Updates from the UN General Assembly 2023
Updates from the UN General Assembly 2023
Flags at United Nations Headquarters. New York, USA. diegograndi
Special Coverage / Global 5 minutes

Updates from the UN General Assembly 2023

Marking the opening of the 78th UN General Assembly, Crisis Group experts discuss challenges facing the UN’s efforts to promote peace and end conflict worldwide. This special page also includes Crisis Group’s latest updates from the annual High-Level Week in New York, as well as its coverage of the UN over the past year.

World leaders gather in New York during the week of 18 September for the UN General Assembly’s annual high-level session. They will arrive to find a UN that is more constrained by major-power divisions, and less influential in managing international peace and security crises, compared to one year ago.

During that time, the Security Council has delivered lacklustre responses to a range of global crises, in part hampered by a breakdown in relations between Russia and the West. Developing countries have used the General Assembly as a platform to voice concerns about the global economy’s trajectory. The UN’s political leverage has decreased in many countries where it’s maintained long-standing operations, requiring it to pivot support to regionally-led efforts. And though millions depend on the UN’s humanitarian aid, donor countries cannot keep up with the pace of the UN’s needs around the world. These pressures are likely to persist over the coming year.

Nonetheless, the UN can still play a role in shaping international peace and security should world leaders work to make the organisation more flexible and adaptable. In some instances, the UN will need to be pragmatic about the value, and limitation, of its traditional peace and security tools. In others, its support to humanitarian efforts and collaboration with other multilateral partners will be the most it can reasonably achieve. Looking to the future, the UN still holds value as a platform for countries to debate, and find solutions to, global challenges such as climate change and artificial intelligence.

Many of these dynamics will be on display throughout the 78th Annual Session of the UN General Assembly this September. Though international peace and conflict will not be the only issues under discussion at the General Assembly, many of the countries and regions that Crisis Group covers will be discussed in world leader’s speeches, in bi-lateral meetings, and in side-events.

This special coverage page will house all of Crisis Group’s work related to the UN General Assembly in 2023, as well as its broader work on the UN from the past year.

Media Notes: UNGA Daily Updates

Each day of the UNGA High-Level Week, Crisis Group is publishing daily media advisories highlighting upcoming events of interest at the UN, including brief comments from Crisis Group analysts which you will find below.

Our Recent Publications About the UN

SPECIAL BRIEFING | Ten Challenges for the UN in 2023-2024

It has been a hard year at the UN, with major-power tensions rising, and more difficulties likely lie ahead. Nonetheless, there are several important steps the body’s officials and member states can take in the interest of international peace and security.

Published 14 September 2023. Available here.

VISUAL EXPLAINER | Which conflicts should the UNGA look at?

See a visual breakdown of the major conflicts the UNGA needs to look at.

Published 15 September 2023. Available here.

TWITTER SPACE | UN General Assembly: What to Watch for?

In this Twitter space, Comfort Ero, Crisis Group’s President and CEO, and Richard Gowan, Crisis Group’s UN Director, will talk about all you need to know for this year’s high-level meeting at the UN General Assembly.

Published 18 September 2023. Available here.

REPORT | UNRWA’s Reckoning: Preserving the UN Agency Serving Palestinian Refugees

Millions of Palestinian refugees rely on the UN Relief and Works Agency for services and employment opportunities. But the agency’s finances are in dire straits, putting the refugees’ wellbeing at risk. Donors should step up with sustainable, predictable, multi-year funding.

Published 15 September 2023. Available here.

Q&A | Massacre in Goma Clouds DR Congo’s Elections and UN Mission’s Future

On 30 August, elite troops slaughtered over 50 civilians planning to protest perceived foreign interference in the eastern DR Congo, three months ahead of elections. The government has asked the UN for an “accelerated” withdrawal. Crisis Group experts Richard Moncrieff and Onesphore Sematumba explain the stakes.

Published 15 September 2023. Available here.

OP-ED | The Themes and Tensions to Watch at This Year’s UN General Assembly Meetings

When world leaders meet in New York for the annual High-Level Week of the United Nations General Assembly in the week of Sept. 18, two items will top their agendas. One will be Russia’s war in Ukraine. The other will be the state of international development. There are likely to be some uncomfortable exchanges between Western and non-Western officials about the relative importance of these issues. African, Asian and Latin American diplomats have bridled at the amount of time Ukraine has absorbed at the U.N. in comparison to other international crises and challenges. The U.S. and its allies should use the General Assembly to show that they can focus on Ukraine and the concerns of the Global South simultaneously.

Published 11 September 2023 in Just Security and also available here.

VIDEO | How does our UN advocacy work?

Richard Gowan is Crisis Group's UN Director. He oversees the advocacy work at the United Nations, liaising with diplomats and UN officials in New York. In this video, he talks about what goes on behind the scenes.

Published 3 April 2023. Available here.

COMMENTARY | UNIFIL is Needed More than Ever to Keep the Peace in Southern Lebanon

With tensions rising along the Israeli-Lebanese border, the UN peacekeeping force stationed in the area has arguably never been more important. With the mandate up for renewal, the UN Security Council and troop-contributing countries should reassert their backing for the mission in the strongest terms.

Published 22 August 2023. Available here.

COMMENTARY | How to Reinvigorate the UN’s Mediation Efforts in Cyprus

UN diplomacy aimed at reunifying Cyprus has been drifting since talks broke down in 2017. The Secretary-General should appoint an envoy to draft a roadmap with sufficient incentives to bring both Greek and Turkish Cypriots back to the table.

Published 18 August 2023. Available here.

COMMENTARY | What’s New about the UN’s New Agenda for Peace?

The UN Secretary-General has drafted a lengthy report about how world leaders can address looming global challenges. The document covers a remarkable range of topics, from peacekeeping missions and women’s rights to climate change and cyber-security.

Published 19 July 2023. Available here.

COMMENTARY | The UN Security Council between Rifts and Reform

Talk of reforming the UN Security Council is gaining currency, due in part to Russia’s war in Ukraine. But the obstacles are many. A more modest vision of what the body should be and what it can achieve is probably best for now.

Published 13 July 2023. Available here.

Q&A | What Future for UN Peacekeeping in Africa after Mali Shutters Its Mission?

At Bamako’s request, the UN Security Council has begun drawing down the UN peacekeeping operation in Mali. In this Q&A, Crisis Group experts Richard Gowan and Daniel Forti explore the implications for blue helmet missions elsewhere on the continent.

Published 10 July 2023. Available here.

COMMENTARY | Ensuring MINUSMA’s Smooth Departure from Mali

On 16 June, Bamako asked the UN Security Council to withdraw the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). In this Q&A, Crisis Group experts Jean-Hervé Jézéquel and Ibrahim Maïga look at the reasons behind the Malian authorities’ decision as well as its consequences.

Published 27 June 2023. Available here.

COMMENTARY | The Global South and the Ukraine War at the UN

In UN debates over Russia’s war in Ukraine, Western countries are still pledging to back Kyiv militarily, while non-Western states are more inclined to call for a negotiated peace. Thus far, however, the latter’s proposals for reaching that goal have been short on detail.

Published 9 March 2023. Available here.


UN Director
Senior Analyst, UN Advocacy and Research
Analyst, UN Advocacy and Research

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