The theme of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), currently underway, was probably closest to the aspirations of the majority of members on the trajectory the world body should take.
The theme is aptly titled: “The future we want; the United Nations we need: reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism — confronting Covid-19 through effective multilateral action.”
It is the emphasis on multilateralism that should prompt the world body into action to move towards addressing the long-term demands by its members on the composition of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
This is because many of the unilateral actions being perpetuated by powerful members of the body are as a result of the dominance by permanent members of the Security Council, who were chosen as such because they were the five leading states in the war against Hitler’s Germany, a war that ended 75 years ago and long before the huge colonial empires were broken up.
The theme seems to answer to the demands for reforms of the Security Council to create a representative body that enhances multilateralism.
Every year, leaders from developing countries attend sessions of the UNGA where they shout themselves hoarse, calling for the reform of the Security Council.
This year, the leaders did not make the annual pilgrimage to New York for the annual session due to measures imposed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to contain the spread of Covid-19.
They addressed the 75th high-level General Debate from the comfort of their offices through virtual platforms.
This, however, did not stop them from making the usual calls for reforms of the Security Council to allow a sense of equality among members.
It is now time to act on the demands to expand the number of permanent members in the Security Council, and doing away with the system which favours only five countries.
The five permanent members of the Security Council are China, Russia, the United States, Britain and France.
Leaders from developing countries, especially in Africa and Asia, should start brainstorming on how they can make their voices heard within the UN corridors or risk having an annual campaign that does not yield results.
The African Union (AU) has made its demands clear through the Ezulwini Consensus, a position on international relations and reform of the UN which calls for a more representative and democratic Security Council in which Africa, like all other world regions, is represented.
The AU wants the Security Council reformed so that at least two African countries have permanent seats and veto powers.
By turning a blind eye to calls for additional permanent members of the Security Council, the UN is stifling multilateralism, a noble idea which is part of this year’s theme.
This has resulted in disdain in the way the UN seems unconcerned as powerful members like the United States and its allies act unilaterally against smaller nations.
We have seen this happening in countries like Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, where devastating and endless wars have been fought with the involvement of the US.
The plight of countries like Zimbabwe, Sudan, Iran, Cuba and others, which are suffering under unilateral sanctions imposed by the US and its allies is another clear sign of how powerful countries are circumventing UN provisions without suffering any consequences.
This is why many leaders who addressed the 75th UNGA this week reserved a portion of their speeches to point to the injustices emanating from the disregard of multilateralism by the world body.
In his address delivered virtually to UNGA last night, President Mnangagwa noted these issues and bemoaned the increased threat to multilateralism caused by “blind pursuit of narrow interests”.
He said it was “deeply regrettable that the reform of the Security Council and implementation of Africa’s position has not been achieved”, despite it being more than 15 years since the adoption of Ezulwini consensus reaffirmed by the Sirte Declaration.
AU chairperson and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa reiterated the call for the removal of illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe.
Addressing a high-level meeting this week to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the UN, Chinese President Xi Jinping said no country should be allowed to act like the “boss of the world”.
He said no country had the right to dominate global affairs, control the destiny of others, or keep advantages in development all to itself.
These calls clearly indicate that the UN risks becoming irrelevant if it continues to resist calls to reform itself in line with aspirations of the majority of its members.
The only way out is to strengthen the world body by making it more representative through inclusive decision making, which can come only after other countries are given permanent slots in the Security Council.
The UN’s major role is to avoid outbreaks of conflicts that result in the disturbance of world peace in the manner of past world wars.
Yet, the major concern is that the UN is drifting towards acting like an accomplice of some big powers, who seem to have the green light to do as they please when it comes to how they relate with less powerful countries.
There is clear need for a greater role to be accorded to developing countries in the UN Security Council to make it more acceptable and effective.