April 24th will be for Theater of the Absurd lovers what Christmas is to young children. Tomorrow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will chair and address United Nations Security Council to paint a new vision of "effective multilateralism through the defense of the principles of the U.N. Charter." While he will be spreading Putin's propaganda in the U.N. body tasked with maintaining world peace, Ukraine will be defending itself against Russia's heinous aggression.
But there can be a different ending: April 24th can be the moment democracies unite to change the tide.
One would think that Russia's shameful attempts to spread disinformation while waging war on Ukraine and presiding over the U.N. Security Council would be boycotted by diplomats, not giving Putin's Russia the legitimacy it desperately seeks. But no plans of walkouts or similar actions have been announced yet, despite repeated calls - including from our own campaign #UNBoycottRussia - to U.N. Ambassadors to boycott this meeting and firmly stand with Ukraine. To add to the farce, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will diligently brief the meeting participants, despite accusing the country of stepping all over that very same U.N. charter in the immediate aftermath of the Ukrainian invasion.
While the United Nations halls appear to be the main stage of a dark comedy, this is no laughing matter: freedom and democracy are under attack, and the international order set up after WW2 is slowly crumbling with no rescue plan drafted and no alternative in sight. And what is even more worrying is that the unity of pro-democratic countries showcased at the beginning of the war seems to be fizzling down.
Last week, the President of France traveled to China, Russia's most powerful ally and trade lifeline, posturing as the European bridgehead to revive the EU-Sino relationship. The Chinese Administration paved the way with red carpets, lavish dinners, and public displays of affection to Macron while reserving a cold shoulder to E.U. Commissioner Ursula Von Der Leyen - the one truly in charge of European diplomacy - invited by Macron but left isolated because of her hawkish stance against Russia. Then Poland, possibly Ukraine's strongest supporter since the start of the war, announced a ban on grains and other agricultural imports from the country following domestic pressure from its farmers. Despite trade being a European Union competence, Poland pushed ahead unilaterally and was quickly followed by Hungary and Slovakia. In a further blow to Ukraine's fight for survival, President Lula of Brazil declared "The United States needs to stop encouraging war and start talking about peace", completely swiping under a bloodied rug the real cause of the war: the Russian Federation.
It is clearer than ever that our planet is caught in a struggle between competing models of governance. Whether we like it or not, there is a pro-democracy camp and an authoritarian one. Granted, the former is far from perfect, with countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and more having recently committed gross human rights violations. Granted, they stand for democracy when convenient and not systematically. Yet, they stand for democracy. The latter is instead made of countries such as Russia, actively committing war crimes at this very moment, and China - accused of crimes against humanity and possibly genocide. We are faced with a choice: which camp will we choose? For our collective good, it must be the democratic one, and we must act fast. As Freedom House puts it, global freedoms declined for the 17th consecutive year. Authoritarian leaders are gifted at joining forces. Democratic countries are less. So far. Attempts at unison have failed. The United Nations is itself undemocratic, untransparent, and made up of authoritarian countries and democratic ones, incapable of acting on fundamental crises such as Ukraine. Biden's Summit for Democracy has been described as "the height of hypocrisy" by Debasish Roy Chowdhury in Time. It is also too American-led and not citizens-focused enough.
However, April 24th's United Nations Security Council meeting can be the tipping point moment the world has waited for. First, democratic nations can make a show of unity and boycott Russia's Foreign Minister's sham of a session on protecting the same U.N. charter that his country is violating every single day. The only institution where Russia's foreign minister should be welcomed to speak is in the Hague, in front of a panel of judges. Such a boycott would not be a first: last year, several diplomats left the room when he spoke at the U.N. Human Rights Council, and at the beginning of April, Representatives of Albania, Malta, the United Kingdom, and the United States left a Russia-chaired Security Council meeting on the deportation of Ukrainian children featuring Russian Children's Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova, wanted on war crimes charges.
Secondly, besides much-needed but short-term diplomatic boycotts, pro-democracy countries willing to take real action - beyond the welcomed but ineffective statements of condemnation - must create a real coalition face of authoritarian in all institutional settings to take bake control of U.N. bodies and agencies who are being turned to sham as we speak. The current makeshift of the U.N. Human Rights Council, featuring China and Qatar, speaks for itself. Such a coalition must speak in one voice when it comes to freedom struggles, from Ukraine to Taiwan, from Venezuela to Tibet, and beyond.
Third, this coalition will need to be formalized and become itself a leading example of modern and inclusive democracy, from citizens' participation to transparency. This could happen through a deep United Nations reform - especially since this intergovernmental organization has been put to the test and failed in the last year to preserve peace and security - or through the creation of a new organization such as a League of Democracies.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Nebenzia mentioned that Russia is seeking "a new multipolar world order based on sovereign equality, equal rights and self-determination, justice and security, friendly relations and cooperation between nations, with full respect for the purposes and principles of the U.N. Charter." Wise words: this can be best achieved by thwarting the ability of authoritarian leaders to peace-wash their bloody actions on the international stage, or building a front that can relegate them back in the history books, where they belong.
Join our campaign, send an email to UN Ambassadors telling them to boycott tomorrow's meeting featuring Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Andrea & Colombe