The just concluded United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) was still held down by performative diplomacy, substance-free rhetoric, and routine promises of commitment by world-leaders. Fortunately, there were also indications that there is a growing discontent with the rough-shod manner in which imperialist governments have been conducting international relations.
For sure there was renewed narrative about finding constructive solutions to the conflict in eastern Europe at the same time there was no mention of the malign and provocative policies adopted by organizations like NATO which have mainly served to aggravate the situation in the region. There was also no acknowledgement that while the so-called ‘west’ levied tough sanctions on Russia, 87% of the world’s population does not support the move, hence the initial reference to substance-free rhetoric.
On matters of global governance, several African leaders such as AU Chair Macky Sall highlighted the need to move away from narratives that confine Africa to the margins of decision-making circles. He also reaffirmed the request for the African Union to be included in the G20. The matter of crippling debt hindering African development was also brought up but unfortunately there was no mention of the predatory roles played by powerful financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Multilateralism was another buzzword term used a lot during the UNGA77, as opposed to ‘multipolarity’ which is closer representation of autonomy and mutual respect in international relations. Multilateralism as used during the assembly mostly referred to engaging in economic engagements with multiple partners as required, this is an already existing condition through myriad bilateral relations. If anything, the improvement would be for smaller economies or less powerful states to have wider options in trade engagement as opposed to one-sided economic deals that leave millions of Africans without economic opportunity. Conversely, the focus on multilateralism was also an indication that many nations and governments seek alternatives to economic and sociopolitical engagements dominated by Euro-American power blocs. For instance, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the BRICS, the BRI, and the Non-Aligned Movement all offer new opportunities for countries of the global south.
On the matter of climate emergencies around the world, once again country leaders simply made generic sounding statements highlighting the need to move quickly on addressing climate related problems in vulnerable regions of the world. There was no attention brought to the negative effects of capitalism on the planet and by extension the climate. Leaders at the event also acknowledged the growing influence of social media and its potential to sway public opinion for the worst. President Buhari of Nigeria said,” Nigeria has had many unsavory experiences with hate speech and divisive disinformation. Increasingly, we also see that many countries face the same challenge. Clearly, data also know no borders”.
Growing support of multipolarity
The foreign minister of Syria, Fayssal Mekdad during the event, stated that hegemonic countries had implemented “straightjacketed agendas”, invested in terrorism and “put economies in a stranglehold”, with no regard for international law. Further stating that “Often, they use the excuse of spreading democracy and human rights but meanwhile states have been destroyed”. The Foreign Minister went on to say that owing to ‘economic terrorism’ by the so-called west, Syria has lost roughly $107billion in oil and gas revenues since 2011. He also critiqued the occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights since 1967, condemning the demographic changes imposed on the region by the state of Israel as well as the exploitation of Syrian resources. Foreign Minister Mekdad then suggests that with the unfortunate case of Syria and other countries, it is clear that the only responsible decision is to establish a multipolar world order where all are guided by the UN Charter.
The permanent representative of the DPRK, Amb. Kim Song took a similarly principled stance in support of multipolarity and a need to move towards unity and solidarity, stating that global security is at its worst in decades because of the “high-handedness of some countries attempting to replace the international order centered on the UN system with one governed by unilateral and exclusive Western values”. The Korean diplomat also level critique against the United Nations Security Council citing that it is not fully discharging its mandate because of the double-dealing actions of the United States of America and its allies. He further argued that the UNSC has lost international confidence and is in need of urgent reform, adding that high priority must be given to the expansion and bolstering of representation for developing countries which make of the absolute majority of United Nations membership. China and Russia on the other hand announced a new initiative to build out renewed support for protecting the United Nations Charter.
Ethiopia and Honduras are also among the countries that stated the importance of multipolarity in the current global stage, citing the need to abandon the one-sided, unipolar, cold-war-based order led by the United States government and its allies. Many countries are seeking alternative in economic relations, diplomacy, and sociopolitical engagements, from the existing world governing configuration that is doing more harm than good, especially to those of the global south. President Luis Arce of Bolivia for instance, not only proposed a 14-point socialist program for world transformation, he also warned “today we find ourselves facing a wide-ranging, systemic capitalist crisis that increasingly endangers the life of humanity and the planet”. The Foreign Minister of Nicaragua, Denis Moncada during his speech at the UNGA reaffirmed solidarity with Syria, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), the peoples of Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. The diplomat urged a new multipolar order, calling for a global rebellion against the “imperialist and capitalist system” that is “bleeding the world dry”.
The Hypocrisy of Empire
In support of the March 2022 UNGA resolution to admonish Russia’s activities, the US president portrayed the United States government once again as a lead protector of international law. A hypocritical position seeing that there is sprawling evidence from wide research showing the United States government violating international law under spurious contexts. The 2003 invasion of Iraq was once such case, considering the centrality of the government’s position that weapons of mass destruction were hidden in Iraq under the control of a sanctioned enemy. It is still held that UN weapons inspectors through several reports to the UNSC did not find evidence of WMDs in Iraq or the facilities to make such weapons. The US government position in the just concluded UNGA was also couched in support for democracy and human rights but this is also contrasted when viewing US foreign policy and activity within the South American continent. For instance, a former National Security Advisor in the US suggested involvement in planning and encouraging coups against Venezuela and ‘other places.’
France on the other hand positioned itself as an arbiter of peace vis-à-vis the conflict in eastern Europe, meanwhile several west African countries have been holding intense protests against the presence of French military in the region, and the influence of the French state therein especially through the neocolonial vestige françafrique. For many years, the French government has launched military operations in the African Sahel as part of the war on terror, a move that now faces high contempt from people of the region, similar to negative reactions of US military 19-year occupation of Afghanistan. Issues of odious debt have not been resolved and the economic control effected over the region through the currency framework CFA Franc still stand as reasons for critiquing French presence in the region. These facts were not reflected in the UNGA speech by President Macron but he called for the international community to build peace and a contemporary world order. This is a hypocritical position since most of the so-called global south seeks a shift to the incoming pattern of multipolarity as opposed to reforming the western-led world order of military and financial domination.
The new prime minister of the UK in her part used the opportunity to pay tribute to the monarchs of her country while attributing the strengths of the UK to foundations of freedom and democracy. Although this passed as a generic acknowledgement during the UNGA, the UK and its participation in NATO have been criticized for their imperialist roles in the destruction of sovereign governments around the world. From the 1993 NATO bombing of socialist Yugoslavia to the 2011 NATO-led destruction of Libya, the United Kingdom and its (neo-)colonial legacies have been the source of much structural suffering that plagues the world today. The UK leader’s speech was rounded up with commitment to 3% of UK’s GDP to defense budget by 2030, provision of rocket systems to Ukraine, and the ominous statement “We will not rest until Ukraine prevails”.
Geopolitics moving Forward
There are many tectonic movements happening almost simultaneously on the global stage. From the continued NATO/EU support for the regime in Ukraine against its powerful neighbor in Russia, to the precarity of EU energy security following the tough sanctions against Moscow, it is clear that imperialist centers of power are desperate and destabilized. Europe is also tensed up following the rise of far-right support in several countries, most recently in Italy. Owing to a kind of insecurity in political legacies across the peninsula, European societies try to whitewash histories of fascism and are surprised when reactionary positions burst forth in the face of perceived suppression and abandonment by an overly liberal government. This is also a highlight of the stance of the peninsula in that southern European countries bare the brunt of negative fallout after NATO and EU allies carry out military operations in and around Northern Africa.
Africa and the rest of the global south still have much to be tackled and addressed while North Atlantic imperialists scramble to save capitalism in the 21st century. From rising representation of revolutionary anti-imperialism, to growing calls for multipolarity and direct protests against imperial occupation in Africa, there is a growing consciousness among the working and poor people of the world that must be protected and encouraged. Organizing and political education is critical, now more than ever.
Otobong Inieke. independent researcher and web developer based in Nigeria. With deep interest in African focused geopolitics and technology, he hosts an online portfolio at https://devinieke.com.ng and his writings can be found on various platforms like Horn Observers and the Cosmonaut.