Creating people's geographies
Outgoing UN General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann (pictured) has expressed his frustration about his attempts to end the reprehensible blockade of Gaza. Father d’Escoto, an ordained Catholic priest and diplomat, most notably mentions his disgust and dismay with the obstructionism, “apparent indifference and passivity” of certain influential UN members in a 14 September farewell speech in New York. (H/t Nadia Hijab who writes a smart column, see also Stuart Littlewood on Father d’Escoto’s address).
The full address is available here and is excerpted below.
While we’re on addresses, a UN webcast is also available of the press conference address on 15 September of Justice Richard Goldstone’s recent fact-finding mission report on Gaza.
Excerpt from Address of outgoing UN General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann:
My greatest frustration this year has been the Palestine situation. The Question of Palestine continues to be the most serious and prolonged unresolved political and human rights issue on the agenda of the United Nations since its inception. The evident lack of commitment for resolving it is a scandal that has caused me much sorrow.
I promised a proactive Presidency, and sincerely believe that I did everything I possibly could in this regard, requesting and attempting to persuade those who should have been most closely involved to call for the convocation of the General Assembly to consider the Palestine situation. However, whether at the time of the three-week invasion of Gaza that began on 27 December or now, all I received was advice to give the process more time, because things were always on the point of being resolved and we should do nothing that could endanger the success that was always just beyond our reach.
Faced with this situation, I sincerely did not know what to do. I wanted to help Palestine, but those who should supposedly have been most interested denied their support for reasons of “caution” that I was incapable of understanding. I hope that they were right and that I was wrong. Otherwise, we face an ugly situation of constant complicity with the aggression against the rights of the noble and long-suffering Palestinian people.
A just resolution of the Question of Palestine must be based on the content of international law, and will only be attained when the unity of the Palestinian people has been achieved and the international community speaks with all its representatives who enjoy credibility and have been democratically elected. In addition to the withdrawal of the Israelis from all territories illegally occupied since 1967, international law demands that all Palestinians displaced during the creation of the State of Israel, their children and grandchildren, be permitted to return to their homeland of Palestine.
My chief consultant on humanitarian affairs, Dr. Kevin Cahill, was sent to Gaza from 17 to 22 February to prepare a report on the humanitarian situation in Gaza immediately after the aggression. Dr. Cahill’s report was issued on Wednesday 19 August, on the occasion of World Humanitarian Day commemorating the sacrifices of United Nations staff in conflict zones; it had originally been intended for release at a Special Session on Gaza, but that did not take place for the reasons mentioned.
I find disgraceful the passivity and apparent indifference of some highly influential members of the Security Council to the fact that the blockade of Gaza has continued uninterrupted for two years, in flagrant violation of international law and of the resolution of the Security Council itself, causing immense damage and suffering to the Palestinian population of Gaza. This situation threatens to become even more serious if immediate measures are not taken, now that winter is approaching. Now is the time to demonstrate, with actions and not simply words, a true commitment to the concept of the Responsibility to Protect.
I believe that it is not far-fetched to note that the whole world knows that, among many other truths, some of our most powerful and influential Member States definitely do not believe in the rule of law in international relations and are of the view, moreover, that complying with the legal norms to which we formally commit, when signing the Charter, is something that applies only to weak countries. With such a low level of commitment, it should not be surprising that the United Nations has been unable to achieve the main objectives for which it was created.
Certain Member States think that they can act according to the law of the jungle, and defend the right of the strongest to do whatever they feel like with total and absolute impunity, and remain accountable to no one. They think nothing of railing against multilateralism, proclaiming the virtues of unilateralism while simultaneously pontificating unashamedly from their privileged seats on the Security Council about the need for all Member States conscientiously to fulfil their obligations under the Charter, or be sanctioned (selectively of course) for failing to do so. The sovereign equality of all Member States and the obligation to prevent wars are, for them, minor details that need not be taken very seriously.
All of this, and many other equally serious anomalies, is what has brought many to believe in the urgency of the need to reform the United Nations. But during this year as President of the General Assembly, I have come to the conclusion that the time has already passed for reforming or mending our Organization. What we need to do is to reinvent it, and we need urgently to do it ad majorem gloriam Dei, which is to say, for the good of the Earth and of humanity.