The UN General Assembly in New York is considered a great “class reunion” of all 193 members. Secretary-General Guterres, however, is not very optimistic.1
It is the big foreign policy highlight of the year: the United Nations General Assembly takes place annually in the Big Apple. All member states – including Austria – will discuss challenges and risks on our planet. This year’s Red-White-Red delegation will again be led by Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen and Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg (ÖVP). The former arrived in New York on Sunday after various flight difficulties, the VP politician joined with his delegation on Monday afternoon.
This year’s focus is on the discussion about the status of compliance with the “2030 Agenda” – an initiative from 2015 in which (according to the plan) global grievances such as extreme poverty, conflicts and climate change are to be combated by 2030 with the help of 17 so-called “Sustainable Development Goals”. It is actually considered impossible that this will succeed in the next seven years.
Another key point at the 78th UN General Assembly is – as was the case last year – the war in Ukraine. In 2022, there was a bizarre appearance by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who left the hall without saying a word after his propaganda speech, without listening to the speeches of his counterparts. This year, too, the Putin man is expected, the Russian despot will not travel – probably for fear of a negotiation. Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky, on the other hand, who was connected online last year, will be present in person. In theory, therefore, the UN summit offers a good opportunity to reach out to each other. Unfortunately, it will probably only remain a theory.
A year and a half after the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine, the fronts are still hardened. The UN’s appeals to Russia to end the war have fallen on deaf ears. While the West continues to support Ukraine and insist on pushing the aggressor away, the states of the Global South are angry with the current international system and do not feel supported enough. For them, the war in Ukraine is only incidental.
Even UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is dampening hopes for peace in the near future. As much as they would like it to be, the two sides are simply too far apart. Not even negotiations between Ukraine and Russia are currently realistic, let alone a ceasefire. Nevertheless, a meeting of the UN Security Council on the Ukraine war is scheduled for Wednesday, which could lead to a meeting between Zelensky and a Russian representative.
Finding dialogue – that is what the Austrian delegation has set out to do for this year’s summit. And the plans are quite impressive: Foreign Minister Schallenberg is participating in an international, diplomatic “speed dating” this year, as he recently said in an interview with “Heute”. The programme includes various bilateral meetings with representatives from countries that are closer to Russia than the West: Algeria, Tunisia, Côte d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Senegal, Cambodia, Laos and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). “Only if we, as the EU and with like-minded partners, stand united can we effectively counter the Russian narrative. We must show the world that we resolutely reject a system in which the law of the strongest prevails,” said the Foreign Minister in the run-up to his trip.