The UN mission

Image: Raka Miftah


Lecture given at a meeting of the UN Security Council

I am a specialist in global economy and sustainable development. I appear before the UN Security Council on my own behalf. I do not represent any government or organization in the testimony I will provide.

Today's meeting takes place at a time when there are several important wars. In my testimony I will refer to four: the Ukrainian War, which began in 2014 with the violent overthrow of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych; the Israeli-Palestinian War, which has raged repeatedly since 1967; the Syrian War, which began in 2011; and the Sahel Wars, which began in 2012 in Mali and are now spreading across the entire Sahel region.

These and other recent wars have claimed millions of lives, wasted trillions of dollars in military expenditure, and destroyed cultural, natural, and economic wealth built over generations and, indeed, millennia. Wars are the worst enemy of sustainable development.

These wars may seem intractable, but they are not. In fact, I would suggest that all four wars could be quickly ended through agreement in the UN Security Council. One reason is that major wars are fueled from abroad, both with external finance and armaments. The UN Security Council could agree to quell these terrible wars by barring external financing and armaments. This would require an agreement between the great powers.

The other reason these wars can end quickly is that they result from economic and political factors that can be resolved through diplomacy rather than war. By addressing the underlying political and economic factors, the Security Council can establish conditions for peace and sustainable development. Let us consider each of the four wars separately.

The War in Ukraine has two main political causes. The first is NATO's attempt to expand into Ukraine, despite Russia's timely, repeated and increasingly urgent objections. Russia considers NATO's presence in Ukraine to be a significant threat to its security.[1]

The second political cause is the East-West ethnic divide in Ukraine, partly along linguistic lines and partly along religious lines. After the overthrow of President Yanukovych in 2014, regions with an ethnic Russian majority broke with the post-coup government and called for protection and autonomy. The Minsk II agreement, unanimously approved by this Council in Resolution 2202, called for regional autonomy to be incorporated into Ukraine's constitution, but the agreement was never implemented by the Ukrainian government, despite support from the UN Security Council.

The economic cause of the war results from the fact that Ukraine's economy is oriented both west, towards the European Union, and east, towards Russia, Central Asia and East Asia. When the European Union attempted to negotiate a free trade agreement with Ukraine, Russia expressed alarm that its own trade and investment in Ukraine would be harmed unless a tripartite agreement was reached between the European Union, Russia and Ukraine to ensure that Ukrainian-Russian trade and investment would be sustained alongside European Union-Ukraine trade. Unfortunately, the European Union was apparently not prepared to negotiate with Russia on this tripartite agreement, and the competing east-west orientation of the Ukrainian economy was never resolved.

This Council could quickly bring the Ukrainian War to an end by addressing its underlying political and economic causes. On the political front, the P5 countries should agree to extend security guarantees to Ukraine, and at the same time agree that NATO will not expand into Ukraine, thus providing a response to Russia's deep opposition to NATO extension. The Council should also work towards achieving a lasting governance solution to the issue of Ukraine's ethnic divisions.

The failure of Ukraine to implement the Minsk II agreement, and of the Council to enforce the agreement, means that the solution of regional autonomy is no longer sufficient. After almost 10 years of hard fighting, it is realistic that some of the ethnically Russian regions will remain part of Russia, while the vast majority of Ukrainian territory will naturally remain a sovereign and secure Ukraine.

In the economic aspect, there are two considerations to be made, one relating to policy and the other relating to financing. In political terms, Ukraine's strong economic interest is to join the European Union while maintaining open trade and financial relations with Russia and the rest of Eurasia. Ukraine's trade policy must be inclusive and non-divisive, allowing Ukraine to serve as a vibrant economic bridge between eastern and western Eurasia. Regarding financing, Ukraine will need financing for reconstruction and new physical infrastructure – such as fast trains, renewable energy, 5G and port modernization.

As I describe below, I recommend that the Security Council establish a new Peace and Development Fund to facilitate financing to help Ukraine and other war zones move away from war and toward recovery and development. sustainable in the long term.

Let us consider the war in Israel and Palestine in a similar way. Here too the war could be quickly brought to an end if the UN Security Council implemented its many resolutions taken over several decades, calling for a return to the 1967 borders, an end to Israel's colonization activities in the occupied territories and a solution to two States, including Security Council resolutions 242, 338, 1397, 1515 and 2334. It is clear that Israel and Palestine are unable to reach bilateral agreements in line with these UN Security Council resolutions. On both sides, hardliners repeatedly frustrate moderates who seek peace based on a two-state solution.

It is high time, therefore, for the UN Security Council to enforce its decisions, implementing a fair and lasting solution that is in the interests of both Israel and Palestine, rather than allowing hardliners on both sides ignore the power granted to this Council and thus threaten global peace. My recommendation to this Council is that it immediately recognize the State of Palestine, within a matter of days or weeks, and receive Palestine as a full member of the United Nations, with its capital in East Jerusalem and with sovereign control over the Islamic Holy Sites.

The Council should also create a peacekeeping force, drawn largely from neighboring Arab countries, to help ensure security in Palestine. Such an outcome constitutes the overwhelming will of the international community and is in the manifest interests of both Israel and Palestine, despite the vehement objections of extremist rejectionists on both sides of the conflict.

As with Ukraine, this Council's failure to enforce its previous resolutions regarding Israel and Palestine has made the current situation much more difficult to resolve. Israel's illegal colonies have now expanded to more than 600 settlers. However, Israel's long-standing and blatant violation of the UN Security Council in this regard is no reason for the Council to back away from decisive action now, especially as Gaza is on fire and the region in general is a powder keg that could explode at any moment.

An economic strategy must accompany the political strategy. Most importantly, the new sovereign state of Palestine must be economically viable. This will require several economic measures. Firstly, Palestine should benefit from oil and gas reservoirs offshore, located in its territorial waters. Second, the new Peace and Development Fund should help Palestine finance a modern port in Gaza and a safe road and rail link linking Gaza and the West Bank.

Third, the Jordan Valley's vital water resources must be shared equitably between Israel and Palestine, and both nations together must be supported to ensure a substantial increase in desalination capacity to meet the urgent and growing water needs of both countries. countries. Fourth, and most importantly, both Israel and Palestine must become part of an integrated sustainable development plan for the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East that supports climate resilience and the region's transition to green energy.

The Council can also end the war in Syria. The Syrian War broke out in 2011, when several regional powers and the United States joined forces to overthrow the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This deeply misguided regime change operation not only failed, it triggered a protracted war with enormous bloodshed and destruction, including of ancient cultural heritage sites. The Council should make clear that all P5 countries and Syria's neighbors are in full agreement that all attempts at regime change are now permanently ended and that the UN Security Council intends to work closely with the Syrian government on reconstruction and development.

On the economic front, Syria's greatest hope is to become closely integrated into the Eastern Mediterranean-Middle East region, especially by building physical infrastructure (roads, railways, fiber optics, energy, water) that connect Syria to Turkey, Middle East and Mediterranean nations. As with Israel and Palestine, this investment program should be partially financed by a new Fund for Peace and Sustainable Development created by this Council.

The war in the Sahel has similar roots to the war in Syria. Just as regional powers and the US aimed to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad in 2011, the major NATO powers also aimed to overthrow the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya in 2011. In pursuing this objective, they grossly exceeded the UN mandate. Security Council Resolution 1973 authorized the protection of Libya's civilian population, but certainly not a NATO-led regime change operation. The violent overthrow of the Libyan government quickly spread to the impoverished countries of the Sahel. Poverty alone has made these Sahel countries highly vulnerable to the influx of weapons and militias. The result has been continued violence and multiple coups d'état, seriously undermining the possibility of economic improvement.

The Sahel crisis is today, before anything else, a crisis of insecurity and poverty. The Sahel is a region between semi-arid and hyper-arid, with chronic food insecurity, hunger and extreme poverty. Most countries in the region do not have access to the sea, which causes enormous difficulties in transport and international trade. However, at the same time, the region has enormous reserves of highly valuable minerals, great biodiversity and agronomic potential, enormous solar energy potential and, of course, enormous human potential that has not yet been realized due to a chronic lack of education and training. .

Sahel countries form a natural cluster for regional economic investment in infrastructure. The entire region urgently needs investments in electricity systems, digital access, water and sanitation, road and rail transport, as well as social services, especially education and healthcare. As the Sahel is among the poorest regions in the world, governments are completely unable to finance the necessary investments. Here too, and perhaps more than in any other region, the Sahel needs external financing to make the transition from war to peace and from extreme poverty to sustainable development.

All members of the P5, and indeed the entire world, suffer adverse consequences from the continuation of these wars. Everyone is paying a price translated into financial burdens, economic instability, risks of terrorism and risks of a wider war. The Security Council is in a position to take decisive action to end the war precisely because it is clear that the interest of all members of the UN Security Council, and in particular all the P5 countries, is to put an end to these wars. lasting, before they turn into even more dangerous conflicts.

The Security Council is vested with considerable powers under the UN Charter when its members demonstrate determination. It can use peacekeeping forces and even armies if necessary. It can impose economic sanctions on countries that do not comply with its Resolutions. It can provide security guarantees to nations. It can refer cases to the International Criminal Court to prevent war crimes. In short, the Council is certainly capable of enforcing its resolutions if it so wishes. In the name of global peace, let the Council now decide to end these wars.

The UN Security Council must also strengthen its toolkit, engaging in economic peacebuilding alongside more mundane decisions about borders, peacekeepers, sanctions and the like. I have mentioned several times the idea of ​​creating a new Fund for Peace and Development that the UN Security Council could implement to create positive dynamics for sustainable development and to encourage other investors – such as the World Bank, the IMF and the Multilateral Fund of regional development. Banks – to co-invest in promoting peace.

I would recommend three guidelines for this new fund.

Firstly, this fund would be financed by the great powers, through the transfer of a part of their military spending to global peacekeeping. The USA, for example, now spends around 1 trillion dollars a year on the armed forces, followed by China, Russia, India and Saudi Arabia as the biggest spenders, whose total military spending represents a little more than half. of the US, perhaps around US$600 billion.

Suppose these countries reduced military spending by just 10% and redirected savings to the Fund for Peace and Development. This alone would free up around 160 billion dollars per year. Even that sum could be leveraged with some financial engineering to allow annual borrowing of, say, $320 billion a year, enough to help the current war zones begin a vigorous turn toward recovery and development.

Second, the fund would emphasize regional integration. This is critical for peacemaking as well as successful development. Ukraine would be helped to integrate both the West (via the European Union) and the East (towards Russia, Central Asia and East Asia). Israel, Palestine and Syria would all be helped to integrate into an infrastructure network for the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East region, deepening peace as well as economic development. Sahel countries would be helped to break their isolation and lack of basic services through a network of road, rail, port, fiber optic and energy infrastructure.

Third, the Fund for Peace and Development would establish partnerships with other sources of financing, such as China's Belt and Road Initiative, the European Union's Global Gateway, the G7 Global Partnership for Infrastructure and Investment, and increased lending granted by institutions of Bretton Woods and by regional development banks. Interestingly, the Fund for Peace and Development could be a vehicle for greater investment partnerships linking China, the European Union, the United States and the G7. This would also be a contribution to peace, not only in today's war zones, but also between the world's major powers.

On the other side of the street is the wall of Isaiah, with the visionary words from the great Jewish prophet of the XNUMXth century BC: “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift up sword against nation, nor will they learn war anymore.” It is time to honor Isaiah's words by ending these useless wars, reducing military spending and transforming savings into new investments in education, healthcare, renewable energy and social protection.

The proposal to redirect today's military spending to finance tomorrow's sustainable development is based not only on the enduring wisdom of Isaiah, but also on proposals from religious leaders and the world's nations at the UN General Assembly. Pope Paul VI, in his brilliant encyclical Populorum Progresio (1967) called on world leaders “to set aside part of their military expenditures for a world fund to alleviate the needs of impoverished peoples.”

The UN General Assembly took up this cause in its Resolution 75/43, calling on “the international community to dedicate part of the resources made available by the implementation of disarmament and arms limitation agreements to economic and social development, with a view to reducing the gap increasing between developed and developing countries”.

As an American, I am proud that our greatest president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was the visionary who oversaw the establishment of this great institution. I firmly believe in the ability of the United Nations and this Security Council to maintain peace and promote sustainable development. When all 193 UN Member States, or 194 with Palestine joining, comply with the UN Charter, we will have a new global Era of peace and sustainable development.

*Jeffrey D. Sachs is professor of economics at Columbia University. Author, among other books, of The era of sustainable development (Current Ed.). []

Translation: Maurício Ayer for the website Other words.

Originally published on the portal on the portal Other News.


[1] We can remember that article 2, paragraph 4, of the Charter of the United Nations prohibits not only the use of force, but also the threat of it.

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