global biosecurity infrastructure is widely addressed as a pressing task toward securing global health security and becomes one of the top issues of the sessions.

The never demising issue of the international community is the protection of international peace and security against military aggressions and other unlawful uses of force.

Conflicts cause immense human suffering in terms of human casualties, displacement, and humanitarian needs. Approximately one and a half billion people live in about fifty conflict zones around the world under the threat of violence.

The UN still mostly fails to fulfill this very fundamental task. Examples of failures today are numerous: Bosnia and Rwanda in the past and Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Ukraine.

As far as ending the Russia-Ukraine War, Guterres said, when he was asked about the possibilities of helping broker a peace deal, that “it would be naive to think that we are close… My good offices are ready, but I have no illusions that, at the present moment, the chances of a peace deal are minimal.”

Urgent need for reform

All these challenges necessitate reshaping or reforming the UN to make it more effective in delivering on its mandate of preserving international peace and security.

Numerous proposals have been made to reshape the membership and voting in the Security Council.

Türkiye has also joined in the discussions to advance a quite distinctive proposal of abolishing the veto power of the permanent member and making the General Assembly a truly legislative and decision-making body of the UN.

That is why reforming the UN to function more efficiently, especially in the area of preserving international peace and security is on the agenda of this year's General Assembly session as it was last year.

The Secretary-General's “Our Common Agenda” report provides the UN member states with a starting point for the discussion to be held at the “Summit of the Future” in September of next year.

**Opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.