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[INTERVIEW] Boycotting Russia, in a UN that is losing credibility – Albanian Post

Boycotting Russia, in a UN that is losing credibility – Albanian Post interview with activist Colombe Cahen-Salvador

By Vitjon Nina

You can find the article on The Albanian Post website at this link.

Heading one of the world’s largest security and peace bodies, while causing the greatest insecurity within Europe since World War II.

It is not a utopia, but a reality, and this is what Russia is doing in the 21st century, a year after it began the wildest military campaign in Ukraine, with a full-scale aggression, unheard of since the final dissolution of the Soviet Union with Mikhail Gorbachev’s “Perestroika”.

Times have changed, they have progressed, but the Kremlin’s mindset has gone back in time, where the “trophy” is a President accused of war crimes, who is burdened by an international arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court, Vladimir Putin.

Moscow does indeed hold the Presidency of the UN Security Council, and in the 30 days of April, it can use this pedestal in many ways…if someone doesn’t stop it.

The political and human rights activist, Colombe Cahen-Salvador, has this major goal particularly in her mind, through a campaign named “UN Boycott Russia“.

©Dima Malenko

Its goal is clear: It takes seven seats from the 15 members of the Security Council to nullify the Russian Presidency of April.

In an interview for the Albanian Post, she spoke about the current circumstances of the petition, the commitment of the members of the Council, as well as the expectations she has from the Albanian delegation at the UN.

For one year and three months, Tirana is part of the Council and can play a significant role in this initiative.

However, structurally, there is no lack of criticism either for the high UN body, or for the organization itself, which, according to Cahen-Salvador, has lost its credibility.

Full interview with Colombe Cahen-Salvador

You have recently undertaken an initiative named “Boycott Russia at the UN”. Has it gained support thus far, and which of the countries in the UN Security Council have responded positively to the call? 

We launched our campaign to boycott Russia’s Presidency of the UN Security Council less than a week ago, with the aim of pushing member states of the United Nations Security Council to block the work of the body throughout Russia’s presidency.  If 7 out of 15 Security Council member states join the boycott, Russia won’t be able to get anything passed.

To that end, we have started a petition and will email the UN Security Council’s member states every day with the list of names asking for them to boycott. We have started a social media campaign asking people to take a picture with a “UN Boycott Russia” sign, and tag their representatives. We are also hosting protests across the world calling on governments to stand on the right side of history.

©Dima Malenko

Member states of the Security Council have so far ignored our call for a boycott, and not responded. This is why we are preparing more protests, will email them every day and organize actions all over the world throughout April.

In your point of view, how could Russia use this month of presidency in the SC and how would it affect the work of the most powerful body in the UN?

Hopefully, countries will boycott it and Russia will not be able to use its sham of a presidency for anything. It already started talking about a “new world order” and worse. It seems like Russia wants to use this month to continue its horrific propaganda around the Ukrainian invasion.

Additionally, images of Russia leading the UN Security Council would play into Putin’s narrative. However, we have the power to ensure that democratic nations take a stance, and a picture of an empty Security Council room can be our testimony to history.

Could it be counter-effective, if the work of the SC is blocked for one month? 

I doubt that much could happen for peace and security while Russia directs the body. Wouldn’t you think that enabling it to proceed would forever damage the credibility of the UN and of the Security Council? If business as usual is carried forward there will be great damage: the one inflicted to the reputation and the legitimacy of the institution that is supposed to preserve peace but is chaired by the most warmongering country of all.

©Dima Malenko

Have you had contact with the Albanian delegation in the UN about the cause, since Albania is one of the 15 members of the Council? If so, what has their response been to the cause? 

Albania has the potential to lead democratic countries in standing with Ukraine, against the war and for democracy and freedom. Yet, we have not heard back from the delegation, despite having emailed them and outreached via social media, multiple times. We find the lack of acknowledgement and action incredibly disappointing as Albania has in the past stood up to Russia – for example, by supporting its suspension from the UN Human Rights Council. We truly hope Albania will add its voice to our effort, instead of falling on the wrong side of history.

Has the petition gathered momentum and support from the people?

Absolutely – even before today’s official start, our campaign has gone viral on social media platforms, receiving hundreds of thousands of views and the support of the Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN, among others. In addition, media from all over the planet have reached out to cover this important piece of work, showing that public pressure is building around the topic.

©Dima Malenko

How do you see Albania’s role – a small country in such an important international organ – in the Council, from what you have followed in the first year of the mandate? Is it what you might have expected initially?

In the context of the Ukrainian crisis, Albania has surely attempted to punch above its weight, and we command the country for it. In fact, the day after the start of the invasion, Albania co-drafted with the United States a resolution to end the start of the war, which unsurprisingly Russia vetoed.

This shows that Albania has the potential to greatly impact change when it comes to Ukraine. We hope the country will stand on the right side of history and boycott the Security Council this month!

Do you think that it is time for a total renovation of the SC and the UN, given the fact that we always face a block of veto-es during the voting’s and also many times, the presidency goes to countries that have basic problems with human rights. If yes, how would this be possible in your opinion, when we face Russia and China, two countries with the right of veto? 

Post WW2, countries understood the need to come together for peace and security, and they created the United Nations. Since then, it has achieved a lot, but also has been doomed by its own structure, including the one of the Security Council in which some are permanent members, with a right of veto. This outdated model is not only unfair and puts undue power into the hands of a few countries, but has also proven to be incredibly counter-productive, with key issues being constantly vetoed. This is of course not the only issue with the UN: just think about the lack of democratic participation from citizens, or the lack of accountability for authoritarian countries.

In the past, great shake ups – like wars or geopolitical shifts like the fall of the USSR – have been the motor of change in international organizations: hopefully, this time around we will be able to reform – or destroy and rebuild – this organization radically without the need of a global conflict. Without true, global democracy, the UN will always be a victim of power plays among superpowers.

In many reports from the countries where the UN operates with projects, it comes out that the majority of the funds goes to the administration. A much lower percentage, goes in reality to the projects themselves and to the development. Do you think this is also something that needs to be reviewed, even if only morally, by an organization such as the UN? 

The United Nations is losing credibility due to its lack of transparency and accountability from the people, for the people. What we need is a democratic reform, whereby the citizens of the world choose their representatives and participate in this body, thus choosing where the budget of the UN goes, and to whom.

If you want to sign the “UN Boycott Russia” petition, click here!

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