The 193 member states adopted by acclamation a resolution appointing the former prime minister of Portugal for a five-year term beginning 1 January. The 67-year-old polyglot campaigned on a pledge to promote human rights and enact reforms within the UN system, seen as clunky and too slow to respond to unfolding disasters. His appointment comes at a time of global anxiety over the ongoing war in Syria, the refugee crisis and raging conflicts in South Sudan and Yemen.
It was Guterres’ strong performance answering questions before the General Assembly, and his executive experience as prime minister and as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees from 2005-2015 that propelled him to first place among the 13 candidates vying for the job in the informal polls in the Security Council. After last week’s sixth poll, the council nominated him by acclamation.
General Assembly President Peter Thompson introduced the resolution to elect Gutteres, said members wanted it adopted by acclamation, and banged his gavel in approval as diplomats broke into applause. Guterres “embodies the highest standards of competence, integrity and leadership,” Thompson said.
An engineer by training and practicing Catholic, Guterres fought for migrants’ rights over a decade as UN High Commissioner for Refugees from June 2005 to December 2015. He served as prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002, anchoring his country to the European Union and working to raise living standards.
Guterres said he will do his best before taking the reins of the UN from Ban Ki-moon on 1 January to prepare “to act as a convener, an honest broker, someone trying to bring people together” in conflicts and crises from Syria and Yemen to South Sudan. “It’s high time to fight for peace,” he said, and make people understand that whatever divisions exist it’s more important to unite and end the suffering because of the risks for countries in conflict and the international community. He told the 193 members of the UN General Assembly who elected him by acclamation that the United Nations has “the moral duty and the universal right” to ensure peace — and he will be promoting a new “diplomacy for peace” advocating dialogue to settle disputes.
Secretary-General Ban, recalling Guterres’ decade as the UN’s refugee chief, told the assembly that he is “best known where it counts most, on the front lines of armed conflict and humanitarian suffering.” Ban noted that Guterres’ election was 10 years to the day after his own election in 2006, calling the ceremony “poignant for me.” But he told Guterres: “the people of the world are all looking forward to your tenure with confidence and excitement.” Ambassador Samantha Power, speaking on behalf of the United States as the host country of the United Nations, called Gutteres “supremely qualified,” saying he will use the office to be “an independent force to prevent conflict and alleviate human suffering.”She said the world’s nations are challenging the United Nations and the secretary-general to do more than they have ever done before.
For the UN to succeed, Power said, nation are asking Guterres to serve as a peacemaker, a reformer to streamline the UN bureaucracy, and an advocate rallying the world “to respond to humanitarian and man-made catastrophes, and defending the human rights of all people.” Power stressed the importance of UN unity in selecting Guterres, especially in the often divided Security Council — a view echoed by Guterres who expressed hope that this unity can be channeled to take decisions to bring peace. He said that in a world which is more and more multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious, “diversity can bring us together not drive us apart.” But Guterres said: “We must make sure that we are able to break this alliance between all those terrorist groups, or violent extremists on one side, and the expressions of populism and xenophobia on the other side. These two reinforce each other, and we must be able to fight both of them with determination.”
The first former head of government at the UN helm, Guterres takes over officially from Ban Ki-moon on 1 January amid bloodshed in Syria and uncertainty following the election of Donald Trump. “The organization is the cornerstone of multilateralism, and has contributed to decades of relative peace, but the challenges are now surpassing our ability to respond,” Guterres told the General Assembly. “UN must be ready to change,” he added.
The 67-year-old socialist politician said the United Nations must “recognize its shortcomings and reform the way it works” and singled out the failure to prevent crisis as the most serious failure. Guterres, who will become the ninth UN chief in the world body’s 71-year history, said he is not only fully aware of the challenges the United Nations faces but the limitations surrounding the secretary-general. “The dramatic problems of today’s complex world can only inspire a humble approach, one in which the secretary-general alone neither has all the answers nor seeks to impose his views, one in which the secretary-general makes his good offices available to help find solutions that benefit everyone involved.”
Incoming UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres vowed to improve the world body’s ability to respond to global crises after taking the oath of office.
The socialist politician, who also served as UN refugee chief for a decade, Guterres is expected to play a more prominent role as the world’s diplomat-in-chief than Ban, the South Korean former foreign minister who will step down after two five-year terms.
Today, UN, controlled by US led notorious UNSC, has been reduced to a forum for military deals and no peace deal is signed. Citizens worldwide are losing confidence in their governments and in global institutions, he said, adding that it was “time to reconstruct relations” between leaders and their people. USA shamelessly uses it veto only to shield the fascist Israel from punishment for its criminal operations in Palestine, killing people, including children.
True, UN is supposed to protect and promote world peace but it has not been able to bring peace o to the world as it refuses or unable to sole the regional tensions. Had it sought world peace sincerely, UN would have brokered peace honestly between Israel and Palestine and helped Palestinians establish their own Palestine state with full sovereignty necessary to defend its freedoms. But USA took the initiative only to defend the Zionist fascism in Palestine. This led to repeatedly failed talks.
The former Portuguese prime minister and UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres pledged to make the pursuit of peace in a conflict-torn world his “over-arching priority” after being elected the next secretary-general of the United Nations. Guterres laid out three priorities for change during his five-year term: work for peace, supporting sustainable development and internal reforms.
Since Antonio Guterres who replaced Ban Ki-moon as UN Chief, says peace is his top priority, humanity in general and Kashmiris and Palestinians in particular can hope to be soverign states soon with a new president taking office soon in USA.
UN and USA must insist the Sri Lankan government and its president Sirisena to let the UN in vestige war crimes of the previous Rajapksha regime so that Tamils, the target the military for years, get proper justice. In fact, what the Rajapaksha regime attempted in Tamil localities is Tamilian holocaust by fast track genocides of Tamils so that they never ask for any rights in the Island nation, already facing extinction due to dangerous climate change.
Regional peace in South Asia is impossible without justice for the Tamil community and Kashmiris.
Hopefully with a new leader at the helm of UN affairs and a new president in USA, all tensions in regions would find credible solutions, especially Mideast and South Asia with the emergence of Palestine and Kashmir as independent nations.
Let us all hope for the best. Let us positively look or a new world of peace and prosperity.
Time for a Consolidated Russian-Chinese Approach to Modernize and Reform UN
When it comes to reforms of the United Nations, it is indispensable for China and Russia, as long-time UN champions and supporters, to take the lead in promoting bottom-up approach to UN reforms. Moscow and Beijing have already accumulated a lot of experience in working together in drafting UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, in setting agendas for UN General Assemblies and in interacting with various groups of UN member states.
When some talk about how to make the UN more efficient and more relevant in global politics, they usually focus on reforming the UNSC. There is no shortage of ideas and even detailed plans of how to expand the composition of UNSC and how to modify the veto power rules within the body.
It is hard to argue against the need to introduce changes to the UNSC’s current mode of operations. And, the Council demonstrates difficulties to jointly approach some of the most devastating and dangerous conflicts faced by the world—be it in Africa, in the Middle East, in South Asia, in Latin American and in Europe and elsewhere.
However, the current international environment does not appear conducive to launching any far-reaching UNSC reforms today or tomorrow. An enlargement of UNSC would make the difficult task of reaching consensus in the United Nations Conference Building in New York City even more challenging; new permanent members would come with their own agendas, priorities and—alas!—with their prejudices and biases. The idea of a veto power abolition would undoubtedly meet fierce resistance from the P5 permanent group members.
Does this mean that one should put all the plans to enhance the United Nations on the back-burner? Not at all.
Contemplating an enhanced UN, one has to keep in mind that the United Nations is much bigger than its Security Council, all the importance of UNSC notwithstanding. Under the contemporary unfavorable circumstances, a bottom-up approach to the UN reforms might turn out to be more practical and more productive than a top-down approach. The United Nations is a graphic illustration of how the 20th century modernist institutional culture confronts the 21st century post-modernist international realities. The needed adjustment is huge, even without touching the Security Council for the time being.
There is an urgent need to provide for more targeted coordination among numerous UN agencies, in particular—to overcome the existing gap between the UN security agenda and its development agenda.
There is a clear necessity to produce a new set of KPIs for the vast UN bureaucracy, which is quite often too much focused on formal report writing. One should think about how the United Nations could make more use of the global civil society and independent expert knowledge. The United Nations should modernize and upgrade its peace-keeping capacity in view of the changing nature of modern conflicts and to move from mostly reactive to proactive approaches to conflicts. UN has to address in a more energetic and systematic ways pending problems of red-tape, bureaucratic duplication, excessive administrative costs and so on.
Some of these and many other institutional challenges confronting the UN have been articulated many times by critics of the organization. Sometimes, the latter used this criticism to cast doubts in the relevance of the United Nations in the 21st century.
The time has come to take a consolidated Russian-Chinese approach to modernizing the UN institutional culture and performance. It goes without saying that this work should not look as an exclusive undertaking of the two permanent members of UNSC, but should rather include as many other member states as possible.
Once this process is launched and gains momentum, it will be much easier to address more divisive issues—reforming the Secretariat, empowering the General Assembly and addressing the most difficult and controversial matter of the UN Security Council composition and the rights of its permanent members. By the time we get to this point, the accumulated track record of working together on less controversial matters should make it possible to find an appropriate arrangement for the Security Council as well.
From our partner RIAC
Support the UN’s leadership position and multilateralism
Despite its inability to fully satisfy people’s expectations on some issues, the United Nations and its agencies, as well as other multilateral organizations, have made significant efforts to promote peace and development across the globe during the past 70 years. However, the UN is confronted with enormous problems in a fast-changing globe and a complicated international environment.
First, some countries have attempted to undermine the basic norms governing international relations by forming cliques, practicing pseudo-multilateralism, provoking ideological confrontation, and attempting to suppress other countries through sanctions, all while ignoring the UN Charter’s purposes and principles.
They have used a double standard at UN meetings and debates in order to impose their own values and rules on other countries while claiming that they are universal values and rules. They have frequently sought the moral high ground and lectured, criticized, or attacked other countries, as well as openly interfering in their internal affairs. They regard the United Nations as a private club that exists to serve their national interests, and they utilize it when it suits them and ignore it when it does not. These heinous crimes have severely harmed UN member states’ mutual trust and collaboration, as well as the global body’s power and ability to control the globe.
Second, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to represent a major threat to people’s lives, health, and economic activity worldwide. More than 240 million individuals have been infected and 4.89 million people have died as a result of the new coronavirus.
COVAX was created by the World Health Organization, a specialized UN agency, to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. However, the global “vaccination gap” remains large, vaccine distribution is inequitable, and vaccine shortages in many developing and least-developed countries remain unaddressed. In addition, the virus’s constant evolution has posed significant obstacles for governments’ preventive and control efforts. Sadly, some governments have attempted to delegate their obligations to others, jeopardizing the global fight against the epidemic.
Third, the epidemic has wreaked havoc on the global economy, particularly in underdeveloped countries, resulting in increased unemployment, lower earnings, and poverty. Furthermore, the pandemic’s effects, as well as human factors, have rendered global industrial and supply systems vulnerable and unstable.
Part countries have created large amounts of currency notes in attempt to address their economic challenges, hence passing some of their economic issues to other countries. Some nations have urgently sought to divorce their scientific and technology sectors from those of other countries, obstructing global science and technology progress. As a result, many nations may be unable to reach the goals set forth in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is aimed at solving development issues.
Fourth, as a result of climate change, extreme weather events have grown more common and devastating. Extreme weather events may become more common and cause greater damage if global temperatures continue to rise as a result of increased greenhouse gas emissions. And if countries do not cut their use of fossil fuels quickly enough to keep global warming below 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius, the world may suffer catastrophic repercussions.
Finally, the UN’s role has diminished as a result of the aforementioned issues, as well as overstaffing, low efficiency, sluggish action, and poor execution. Humankind is confronted with a plethora of new difficulties in today’s fast-changing world, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for the UN to adapt and/or handle these issues.
It’s no wonder, therefore, that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated during the UN General Assembly’s 76th Session that mankind will be in grave danger if “effective multilateralism” is not practiced, and that the world needs a “UN 2.0” to recreate the ideals on which it was built. In order to face these difficulties, the international community must sustain a UN-centered world order based on international law and norms that regulate international relations.
All countries should respect and treat one another as equals, and those states who prioritize their own interests over global ones and impose penalties on other countries should be opposed. In addition, the international community should work together to minimize inter-country disputes, ensuring that all nations select the political system and development path that best suits their national circumstances, and appreciate diversity.
Moreover, all UN member states should uphold their commitments under the UN Charter and assist the UN in its efforts to solve emerging global concerns. For the interest of all member states, the UN should increase its capacity building, deepen reform, enhance efficiency, and protect justice.
In order to prevent the pandemic, the international community must take steps to reduce the danger of cross-border infections and guarantee that vaccinations are distributed fairly across the world so that developing and least-developed countries can vaccinate their people.
Furthermore, all countries should refrain from using economic and financial policies and tools to benefit themselves at the expense of others, maintain the stability of global industrial and supply chains, eliminate all forms of protectionism, and promote regional trade and investment liberalization to help the world economy recover.
They should also set concrete goals for peaking carbon emissions and attaining carbon neutrality in accordance with the principle of shared but differentiated responsibilities, as well as pursue a green and low-carbon development path, to combat climate change.
Debunking the Sovereignty: From Foucault to Agamben
“Citing the end of Volume I of The History of Sexuality, Agamben notes that for Foucault, the “threshold of modernity” is reached when politics becomes bio-politics—when power exercises control not simply over the bodies of living beings, but, in fact, regulates, monitors, and manufactures the life and life processes of those living beings.” For Agamben, the term politics in the western context is effectively a politics of Sovereignty and consequently, for Agamben, Sovereignty itself is inherently bio-political.
In the latter context, the term bio-politics is not modern rather it is ancient. Here, Agamben comes in disagreement with Hannah Arendt and Michel Foucault. Perhaps, this is why, Agamben dedicated his widely cited work “Homo Sacer” to reconcile the bio-political theory of Hannah Arendt and Michel Foucault to grasp the decisive moment of the Modernity. In order to reconcile the bio-political theory of Hannah Arendt and Michel Foucault, Agamben uses the concept of “Bare Life” or “Sacred Life“.
According to Agamben, Michel Foucault has overlooked the writings of Hannah Arendt, and hence, the gap should be filled. To illustrates his understanding of the modern bio-politics, Agamben imagines the “the concentration camp and the structure of the great totalitarian state of the twentieth century. For Agamben, in the modern times every political space has become a camp that is why he has used the term concentration camp instead of the city state.
Hence, for Agamben, the camp is a place where law is nothing and the existence of beings is reduced to a bare life. Moreover, a camp is place where the sovereign decision acts without any consequence and thus the existence of every man is reduced to a bare life. Thus in his famous work, Agamben aspires the return of the sovereign by rejecting the Foucaultian Methodology. Although both Foucault and Agamben are against the concept of totalitarianism but the only divergence exists in their methodology. But according to several scholars, on one side Agamben is against the concept of totalitarianism but on the other hand he attempts to resurrect it by nullifying his initial argument.
In the latter context, there is a huge difference between Agamben and Foucault when it comes to the question of bio-politics, law, sovereignty, life and law. Hence, the divergence can be understood from the context of ontology, epistemology, metaphysics, politics, methodology and normativity. For instance, unlike Foucault, in his famous work “Homo Sacer” Agamben defines the concept of sovereignty from the Schmittian Standpoint, that is a sovereign means;” he who decides on the exception”. This is why, various experts deemed Agamben as the radical, who is trying to resurrect politics as opposed to Sovereignty.
On the contrary, just like Foucault, Agamben consider the concept of the bare life as the nucleus of the sovereign power. However, on the other hand, Agamben embraces the argument of Carl Schmitt that the concept of “Exception” lies at the heart of the Sovereign Power or Sovereignty.
Hence, when it comes to the Sovereignty and Bare life, it is the inclusion of zoe within the bios only by the means of Zoe’s exclusion. Here Zoe means (Bare Life) while Bios means (Political Life). Moreover, in Agamben’s definition of ‘Sovereignty’ does surrounds institutions rather it defines the abstract and exceptional relationship between the Zoe and Bios. Hence, basically, it is through this particular exceptional and abstract relationship, Agamben attempts to define the context and prevailing dynamics of the Western Politics. In contrast, Agamben defines the context of Sovereignty within the standpoint of the exception, perhaps, here the “exception” resembles the return of “The Sacred” in the Roman law. No doubt, it is a clear fact that “the sacred” in the Roman law serves as a kind of bridge between Aristotle and Modernity.
In the latter Context, it can be said that for Agameben the term sovereignty is not just a social or political phenomenon rather a trans-historical Phenomenon. On the contrary, for Michel Foucault, the term sovereignty is a recent phenomenon, whose origin can be traced to the power of the feudal monarchy during the middle Ages. Nonetheless, the fact should be kept in mind that whether it was in the ancient times or modern day, Sovereignty has played a key role in underlying the Social Contract.
According to the Foucaultian definition, the theory of Sovereignty relies on the subject, whose sole power is to establish the unity of power. More precisely, in the Foucaultian context, the theory of the Sovereignty assumes three ancient elements: First, a subject who must be subjectified, the unity of power must be established, and the legitimacy, that must be respected by all (Subject, unitary power, and the law).
Basically, the latter three elements clearly explains the dynamics of the feudal power during the Middle Ages. Moreover, from the Foucaultian standpoint the concept of discipline and bio-power are essential concepts surrounding term “Sovereignty”.
Another difference between Foucault and Agamben was that Agamben equates the concept of Sovereignty with the state, whereas, Agamben laments the erosion of the modern day State-Sovereignty equivalence. Nonetheless, the fact cannot be denied that Foucault failed to use the historical Schema in order to understand the meaning of sovereignty first from the standpoint of discipline up to the level of the security and the bio-power. For Foucault, discipline within the context of sovereignty only exists in the ancient world, however, in the modern times, it has been replaced by the concept of bio-power and the security. Hence, for Foucault, in the ancient times, the Penopticon can be seen as a great dream of the Sovereignty.
On the other hand, the fact cannot be denied that in the modern times, the concept of sovereignty has entered into the innate symbiosis with various professions ranges from jurists, doctors, scientists, scholars and even priests. It was the famous German Jurist Carl Schmitt, who first grasped the definition of sovereign exception, which is nothing less than the limit concept of the doctrine of the state and the law. Hence, the fact cannot be denied that here the concept of state and sovereignty resembles each other.
Hence, if we put the Agamben’s and Foucaultian definition of sovereignty into context then it becomes clear that the concept of sovereignty in Agamben’s perspective is not united rather it is more historical and continuous. More precisely, in Agamben’s perspective the concept of sovereignty is historical, which can be stretched from the time of Aristotle to the Modern day.
Similarly, for Agamben, the subject of the sovereign power, which is the result of the division of Zoe/bios, have been polluted or corrupted over the course of the centuries. Moreover, during this particular course, the domain of the Zoe was extended to a significant level, whereas, the domain of the bios was diminished by unfolding its actual perspective. As a matter of fact, throughout his writings, Agamben subscribes to the juridico-discursive concept of power, which for Foucault was insufficient for understanding the very concept of the modern bio-politics. In contrast to the above, the fact cannot be denied that through his major contributions, Michel Foucault attempted to project the “entire western reflection on Power“.
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