Letters & Opinion

The North-South UN Debate in Century 21 – Dialoguing with the Deaf and Dumb!

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

The 77th Anniversary of the United Nations (UN) came and went as the world faces the most insecurity since World War II– and once again, the quiet voices of the South were drowned by thunderous roars of Northern lions pursuing a gilded prey at the UN’s annual General Assembly in New York.

This year, the august world body again served as a borderless hunting ground where all other pursuits are rendered irrelevant — until the prey is cornered or rendered harmless by the hunters.

Nations of the South represent the absolute majority among the UN’s 193 member-states, but the North always sets the global body’s agenda.

This year, the focus was on pursuing one goal – punishing one member-state for another — while every continuing and/or worsening global malady (from COVID-19 and Climate Change to the international Food and Energy crises) was assigned a lower order of priority.

Every leader from the South spoke of perilous times from the catastrophic turmoil their nations face from of the effects of international economic sanctions.

African and Asian nations cried loudly about the global grain crisis that saw millions face more hunger and starvation, while the recent agreement facilitating shipments out of Ukraine saw Europe benefit first.

Caribbean and South American leaders also registered their concerns over the speed of arrival of new externally generated economic crises vis-à-vis their ability to solve them.

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are still paying the highest prices for accelerated Climate Change they contribute the lowest to, while drowning in wait for rich nations to start delivering on their promises — 13 years ago — to provide one billion US dollars annually towards Climate Financing.

Instead, the biggest contributors have opted to monetize the implementation of cures, leaving small and defenseless nations reaping more and more of the economic, social and political whirlwinds spun by the accumulated and accelerated effects of today’s worsening Climate Changes.

Never mind higher food and energy prices also affecting Northern nations as they transition from inflation to recession, or the perilous effects of recent unprecedented weather patterns that ran rivers dry, flooded cities and burned forests and communities alike, the richer nations affected still have enough financial reserves to continue to contribute billions to building and strengthening war machines.

Leaders from the South complained last week of being long short-changed through changes of yardsticks for measurement of national growth rates that kicked countries needing assistance upstairs into brackets disqualifying them from receiving international aid – including UN assistance.

Most of the UN’s member-states – in the South — are still waiting COVID-19 assistance promised more than two years ago by the North, while their dreams of achieving climate resilience drown between annual UN Conference of Parties (COP) climate summits.

The UN was meant to be a global commonwealth of nations with equal standing, but some members have always been more equal than others.

The global entity was born in 1945 around the need for maintaining peace and promoting common development after World War II, but its 77th Session heard drumbeats of war like never before in the 21st Century.

The UN undoubtedly continues to contribute significantly to world development, its agencies assisting nations needing help.

But over recent years, the UN has also regretfully become less effective in ending or preventing wars – and the collective voice of the majority is still more easily drowned by the bellicose shrills of a more powerful and richer minority.

At a time when the world’s richest one percent grew richer during and after COVID-19 and the three richest men on Planet Earth keep taking turns to cop and cap the title, the poorest 90% are still very-much worth less than the top 10%.

But some Northern nations are clearly going heads over heels to commit billions to fund ongoing and start new wars, even at the cost of risking lives of entire populations.

The most-heavily-armed UN member-states are increasing their already-high military budgets with offensive weapons in the name of self-defense, feeding an always-hungry global war machine only interested in selling bombs and bullets, warships and war planes.

Together, Northern nations have pledged over US $48 billion to keep the world’s latest war going, which none see any way of winning soon – with disposable income that can go a very long way to significantly help most (if not all) the world’s poorest nations.

The Group of 77, the 55 African Union (AU) and 14 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nations and countless Small Island Developing States (SIDS) can each and all benefit much-more from the scores of billions being spent on armaments to keep global arms manufacturers in business.

The punishment mentality has been allowed to overcome the UN’s overwhelming need to urgently address the worsening needs of small nations suffering from membership inequality, while richer nations decide their own issues get global priority.

The UN used to be a place where small nations used to count on their numbers to push for progress, until initiatives like that for the New International Information and Communication Order, pursued by UNESCO under Senegalese Director General Amadou M’Bow led to his forced removal in 1987 (after being twice handsomely elected) by those powerful member-nations his proposals annoyed most.

Same with all similar initiatives to better the South that depended on the support of the North, once deemed economically harmful or politically unacceptable.

Truly, one month ahead of the UN’s actual birthday on October 24, the UNGA in 2022 turned out to be, in the eyes of many, another dialogue between a quiet and helpless South and a dumb-and-deaf North.

It doesn’t have to and will not remain so forever, but there’s no clear sign that the unequal distributions of power at the top levels of the UN will change, for better or worse.

Dialogue with parties unwilling to talk or listen notwithstanding, this is not the end for CARICOM and other developing nations.

Far from it…

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