The inability of the UNSC to take concrete measures against Russia raises questions on the relevance of the United Nations
This brief is a part of The Ukraine Crisis: Cause and Course of the Conflict.
Diplomats, policymakers, academics, and activists have come together to decry Russia’s “special military operation” as a blatant act of aggression against a sovereign and independent country, while Ukraine—rightfully so—has activated its right of self-defence.Since the Council cannot discharge its primary responsibility of maintaining international peace and security due to a lack of unanimity between its permanent members, the UNSC voted to call an emergency special session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA). This is a special procedure that was adopted via the ‘Uniting for Peace’ resolution, which would allow the UNGA to consider the matter and make appropriate recommendations—including the use of armed force—to restore international peace and security. This special procedure can be launched if any nine members (or more) of the UNSC vote affirmatively. After receiving 11 votes in favour of the resolution, the UNGA held an emergency special session on the Ukraine crisis between 28 February and 2 March 2022.
The resolution strongly deplores Russia’s aggression upon Ukraine stating that it is in clear violation of Article 2(4) of the UN Charter which prohibits the threat or the use of force against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of another country.Presently, when the Ukraine crisis was being debated at the UNGA, it became increasingly clear that the resolution would in all certainty condemn Russia’s aggression. Member states representing small, developing states such as Antigua and Barbuda said that “might does not make right”, and that it was the responsibility of the international community to speak out “lest our silence be misconstrued as consent”. The representative of Palau went so far as to call President Putin’s justification for the invasion as reminiscent of “Hitler’s justification for the annexation of Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia in the 1930s”, and said that his actions could dismantle the rules-based world order. Many speakers pledged humanitarian assistance for the people of Ukraine, safe passage for those fleeing the country and stressed upon the importance of human rights.
On 3 March, the resolution was passed with an overwhelming majority, with 141 member countries voting for the resolution, 35 abstaining (including India, South Africa, Bangladesh, China, Armenia, and Pakistan), while five countries—namely Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, Russia and Syria—voted against the resolution. The resolution strongly deplores Russia’s aggression upon Ukraine stating that it is in clear violation of Article 2(4) of the UN Charter which prohibits the threat or the use of force against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of another country. It demands Russia to immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine, and withdraw its military forces from the country. The resolution also condemns the involvement of Belarus in the unlawful use of force, calls upon parties to respect the tenets of international humanitarian law, and urges the immediate peaceful resolution of the conflict.
The UNGA resolution on Ukraine is a strong and decisive condemnation by the international community of Russia’s military onslaught on Ukraine. Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid—currently the President of the UNGA—presided over the meeting, and stressed that the Assembly is the collective conscience of humanity. It is evident that the UNGA resolution can at best be a tool to express international censure, since it cannot mandate any binding measures which the UNSC is empowered to do under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
The UNGA resolution on Ukraine is a strong and decisive condemnation by the international community of Russia’s military onslaught on Ukraine.Other international institutions are also working towards exploring means to address the crisis and determine whether a process of accountability can be set in motion. The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor announced that it will be launching an investigation into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, stating that he has “reasonable basis” to believe that war crimes have occurred in Ukraine. The ICC has jurisdiction over Ukraine, because Ukraine’s government had accepted the ICC’s mandate in 2015. Ukraine has also filed a claim against Russia at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), but it is unclear whether the court has sufficient jurisdictional basis to proceed against Moscow. As pressure from the international community mounts, it remains to be seen as to whether this will be sufficient to achieve any tangible outcomes on ground. The Russian and Ukrainian negotiators met on Thursday, with the aim to enter into ceasefire negotiations and establish humanitarian corridors for besieged citizens. With all countries calling for a cessation of hostilities and a return to diplomacy, the Ukraine crisis represents a grave and sombre question on the power, authority, and relevance of the UNSC.
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Aarshi was an Associate Fellow with ORFs Strategic Studies Programme.Read More +