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UN chief says Ukraine, Gaza inertia harms Security Council

February 26, 2024

The UN chief says the Security Council's authority has been undermined by its inability to take action on conflicts. He called for the body to be reformed

Antonio Guterres
Guterres, seen here in New York, says the Security Council has failed to respond properly to the conflicts in Ukraine and GazaImage: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/picture alliance

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday deplored what he said were inadequate responses to the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine by the Security Council, saying its authority had been "perhaps fatally" undermined.

Speaking at the opening of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Guterres said the Security Council was often "unable to act on the most significant peace and security issues of our time."

What else did Guterres say?

"The Council's lack of unity on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and on Israel's military operations in Gaza following the horrific terror attacks by Hamas on 7 October, has severely — perhaps fatally — undermined its authority," he said.

"The Council needs serious reform to its composition and working methods."

He that the world is becoming "less safe by the day."

"Our world is changing at warp speed," he told the Human Rights Council. "The multiplication of conflicts is causing unprecedented suffering. But human rights are a constant."

Why the UN can't solve world problems

Disputes on Gaza and Ukraine at the UN Security Council

Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, has used its veto right to block several resolutions calling for Moscow to stop its invasion, or those condemning its "annexations" of Ukrainian regions. 

The United States last week again vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Israel's offensive against Gaza. Washington said the resolution would interfere with negotiations on a deal to release hostages.

It was the third US veto of a draft resolution since the start of the current fighting on October 7. 

The war began after Hamas militants conducted terror attacks in Israel, killing 1,200 people, and taking about 250 others hostage. The retaliatory Israeli military offensive has so far killed almost 30,000 people, according to figures from the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

The US, Israel and Germany, among others, list Hamas as a terrorist organization.

The UN Security Council is made up of five permanent members: China, France, Russia, the UK and the US as well as 10 non-permanent members elected for two-year terms.

tj/rc (Reuters, AFP)