‘Hindsight is 20/20’: UN deputy responds to criticism of war between Russia and Ukraine


Russia is one of five countries with veto powers in the UN Security Council.

Carlo Allegri | Reuters

The United Nations’ deputy secretary-general has told CNBC that “lessons” will be learned from the war in Ukraine.

Speaking Wednesday after the publication of the UN’s “2022 Financing for Sustainable Development” report Amina Mohammed said the crisis between Russia and Ukraine was “a major shock to the system”.

When asked if the world could have done more to stop the war before it started, Mohammed said, “Afterwards is 20-20 vision.”

“Of course there are things we could have done to stop the war, but maybe those are lessons we can learn again, when the Security Council, General Assembly leaders will look back and say, ‘What could we have done, and making sure we prevent the next war, the next pandemic.’ These are all things that we learn. I think history teaches us that we are not very good learners when it comes down to it,” she said.

“I think this was so unimaginable and unexpected, that we would have this kind of war in Europe, you know, 75 years later, I think it’s been a big shock to the system. So I hope the lessons find ways to giving us more responsibility to make sure this never happens again and that we work for peace.”

Mohammed, who previously served as Nigeria’s Environment Minister, also chairs the Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance, established by UN Secretary-General António Guterres to address the wider impact of the war in Ukraine on the “‘ the world’s most vulnerable.”

Travel to Moscow

Guterres traveled to Moscow this week to meet with President Vladimir Putin for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine. He also met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kiev on Thursday. Russia is one of five countries with veto powers in the UN Security Council.

Guterres agreed with Putin on an evacuation route from the beleaguered city of Mariupol, but his trip came amid criticism that the UN Security Council had only been able to play a limited role during the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

Zelenskyy indeed called for reform in a passionate speech to the Council in April. Mohammed said it was an issue that Security Council member states have struggled with for a long time.

“And I think they will continue to address that, and there are talks and resolutions that are going to be put forward to see how someone can do better than we have been able to do and put in the checks and balances to put the [U.N.] charter. That is the most important. The Charter that promises the people that we will not experience war again, as we did in World War II,” she said.

Mohammed became UN Deputy Secretary-General in 2017 and was reappointed in January 2022.

When asked how relevant she thinks an organization like the United Nations is to the world today, she said she understood the frustration from outside.

“If we didn’t have the UN today, we’d have to recreate it tomorrow. It’s the global town hall for our global village. We’re so connected today that that won’t change,” she said.

“And we need a space where we can come and talk about the issues, human rights, our development, our conflicts, and you know, some days we’ll have a voice that’s loud and some days it’s not very loud. days we will move, other days we won’t, but the most vulnerable countries need this space.”

‘Major financial gap’

Mohammed, who is also chairman of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group, recently presented the “2022 Financing for Sustainable Development Report”. a joint effort of the Inter-agency Task Force on Financing for Development, which includes more than sixty United Nations agencies and international organizations.

The report points to a post-pandemic “major financial gap”, where poorer countries are unable to raise enough money or borrow affordably for investment, leaving them unable to invest in sustainable development or respond to crises. .

“We are dealing with a multitude of crises, the climate, the pandemic and now the war in Ukraine, and the funding piece of this just shows how the recommendations over the years are even more needed today. And you I will see that some of those recommendations respond to the framework surrounding the financial gap we see in the world today,” Mohammed said.

“So many of the recommendations are about access to finance, they’re about better tax systems, they’re about tackling illicit financial flows, but they’re also about raising awareness about the debts that are mounting and the crises that are exacerbating it.”

Mohammed originally joined the UN in 2012 as a special adviser to former Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and led the process to establish the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

She said she was “extremely concerned” about the current global financial situation and that “there is insufficient recognition of the urgency and magnitude of the investments that need to be made now.”

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