Featuring ‘Ukraine War’ in the 77th UNGA Session: How Was Bangladesh Different?

War neither brings peace nor solution; rather brings endless woe and hardship. The whiff of the Ukraine war also is not different in this regard. Commenced on 24th February 2022 by the military intervention of Russia, the war has already passed seven-month and is gradually becoming more protracted. As of September 20, apart from military forces, more than 5,916 civilians have died on both Ukraine and Russian sides. Along with such grim development, the war between these two economic resourceful countries has penetrated world politico-economic resilience in a horrendous grip which has already jerked all corners of the world. However, men are passed away, resources are burned away, infrastructures are razed, and civilians are being attacked by both belligerent parties but no sign is still palpable inferring the end of the war. To stop the war, what is the role the rest of the world playing? What is about the pledge of the United Nations in securing peace and stability throughout the world? Is the war aptly emphasized and featured in the 77th United Nations General Assembly?

On 13th September, however, the United Nations unveiled the 77th session of the General Assembly. The first day of the high-level debate has been held on 20th September. Prime ministers, Presidents and representatives from different parts of the world attended the session where they spoke and debated on diverse themes ranging from climate change to the elimination of nuclear weapons. Of them, the most crucial order of the day was the Ukraine war that has been dominating the 77th session of the General Assembly. While some leaders from different countries have been featuring the war from their viewpoints condemning Russia for launching this intervention, some were urging both Russia and Ukraine to work together and forget all the misperceptions and misunderstandings by bringing a halt to the war.

Remarks from Antonio Guterres on the Ukraine War

In his opening remarks in the 77th session of the UNGA, Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the world organisation highlighted the Ukraine war from a broader perspective. Focusing on the ‘growing inequalities, deep division, grave challenges and troubles,’ he called the world leaders to be united to have ‘hope’ and ‘action’ for the betterment of the world. Besides, specifically talking about the Ukraine war, Antonio Guterres spotlighted evocative pictures of the ‘brave commander’ ship and the UN-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative under which Ukrainian wheat is bound for points in Yemen, Ethiopia and beyond. Guterres said that “they were not symbols of conflict and hunger but of hope born of cooperation.” Moreover, in this regard, he emphasized multilateral diplomatic action and the role of the UN flag in bringing Ukraine and Russia to a stage of cooperation. He said, “Ukraine and the Russian Federation-with the support of Türkiye-came together to make it happen-despite the enormous complexities, the naysayers, and even the hell of war.”

Remarks from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Bangladesh’s Standpoint

Along with talking about the vile foray of Covid-19, the Rohingya crisis, the disruption in the global economic supply chain, climate vulnerability, the two-state solution regarding the Palestinian crisis, and the successes of infrastructural developments like the Padma Bridge, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina didn’t overlook the major crisis like the Ukraine war. In discussing the horrid reality of the war, unlike many other countries, Bangladesh has chosen a subtle standpoint that can be marked as ‘peace-fostering’. Citing the “tremendous pressure” of supply chain disruption, exorbitant price hikes of food, fuel and consumer goods occurring due to the war, and sanctions and counter-sanctions between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, Sheikh Hasina urged the world community to work on stopping the war. She said, “my urge to the conscience of the world community- stop the arms race, war, and sanctions, ensure food and security of the children; build peace.” 

However, she believes, war can never bring ultimate treatment. She said, “we believe that antagonism like war or economic sanctions, counter-sanctions can never bring good to any nation. Dialogue is the best way to resolve crises and disputes.” As a champion of a peaceful world, to ensure peace throughout the world and to bring a halt to the war, most importantly, the prime minister of Bangladesh has proposed ‘collectivism, cooperation and solidarity.’ She stated, “we want to see a peaceful world with enhanced cooperation and solidarity, shared prosperity and collective actions. We share one planet, and we owe it to our future generations to leave it in a better shape.”

Remarks from the Other Member States

Along with talking about the post-Covid world, the disruption of the world economic supply chain and the climate emergency, most of the UN representatives have exhibited grave concern toward the vile upshots of the Ukraine crisis. From developed countries to developing countries, from North to South, many states raised their voices in featuring the crisis. However, the features of the leaders on the Ukraine crisis have appeared from three distinct standpoints and tenets: Pro-Ukraine; Peace-Fostering; and Abstinent.

Pro-Ukraine Standpoint

Marking the Ukraine war as a violation of UN Charter, the US President Joe Biden said that Russia has been trying to obliterate Ukraine from the map. He further argued, “This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple, and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people.” Regarding the war, France, Germany and Lithuania have demonstrated their wholehearted support for Ukraine. They reprimanded Russian President Vladimir Putin calling this war a course of ‘imperialism’ in Ukraine. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stated, “This is imperialism, plain and simple”. Repudiating the acceptance of any peace accord dictated by Russia, Scholz acknowledged continuing support for Ukraine through humanitarian assistance, financial aid even weapons. Likewise, in an impassioned speech at the UNGA, French President Emmanuel Macron urged all the states not to pursue any neutral stance in the crisis. He said, “those who remain silent today…..are serving the cause of a new imperialism, a contemporary cynicism that is destroying the world order.” Moreover, in talking about bloc politics in this respect, Macron stated that ‘this (supporting Russia or Ukraine) is not about preferring a bloc between West and East, rather the responsibility of everybody to respect the UN charter.’ However, from a pro-Ukrainian, to some degree anti-Russian standpoint, the president of Lithuania, Gitanas Nauseda called on ‘UN member states to formulate a tribunal to penalize alleged Russian war crimes.’ Urging the countries not to import Russian oil and gas anymore, he called every state not to finance the ‘bloody war’ by buying Russian oil and gas.

Peace-Fostering and Abstaining Standpoints

Circumventing any kind of backlash going in no one’s favour- neither Ukraine nor Russia- some countries only focused on the atrocity of war and expressed their concern to renovate peace. Like Bangladesh, Qatar and Turkey vigorously called for bringing back peace and stability throughout the World. Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani called for peace and said, “we are fully aware of the complexities….we call for a ceasefire and the immediate pursuit of a peaceful solution to the conflict”. Along with the Arab country, Recep Tayyip Erdogan echoed the same tone of a peaceful solution. Focusing on the UN-brokered Black Sea Initiative and the Brave Commander ship, Erdogan reiterated to play the role of mediator with a view to bringing a peaceful solution. However, some countries abstained from discussing about any particular war-party rather they talked about their own problems and sufferings. Of them, Senegal is found intriguing in this regard. The current chairman of the African Union and the president of Senegal, Macky Sall solely talked about the hardships the African people are undergoing. Accentuating the burden of history and the misery of people Sall said that ‘Africa doesn’t want to be the breeding ground of any Cold War, but rather want to be a pole of stability and opportunity open to all its partners.”

Lacunas in Other Member’s Perspectives: Comparison with Bangladesh

No misgiving that the Ukraine crisis has been dominating the 77th session of the UNGA where some countries could have been somewhat courteous to tame Russia for taking the seat in negotiations. By contrast, in featuring the war, some one-sided speeches delivered by a few leaders against Russia are seeming anti-Russian provocation which course might not bring about any palatable outcome but rather may instigate bloc politics regarding the crisis. In such a ‘world town hall,’ war should be featured from the perspectives of humanitarian labyrinths, people’s hardships, uneven upshots and vicious realities of war like Bangladesh’s Prime Minister featured in the session. There might be a question that whether the UN can be a niche for bloc politics. Therefore, it is uncomely to discern bloc politics in the UNGA forgetting the real crisis and searching for its permanent solution. In this regard, Bangladesh, however, followed a better approach by highlighting the hardships of humanity and depicting the war from a humanitarian perspective. And the notion of collectivism, Bangladesh and others who belong to the peace-fostering standpoint, accentuated in bringing an end to the war was also persuasively remarkable.

Since the war started in February this year, the UN collaborating with Turkey has been striving for mediating the crisis and secure peace and stability in the region. After the breakout of the war, Two UN special sessions were held on the 2nd and the 24th of March where leaders from around the world exhibited their grave concerns and raised voices in favour of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. In this regard, the ultimate role of the UN in bringing a halt to the crisis is cogently exigent that is yet to be conducted with more impetus. Like Turkey, Bangladesh and other states who are willing to mediate for negotiations and further appeasement should be prioritized in the mutual dialogues.  In a nutshell, to bring an end to a war like the Ukraine crisis, world leaders need to have robust moves and collective efforts. Antonio Guterres said in the assembly, “But the reality is that we live in a world where the logic of cooperation and dialogue is the only path forward.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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