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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/24/22

How the West is destroying the UN

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Message Cameron HUNT

For 30 years now, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has been working hard to end the practice of 'unilateral' sanctions: sanctions that are "not authorized by relevant organs of the United Nations or are inconsistent with the principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations, as a means of forcibly imposing the will of one State on another". Today, after 30 years of consistently adopted bi-annual UNGA resolutions on the subject of "Unilateral economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion" - most recently in January 2020, where only 2 of the UN's 193 Member States voted against the resolution (USA and Israel) - this principle has entered into the statutes of Customary International Law.

Given this established legal injunction of which all UN Member States must by now be aware, it was extremely disappointing to not see the word 'sanctions' mentioned a single time in the UNGA's Emergency Special Session resolution on Ukraine, of 2 March 2022. That resolution in no way authorized any form of sanctions against Russia: an authorization that is yet to be given by any UN organ. As such, we in the West are now in a situation where those sanctions that have been imposed against Russia by the USA and the EU, amongst others, have been imposed 'unilaterally': they were "not authorized by relevant organs of the United Nations". They are therefore of questionable legality under international law, and stand in opposition to 30 years of UNGA resolutions on the subject; until such a time as UN authorization is finally given.

Some are likely to opine that this is because the UNGA does not have the power to authorize sanctions under the UN Charter, but it manifestly does, as I demonstrated in my earlier Article, The 'veto' charade. As far back as 1963, the Assembly adopted resolution 1899 by which, in addition to authorization military sanctions against apartheid South Africa, it also 'Urged' "all States which have not yet done so to " Refrain also from supplying in any manner or form any petroleum or petroleum products to South Africa"; thereby authorizing economic sanctions. Moreover, if the point of UNGA Emergency Special Sessions is not at the very least to authorize immediate sanctions against aggressors, then they fail to serve any useful purpose at all; as was the case with Ukraine. Yet the Assembly's resolution even failed to call for the lightest form of sanctions there is, diplomatic sanctions: what should have led to the immediate expulsion of Russian embassy staff from all law-abiding states.

Although those states that have already applied sanctions against Russia will (very) obviously argue that their sanctions are conversely, in complete compliance with "the principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations", and that there is therefore no need for them to be "authorized by relevant organs of the United Nations", such declarations will in no way change the legal reality: those sanctions were applied 'unilaterally', bypassing the relevant organs of the UN. If it is indeed for each state or regional grouping to decide for itself which sanctions are "consistent with the principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations", then the need for authorization "by relevant organs of the United Nations" disappears completely.

The UNGA has in fact been adopting resolutions on the more general topic of "Economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries", since 1983. However, it was not until Cuba first submitted a draft resolution to the UNGA in 1991 calling for the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed against it by the USA, that the term "unilateral" started to appear in relevant UNGA resolutions. The USA's embargo on Cuba is now 60 years old, and it is seemingly the principal target of UNGA resolutions on the subject of "Unilateral economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion"; resolutions that have done nothing whatsoever to bring the USA closer to respecting established principles of international law. This sad reality is laid bare by the voting records, where the USA is one of only two states to consistently vote against related resolutions.

If the USA was asked today whether their 60-year-old embargo of Cuba is "inconsistent with the principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations", what might their response be? This situation is precisely why 'unilateral sanctions' have come to be established as unlawful, under Customary International Law. The USA is however not only turning its nose up to International Law, it is also turning its nose up to the World body as a whole. It is after all not the 15 members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) that represent the World body, but instead those very same members of the Assembly that have been demanding an end to the USA's embargo of Cuba for 30 years.

Having chosen to simply ignore the UNGA's decades-long demands to lift their unilaterally imposed embargo on Cuba, the USA has arguably done more to weaken the UN than Russia, during the past three decades. And what did Russia have to say on the embargo of Cuba in the Secretary-General's latest Report on the topic?

We believe it is counterproductive and futile for the United States of America to maintain its trade, economic and financial embargo against Cuba, which is a relic of the cold war and an anachronism" We consider this illegitimate regime, which has been in place for almost 60 years, to be a direct violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations, a flagrant example of extraterritorial unilateral coercive measures, which are preventing a sovereign State from following its own development model without external interference, and an infringement of the inalienable right of the Cuban people to a decent life"

Russia believes that the lifting of the embargo would not only benefit the people of Cuba and the United States, but would also, more generally, help to improve international relations at the regional and global levels.

And how is France, another permanent member of the Security Council from the West, helping to strengthen the UN Organization? As a result of recent events in Ukraine, President Macron declared in the past days (in a clear reference to the USA, and by implication NATO): "We cannot depend on others to defend us, whether on land, at sea, under the sea, in the air, in space or in cyberspace. In this respect, our European defence must take a new step forward". He announced, as such, his desire to transform the European Union from a post-war organization aimed at peaceful social and economic cooperation, into a military organization. His gave his vision for a new Orwellian World, divided into three major military blocks; only months after the 20-year renewal of the Sino-Russian 'Treaty of Friendship'.

Given that France was the second State to ratify the UN Charter in 1945, soon after the USA, it is somewhat surprising that they apparently still haven't noticed Articles 43 and 45 of Chapter VII, nearly 80 years later. By ratifying the UN Charter, France undertook under Article 43 "to make available to the Security Council, on its call and in accordance with a special agreement or agreements, armed forces, assistance, and facilities, including rights of passage, necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security". Under Article 45, "In order to enable the United Nations to take urgent military measures", France made a legally binding commitment to "hold immediately available national air-force contingents for combined international enforcement action".

Now, some 80 years later, rather than finally fulfilling its legal obligation to provide those contingents necessary "to enable the United Nations" - not only the UNSC - "to take urgent military measures", the French President has instead decided to ruminate on the transformation of a highly successful civic organization, built from the rubble of World War 2, into a new military alliance. An interesting point to make here is that NATO - by far the most powerful military alliance on the planet (which may not be the case 20 years from now) - has been exposed as entirely pointless in the context of Russia's invasion of Ukraine; and if NATO ever had a raison d'Ã tre, it was Russia. Instead, NATO's Secretary General declared in past days that: "The only way to implement a no-fly zone is to send NATO fighter planes into Ukraine's airspace, and then impose that no-fly zone by shooting down Russian planes" If we did that, we'll end up with something that could end in a full-fledged war in Europe, involving many more countries and causing much more human suffering". And what if the EU did have a - far less powerful - military alliance established today when Russia attacked Ukraine, a non-EU member? Wouldn't the conclusion have necessarily been exactly the same, at best?

Perhaps Ukraine should be asking itself if instead of doing everything it could to join NATO in past years, as one of the original 49 parties to the UN Charter, it should have instead been offering its forces to the UN; as required under its Charter obligations. Popular support for the war is surprisingly strong in Russia today, and one of the few possible explanations for that is likely to be legitimate Russian fears of an ever-expansionist NATO. Had Ukraine instead focused its hopes on the UN, could Russia - another founding member of the UN - possibly have objected in the same way? By pushing hard for Ukrainian membership of NATO, Russia was handed one of its two pretexts for invasion.

There will of course be some that will argue that any UN-led forces would likewise have been unable to take action in Ukraine, given the Russian veto in the Security Council. What most fail to realize however, is that the vetoes of the permanent members in the Security Council are exactly that: 'in the Security Council'. Those same permanent members (of the Security Council) cannot block subsequent action by the General Assembly. Despite this reality, given that Article 43 was recently quoted, and given that Article 43 - unlike Article 45 - speaks explicitly of the "Security Council", it can be legitimately questioned if UN forces might become immobilised by UNSC vetoes. The answer is happily: No.

The last and perhaps key Article of Chapter VII, is Article 51: "Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security". What is manifestly provable concerning Ukraine today, is that the UNSC has in no way "taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security"; blocked as the Council is by the Russian veto. As such, there remains a residual legal right under the UN Charter for "collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations", such as in the case of Ukraine. It goes without saying that under the UN Charter, "collective self-defence" should always be spearheaded by those forces made initially available to the UNSC under Article 43, but more generally to "the United Nations" as a whole under Article 45.

Despite having been adopted five years prior, Article 51's echoes could still be heard in 1950 during plenary debates on the 'Uniting for Peace' resolution (covered extensively in my Book, Pax UNita), which clarified and declared for the first time what the full powers of the General Assembly actually are, under the UN Charter. During these debates, the World heard from the French Ambassador to the UN:

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A global activist that prefers to base their arguments upon International Law and UN resolutions: opinions are not arguments. Have been writing on UN Security Council reform and the Israel-Palestine conflict since 2005.

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How the West is destroying the UN

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