September 23, 2022 – Editor’s Note: This Letter, authored by Belarus’ Foreign Minister H.E. Vladimir Makei, was distributed to all member-states of the U.N. in the run up to the UNGA-77. It addresses the challenges and opportunities for the United Nations on a going-forward basis and seeks consideration.
The Letter issued by F.M. Vladimir Makei:
Minsk, 13 September 2022
I have the honor to write to you in an effort to draw your kind attention to the topic of the United Nations in the current global context. Belarus proudly bears the title of a founding member of the Organization. What is truly remarkable about its founding status is that Belarus was not even an independent country in 1945. Nevertheless, the founding states warmly welcomed Belarus into their ranks because of the immense deprivation the Belarusian people suffered during World War II and because of their great contribution to the victory that enabled the peace-loving nations to establish the Organization.
Two years ago, we all celebrated the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. Such events usually present unique opportunities to take stock of the Organization’s activities and to ponder over its future prospects. I must admit that I have also succumbed to this “trend” in 2020 by writing a rather lengthy piece entitled “Belarus at the United Nations: Assessing Its Political Track Record”, which was published in International Relations, a Journal of the Belarusian State University (the article available at https://journals.bsu.by/index.php/internationalRelations/article/view/3028). I hope that you, Excellency, will find some time to familiarize yourself with the article. Moreover, I will be extremely honored to receive a feedback, if there is any.
To begin with, the article was certainly about more than its title suggests. Specifically, an attempt was made to analyze the UN’s institutional building in order to demonstrate what was possible and what was not at the United Nations for various countries and groups of countries. What is more, some views on how the United Nations was likely to evolve in the future were suggested.
Today, with the benefit of hindsight, it makes sense to offer some short additional thoughts on the United Nations as well as to acquaint you with some of Belarus’ approaches towards the Organization at the current international juncture.
On the one hand, the Republic of Belarus’ position towards the United Nations is predicated on our firm belief in the spirit and letter of the UN Charter, in the absence of alternatives to effective multilateralism and to the enshrined principles of international law that are essential for the effective resolution of threats and challenges arising from the interdependent nature of our life on Earth.
On the other hand, Belarus, like many other countries, has to acknowledge a growing gap between the current United Nations and the rapidly increasing diversity of the world.
While in the matters of peace and security the United Nations’ essence and role has fallen hostage to its institutional structure, embodied in the Security Council with its right of veto, the organization of effective international cooperation in other non-security areas has been constrained by some other factors.
Chief among them is the loss by the Organization of its neutral and rather technical character as an impartial platform for ensuring international cooperation among equal members. Unfortunately, with the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s, the United Nations has incrementally fallen a victim to a Unipolar Moment in the world’s history, effectively becoming subordinated to the interests of the so-called “winners”. The loss of neutrality is evidenced by the following objective factors:
- over-dependence of the United Nations on funding provided by developed donor countries;
- over-representation in the Organization’s key political and financial positions of nationals from the above countries.
Given geopolitical interests and peculiarities of human nature, these two factors predetermine that the interests of donor countries take the upper hand in the adoption of decisions by the United Nations, except when it comes to the issues that fall within the UN Security Council’s scope.
This one-sidedness of the United Nations stands behind the Organization’s limited ability in responding to the problems confronting all of its members in an objective and impartial manner. That is why individual countries are being compelled to regularly respond to partisan positions publicly voiced by UN officials.
It is worth recalling that many UN documents have been drafted by a small number of countries simply because many other states lacked the required expertise.
Likewise, it is worth noting that many United Nations decisions have been adopted either by a vote, by a majority vote, or by a minority vote, due to some shortcomings in the rules of procedure. Those documents, therefore, do not reflect the common denominator of all stakeholders, while too often they even run against some countries’ interests.
That is why such clear violations of the United Nations Charter as economic sanctions embraced by some countries without a mandate from the Security Council remain outside the Organization’s remit and without its condemnation. That is why decisions taken at the United Nations by a vote to expel some members or circumscribe cooperation with them contradict the very gist of the Organization. Moreover, touting those decisions as “the political will of the international community” generally discredits the very idea that global cooperation is possible.
It is hardly surprising, then, that a large number of resolutions and other decisions adopted by the UN bodies have not been implemented.
In this sense, however paradoxical it may sound, but the UN Security Council probably looks today as a rather effective United Nations venue if viewed through the lens of the ratio of decisions it made and the level of satisfaction it brought to its members. Indeed, the Council never takes decisions that do not meet the interests of its permanent members. Belarus is sincerely committed to Security Council’s role in maintaining peace and security around the globe and intends to support any effort to strengthen this role.
These reflections on the situation of the United Nations when juxtaposed against the need to pursue the objective of effective multilateral global cooperation prompt some questions like, for example:
- perhaps, there is a need to remove from the system of international relations, instrumentalized by the United Nations, those spheres of life wherein a sovereign independent state stands as the main subject in meeting the needs of and providing for the rights of its people?
- perhaps, the United Nations should confine itself solely to the issues that have an unambiguous transboundary dimension? If done so, we would achieve real respect for the principle of non-intervention in internal affairs. What is more, we would ensure effective cooperation among states with different political and socio-economic traditions of collectivism, conservatism, liberalism, and so on.
- perhaps, the United Nations should strive for decisions only on those matters where a specific format of work makes it possible to arrive at a common denominator of interests of all participants?
- perhaps, attaining this objective requires introducing a rule of consensus in all areas of the United Nations’ activities? Hence, we would have only such solutions, in whose elaboration all stakeholders were willing to engage.
What grieves us in particular is that a large number of developing countries have been under heightened pressure on their sovereignty in the United Nations in recent years. Nearly five decades ago these very nations brought to the Organization all the vigor and dynamism that resulted in the New International Economic Order, one of the landmark documents in the United Nations history. Today, however, this group’s collective voice, regrettably, does not ring as loud and clear as it once did in the past.
Yet, there is a specific area, in which this voice can ring as strong as it rang before. In the large piece on the United Nations mentioned earlier in this letter a particular point of urgency was stressed for a global security dialogue, first and foremost, among great powers in light of their evidently growing rivalry.
Today, such kind of dialogue in the true spirit of San-Francisco is required more than ever. If the great powers cannot demonstrate leadership here, it is the developing countries that should take the lead. It is this group of countries that can launch a process of global security dialogue at the United Nations, which, would provide answers to the questions I posed above, and which would bring about an outcome document similar in its letter and spirit to the New International Economic Order.
One can reasonably hope that progress on peace and security will help lift constraints on progress in all other areas of the United Nations’ activities.
I would very much appreciate, Excellency, your possible feedback.
Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.