‘ISIS only winner of ongoing conflicts’ – UNGA President

Mogens Lykketoft, president for the UN General Assembly © Mike Segar
There’s a paradoxical situation with the UN making decisions, and ongoing conflicts and crises in the Mideast and Africa where the UN has not been allowed access, says Mogens Lykketoft, President of the UN General Assembly.

RT: We've seen large operations launched against sovereign states without a green light from the United Nations. What to you is the role of UN, and is it effective in stopping interventions, in keeping the peace? Is it doing what it was meant to do, what it was set in place to do 70 years ago?

Mogens Lykketoft: It is a very complicated question, because what the UN was set to do was to have inside its walls all the nations of the world. For the first time in human history we’ve been able to keep inside the walls of the UN all the states. Itself its major progress and what we have of decisions now - at the summit and at the General Assembly about the sustainable development goals - is indeed a historic move forward in understanding the need for concerted action on all fronts at the same time in order to make this globe sustainable for humanity and nature. That is the positive side.

The negative side is – the Security Council, which is the body that has to do with specific conflicts and avoid them has not lived up to its obligations. That is the problem… We have this paradoxical situation: on the one side we take very far-reaching decisions which are necessary and positive for global development. On the other side, we have ongoing conflicts, great humanitarian crises around the conflicts zones in the Middle East, in Africa where the UN has not been equipped, has not been allowed to go in and stop the suffering and war.

What we hope for, of course, at this meeting of nearly all the world leaders, that we get progress. We have had the progress on the nuclear deal with the Iran - for the first time for [a long] period the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany stood together negotiating with Iran. That was a step forward in avoiding proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, very positive. And I hope that the leaders will be able to build on that, also to find common ground, to stop the terrible bloodshed in Syria, and the humanitarian crisis both inside Syria along with many, many refugees in neighboring countries.

So yes, this is a serious crisis, you can say for the UN, I would say, for the powers vested in the authority to make universal decisions in peace and security.

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RT: There have been many calls to reform the UN. Some say its role should be expanded, others want it limited. Is it time to revamp the United Nations? And as the President of this Assembly what specific suggestions do you have so that the UN is not sidelined when it comes to intervention, wars, etc?

ML: I think that is inevitably a difficult and maybe longer process than the year when I’m the President of the United Nations General Assembly, because all the veto powers have to agree on not making their veto, if you change the constitution of the UN. Where we can make early progress is hopefully that they find a common ground for stopping the actual conflicts, and that we can get out of the present very depressing humanitarian crisis for refugees and the movements, waves of refugees going from the Middle East to Europe which has opened the eyes of the Europeans that we have been far too slow to intervene both politically, but also humanitarianly in the region itself, that we can get a regime where we are more engaged in stopping the conflict, but we also have a more unified and sufficient relief for those who are suffering because of the conflicts.  We’ve had this serious crisis where some of the UN relief programs for refugees have only been financed half, or one third, or even less. We have millions of refugees not only in Syria and Iraq, [but] also in Yemen – the conflict in Yemen is terrible. The UN should really appeal to all parties to negotiate instead of fighting a war, because it is the civilian population in Yemen that is suffering the most.

© Kevin Lamarque

RT: Ukraine is campaigning to strip Russia of its veto power in the UN. What are the chances Kiev's request will succeed?

ML: You cannot strip the constituent founding members of their veto powers in the Security Council – that is a part of the Constitution of the UN. And that constitution can only be changed by [being] accepted in the five parliaments of the five constituent powers. That is a very difficult one. But I think right now in order to solve the current problems in this world we have to be more pragmatic and say: “Well, shouldn’t you stop using your veto power, shouldn’t you join together and find the common ground?” It is both humanitarian obligation, but it is also, it seems to me, more and more obvious self-interest of all the major powers regionally and globally, because the only winner in the ongoing conflicts in the world and Middle East from Libya to Syria, to Iraq is Daesh /ISIS/ISIL. So that may push forward a new kind of understanding, I really hope that.

RT: What would the world look like, as you see it, without the United Nations?

ML: I think the risk of conflicts and wars would be even bigger if we didn’t have the UN. You have to think like this: we’ve had wars and crises all through history. We never before for such a long period - for 70 years - we never had a global organization where all were supposed to meet, where all actually met together. And you also have to keep in mind: yes, there are the conflicts we have not yet been able to deal with in the UN, because of disagreements between the major powers. But on the other hand, we have 125, 000 people employed in UN peace keeping obligations around the world. So that means that a lot of other conflicts are kept down, because of the existence of the UN and because of decisions in the UN.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.