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70th Session of the UN General Assembly: Hopes and Expectations

September 19, 2015
<p>70<sup>th</sup> Session of the UN General Assembly: Hopes and Expectations</p>

Oleksiy  Volovych


The 70th jubilee session of the UN General Assembly — the chief deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations, began its work September 15, 2015, in New York Headquarters. Today, the General Assembly consists of 193 member countries and provides a forum for discussion of the diverse range of international problems. The Assembly shall meet in regular annual session from September to December, and thereafter as the need arises.

According to the UN Charter, the UN General Assembly has the following functions and powers:

  • to consider the general principles of cooperation in the maintenance of international peace and security;
  • to make recommendations to promote international political cooperation, development and respect for international law, human rights and fundamental freedoms and to promote international cooperation in the economic, social and humanitarian fields;
  • to consider and approve the United Nations budget and to establish the financial contributions of member states;
  • to elect the non-permanent Security Council members and members of other United Nations councils and organs and, on the recommendation of the Security Council, to appoint the Secretary-General.


The Agenda

It is expected that the current session of the General Assembly will be one of the most significant for all 70 years of the United Nations. The jubilee session is taking place under the direct leadership of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the representative of Denmark Mogens Lykketoft, who was elected Chairman of the UN General Assembly for 2015. Before the start of the general debate, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon presented his annual report on the work of the Organization to the member-states of the UN.

On the first day of the session — the 15th of September — were discussed organizational issues and agenda of the next meetings of the General Assembly, containing a discussion of a number of important global issues such as the situation in the Middle East and in Ukraine, the problem of the Arab refugees in Europe, the maintenance of peace and security and prevention of conflicts in a variety of parts of the world.

About 170 key issues of international politics, economics, social and humanitarian spheres will be considered at the meetings of the General Assembly during the coming year. Block of issues aimed at maintaining international peace and security includes the situation in the Middle East, the events in Palestine, Afghanistan, Cyprus and Ukraine, as well as issues of international terrorism and the situation of refugees. The block on disarmament will address reduction of military budgets, preventing an arms race in outer space, and an agreement on the zone free of nuclear weapons.

Among the topics announced for discussion at the General Assembly there is the development of the international financial system and trade. September 25-27 within the framework of the UN General Assembly, a summit will be held, which has to adopt “National Sustainable Development Plan 2030” to replace the “Millennium Goals” adopted in 2000. The Plan provides for the fight against poverty, illiteracy, poor health care, climate issues as well as development of energy, education, agriculture, gender equality, and a number of other issues.

It is expected that at the General Assembly session there will be discussions on the long-overdue reform of the UN itself, in particular, of the Security Council, which has recently showed its complete ineffectiveness. This became especially evident against the background of the destructive and obstructionist position of the Russian Federation, one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, which (the RF) violated the UN Charter by unleashing aggression against Ukraine. Most experts say that the veto has outlived its usefulness, it is a relic of the past, and does not correspond to the current geopolitical realities. It has long been spoken of the need to expand the number of permanent and non-permanent members of the Security Council. Among the candidates for permanent membership in the Security Council there are Germany, Japan, India and Brazil. Ukraine hopes to be elected as a nonpermanent member of the Security Council for the period 2016-2017 years when membership changes, which will be considered at the General Assembly on the 15th of October.

Although the powers of the current UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon occupying the Presidency for two five-year periods from January 1, 2007, expire on the 31st of December 2016, and the official campaign for the election of the new Secretary General of the United Nations starts only in a year, it is assumed that already at the current session of the General Assembly, discussions will be held around the possible candidates for the post of the UN Secretary-General. Until now, for all the 70 years of the United Nations' functioning, none of the eight UN Secretary-Generals represented the states of Eastern Europe. Moreover, they were all males. Ban Ki-moon says that the next head of the UN should be a woman. As of today, according to experts, the list of possible candidates for high office includes the current head of the UN Development Program New Zealander Helen Clark, the Executive Director of UNESCO Bulgarian Irina Bokova, the Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and the President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite, as well as the Prime Minister of Denmark Helle Torning-Schmidt.

Among men, representing Eastern European countries, is being discussed the candidacy of an experienced Polish politician Radoslaw Sikorski, who used to be Poland's Defense Minister, the Speaker of the Polish Sejm, and the Foreign Minister.


The High-Level Session

One of the highlights will be the General Assembly's high-level session with the participation of heads of states or governments and foreign ministers, which will be held from September 28 to October 6. It will be opened by the representative of Brazil, then there will be speeches of leaders of the USA, Poland, China, Jordan, Russia and other countries. The President P. Poroshenko's speech is scheduled for September 29, which will allow him to take into consideration in his speech certain points of V. Putin's speech (September 28), if the latter talks about the “Ukrainian crisis” at all. Our President and his aides will have one night in order to make adjustments to the text of his speech to expose to the world community Putin's insinuations regarding the so-called “Ukrainian crisis” and “the civil war in Ukraine”. Formation of the opinion of the international community about the situation in the Donbas will largely depend on the content of speeches of the Presidents of Ukraine and Russia, in other words, on the results of the “verbal duel” between P. Poroshenko and V. Putin. At this, very important is the speech of the US President Barack Obama as the supreme mediator — or rather, an ally of Ukraine.

The President of the Russian Federation V. Putin will arrive in the UN General Assembly for the first time in 10 years. In 2005, at the jubilee 60th session of the General Assembly, Putin called for reforming the UN and improving the efficiency of its Security Council, which today is largely reduced due to Russia's abuse of the veto power, in particular “on the Ukrainian issue”. September 13, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov listed major issues, which V. Putin will speak on at the UN General Assembly. According to Lavrov, V. Putin will speak on “attempts to slow down the objective process of formation of a new multipolar world order”, “the West's excessive use of sanction mechanisms,” the “problem of fragmentation of the global economic space”, the “conflicts in Syria and in Ukraine” as well as on the “struggle against terrorism, which must be conducted without double standards”.

But September 16 the RF Foreign Ministry specified that V. Putin would not speak on “the conflict in Ukraine” at the high-level session at the UN General Assembly. Indeed, to repeat his insinuations about the “civil war in the Donbas, with which Russia has absolutely nothing to do” is very risky and disadvantageous to Putin. In the Session Hall of the UN General Assembly there will be many influential and powerful opponents of Putin, who can easily and convincingly expose his fabrications and prove on numerous facts Russia's involvement in fomenting the conflict in the Donbas. On the other hand, V. Putin does not need to hold discussions about the situation in the Donbas in front of such a high audience, as he has almost reached the goal: in Ukraine he has actually created a pro-Russian enclave on the type of Trans-Dniester, which will be used for permanent destabilization of the situation in Ukraine and to put pressure on “Kyiv authorities”. While all sorts of Minsk Agreements — are just a camouflage. It has become particularly clear after the announcement of the holding of local elections in the DPR October 18 and in LPR November 1 according to the “law” of the quasi-terrorist formations.

It looks like V. Putin has decided to make the main motive of his speech the struggle against terrorism in the Middle East and Syria. Offering his options for dealing with the terrorist organization “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” with use of government forces of Syria, V. Putin has decided to play on the European countries' concerns with the flow of Arab refugees, the end of which is not visible. And some quite influential European countries, like Germany, are willing to stick to V. Putin's recommendations. Thus, Chancellor Angela Merkel says that a solution to the conflict in Syria is impossible without participation of Russia and the United States. At this, it should be noted that speaking on September 9 in the Bundestag, Merkel said that despite the military conflict in Ukraine, there were positive aspects in relations with Moscow. According to her, “despite the deep crisis in relations with Russia, at the international level, a lot in Moscow's positions is surprising in a good way and inspiring”. In particular, Merkel praised Russia's position in the negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program, as well as in the approval of the United Nations' “National Sustainable Development Plan 2030”...

However, as it has become known, Washington has rejected Russia's proposal to create a new coalition to fight the militants of the ISIS, which would provide for coordination of actions between the United States and the Russian Federation in accordance with the mandate of the UN Security Council. The USA intends to continue to operate within the existing coalition of 60 countries, most of which give only logistical and moral support. Moscow believes that Syria's government forces, armed by Russia, are the only force able to deter terrorists of the ISIS.

If Moscow proposes to include the ruling Syrian regime into coalition against ISIS, Washington strongly disagrees and estimates the Russian support for the regime of Syrian President B. al-Assad as counterproductive, which can only lead to increased instability in the region. The US State Department Spokesman, Rear Admiral John Kirby has stated that “the Syrian President has lost legitimacy and Moscow's continued support to him will only lead to further isolation of Russia”.

Recently in the media there have been reports that Russia throws to Syria military equipment and troops to support B. Assad in dealing with ISIS and is creating a military base on the territory of Syria.


According to unofficial information provided by the representatives of the American military intelligence to the British edition “The Daily Telegraph”, Russia is building a military base near the city of Latakia on the Mediterranean coast.

According to these reports, Russian experts have already deployed a mobile base of airspace control and transferred to Syria the necessary equipment and modular systems for the provision of infrastructure and accommodation for more than 1 thousand people of personnel in the area of ​​the airport and the port of Latakia. Russia already has a military base on the territory of Syria, in the vicinity of the village of Tartus on the Mediterranean coast, which it inherited from the Soviet Union.

The Israeli edition “Yedioth Ahronoth”, citing Western diplomatic sources, has reported recently that Russia is preparing to transfer to the territory of Syria, thousands of troops to create a military base, from which Russian soldiers will take part in operations against the forces of the ISIS.


For its part, Moscow has repeatedly pointed to the ineffectiveness of actions of the headed by the USA coalition, which for a year cannot cope with terrorists of the ISIS. It seems that both, Russia and the USA will use the platform of the UN General Assembly to pull as many countries as possible to their sides on the issue of settlement of the Syrian crisis and struggle against ISIS. However, it is possible that the Russian Federation and the United States can still reach an agreement on cooperation at the tactical level in the issue of the common struggle against ISIS.

It seems that V. Putin will not miss the opportunity to tell European leaders that America is far away, and Europe is already suffering from the influx of hundreds of thousands of Arab refugees. In our view, the fact that the flow of Arab refugees into Europe has increased on the eve of the jubilee session of the UN General Assembly, suggests the idea that the process was inspired and organized by certain interested external forces, especially because 90 % of the Arab refugees are young men aged 20 to 40, and among them, I think, there are a lot of the ISIS fighters. At this, they somehow all want to get to Germany — the key country of the European Union, on which many decisions depend. Such an action, in the opinion of experts, is not least carried out to distract the European leaders' attention from the problem of the Russian military intervention in the Donbas.

V. Putin's final speech of September 15 in Dushanbe at the Session of the CSTO Collective Security Council can be regarded as a “running-in” of his speech at the UN General Assembly. In that speech, Putin said that Moscow was worried with the situation in Afghanistan, the situation in Syria, terrorist attacks by militants of the ISIS, the problem of Arab refugees, but he hardly said anything about the situation in the Ukrainian Donbas, where Russia has been supporting pro-Russian terrorists and separatists for a second year already. Putin did not comment on the fact that in the new draft Military Doctrine of Ukraine, Russia for the first time is called a military adversary. However, the Spokesman for the President of Russia D. Peskov said that “it will be possible to talk about this document only after it has been approved by the President Poroshenko”.

At this, V. Putin, without doubting for a moment, called “to put aside the geopolitical ambitions, to abandon the so-called double standards, the policy of direct or indirect use of certain terrorist groups to achieve tactical goals...” and this despite the fact that all these calls relate primarily to the Russian Federation itself. Then V. Putin, hinting on Ukraine, advised the OSCE and other international organizations to “consolidate the rules on inadmissibility of acquiescing in anti-constitutional coups, promotion of radical extremist forces”, and this also applies primarily to the Kremlin's subversive policy in Ukraine.

It seems that V. Putin has “forgotten” that March 27, 2014 the UN General Assembly reaffirmed the illegality of the referendum in the Crimea and called on Moscow not to violate the territorial integrity of Ukraine. As we know, the appropriate Resolution A/68L.39 “The Territorial Integrity of Ukraine” was supported by the majority of the delegates. 100 countries were “for”, 11 — “against”, 58 countries abstained. The above-mentioned Resolution of the UN General Assembly clearly stated: “We emphasize that the referendum of March 16, 2014, in the Crimea and in Sevastopol, is not legally binding and cannot serve as the basis for any changes to the status of the Crimea and Sevastopol”. Obviously it is high time to adopt a similar resolution of the UN General Assembly with regard to the aggressive actions of the Russian Federation in the Donbas.

The Kremlin's strategists hope that in his speech at the UN General Assembly session the US President Barack Obama, like last year, will focus on the situation in Syria and informing the international community on USA's efforts to fight the terrorist group of ISIS, while the “crisis in Ukraine will recede into the background for the United States”. However, it seems that B. Obama will have his say on the Russian annexation of the Crimea and its military intervention in the Donbas, drawing the high international audience's attention to the inadmissibility of illegal local elections in the occupied territories of Donbas on the 18th of October and the 1st of November that depends entirely on the Kremlin's will.

For Putin it is important that Obama, as a representative of the country hosting the Headquarters of the United Nations, would take the initiative of holding bilateral meetings within the framework of the General Assembly. Such a meeting would allow V. Putin to get partially “rehabilitated” in the eyes of the world community.

However, according to V. Putin's Spokesman D. Peskov, the Kremlin has not received a request from the White House for President V. Putin's meeting with B. Obama.

In my opinion, for us, Ukrainians, V. Putin's meeting with B. Obama would be desirable, if the US President once again stated his principled position in defense of national interests of Ukraine downtrodden by Russia. It would be even better if this meeting took place within the framework of the “Norman Four” (Ukraine, Germany, France and Russia), which would thus be turned into “Norman Five” with the participation of the United States. It seems that only the participation of the United States could save the “Norman Format” from the inevitable collapse of the talks because of the destructive position of the Kremlin, who defiantly ignores the fulfillment of its obligations under the Minsk Agreements.

As it has become known, within the framework of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, President of Ukraine P. Poroshenko will meet with the US President B. Obama and possibly with Putin within the framework of the “Norman Four” or tete-a-tete. According to some reports, in his speech at the high-level session on September 29 P. Poroshenko will seek to create a tribunal to investigate the crash of the Malaysian passenger plane Boeing-777-MH17. Let us remind that the Russian Federation using the veto blocked a draft UN Security Council's Resolution of July 29, 2015, on the establishment of an international tribunal to prosecute those who July 17, 2014 shot down the Malaysia Airlines plane over the occupied part of the Donbas near Torez.

Earlier, P. Poroshenko announced his intention to raise the question at the session of the UN General Assembly to deprive Russia of the right of veto in the UN Security Council. According to some data, as of September 17, 67 out of the 193 members of the General Assembly announced their intention to support this initiative. I think that after President P. Poroshenko's speech on the issue, the number of countries supporting the restriction of the right of veto of permanent members of the UN Security Council will increase. As you know, September 16 the Verkhovna Rada voted unanimously to support the international initiative to ban the use of the veto to block resolutions or Security Council's actions in cases where “the conflict is particularly severe”.

It should be noted that the Ukrainian initiative to deprive the Russian Federation of the right to veto in the UN Security Council can be seen as the development of the France's proposal to cancel the right of veto when it comes to mass atrocities. Besides, according to General Assembly's Resolution 377 (V) “Uniting for Peace” of November 3, 1950, “the Assembly may also take action if the Security Council is unable to act because of the negative vote of a permanent member in case, when there is a threat to peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression”. We believe that this provision could be applied to Russia, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, which has repeatedly been the only country, vetoing Security Council's resolutions on the Ukrainian question.

On the sidelines of the 70th session of the UN General Assembly can be held the next meeting of Heads of States of the “Norman Four”. If this happens, this meeting will most likely be short and consultative, mainly to clarify the agenda for the meeting of the “Norman Four”, scheduled for October 2 in Paris. It seems that the main theme of this meeting will be the question of the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, in particular the possibility of holding local elections in the occupied territory of the Donbas, in accordance with Ukrainian law and under the supervision of the OSCE and other international organizations. For Ukraine, it would be very desirable if the US President B. Obama participated in the meeting in Paris.

There is no doubt that the international community has high hopes for the results of the 70th jubilee session of the UN General Assembly, which has a chance to become historical and to open up new horizons and opportunities for global cooperation in the 21st century. It is hoped that the point of no return in the possibility of reaching an understanding on major geopolitical issues among the world leaders had not been passed yet. It is hoped that the leaders of great powers, breaking their ambitions, are aware of the importance of their responsibility for the future of the world and will make concessions in order to achieve at least a minimum level of mutual understanding and cooperation in order to strengthen peace in the world.

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