Dilemma at the UN: Who speaks for Myanmar and Afghanistan?

Myanmar’s brutal military coup and the Taliban’s triumphant return to power in Afghanistan are among the crises facing the United Natio...


Myanmar’s brutal military coup and the Taliban’s triumphant return to power in Afghanistan are among the crises facing the United Nations as it convenes its General assembly this coming week.

But Myanmar and Afghanistan present another conundrum for the world’s largest diplomatic gathering: Who is each country’s legitimate representative?

The Burmese junta, which seized power in February and has been widely condemned for a deadly crackdown on its opponents, has sought to replace the fallen government’s UN ambassador with a junta loyalist.

The Taliban, the violent extremist Islamic movement that resumed power last month after the collapse of the US-backed Afghan government, is also expected to seek diplomatic representation, replacing an ambassador appointed months earlier with one of the his.

The idea that a Burmese coup leader or Taliban activist on a terrorism watchlist could become an accredited UN envoy may seem mind-boggling. But theoretically, it is possible – if the government that person represents is deemed legitimate in the eyes of the United Nations.

Envoys from all manner of political systems, from parliamentary democracies to monarchies to dictatorships, have long worked at the United Nations, which has 193 members, the only place in the world where even governments that reject the ideologies of others enjoy freedom. a certain equality of status. Yet there are standards to verify the legitimacy of both the envoy and the government he represents.

“Normally, a country has the right to nominate someone,” Volkan Bozkir, Turkish statesman and outgoing General Assembly president, told reporters in his farewell press conference Thursday. “We can’t say, ‘I don’t like this government,'” Bozkir said, seeking to resolve UN disputes over who is – and is not – the legitimate envoy of a country.

A seat at the United Nations has symbolic meaning, a benchmark of a government’s credibility and acceptance in the world community, even if rivals oppose it.

Membership in the United Nations offers a country’s government the opportunity to speak and be heard not only in the General Assembly, but also to participate in a range of other United Nations agencies such as the United Nations. World Health Organization and the Human Rights Council. Thus, the accreditation of a country’s ambassador to speak on their behalf is extremely important.

Checking who represents each country at the United Nations is the responsibility of the Credentials Committee, a group of nine members appointed at the start of the General Assembly each year. His work is normally routine, verifying the good faith of each envoy to ensure compliance with the rules of procedure.

The process becomes complicated when the legitimacy of the government of the envoy is in question, and disputes are sometimes referred to the General Assembly.

“It looks like this year’s accreditation committee will be called upon to consider not one, but two questions of government legitimacy,” Rebecca Barber, Australian researcher at the University of Queensland, wrote in the Blog of the European Journal of International Law.

How quickly the committee will make decisions remains unknown – it could take weeks or months. But many diplomats and UN experts expect the committee to postpone any decision on Myanmar and Afghanistan for now, leaving Myanmar’s ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun and l Afghan envoy, Ghulam M. Isaczai, both chosen by now fallen governments.

“I think the credentials committee will engage in what we might call creative procrastination,” said Richard gowan, UN director at the International Crisis Group. Such a delay, he said, would allow the two ambassadors “to remain in post for the time being, albeit on fragile ground”.

Neither Mr. Kyaw Moe Tun nor Mr. Isaczai responded to requests for comment.

The deposed government and the junta claim to be Myanmar’s legitimate representative. The junta said it fired Kyaw Moe Tun on February 27 after publicly denouncing the military coup before the General Assembly – a dismissal ignored by the ambassador.

The junta’s Foreign Minister, Wunna Maung Lwin, officially informed Secretary-General António Guterres on May 12 that he wanted another diplomat, U Aung Thurein, to replace Mr. Kyaw Moe Tun and represent Myanmar “in all United Nations organs, ”according to copies of the notification seen by The New York Times. The dispute remained unresolved.

This is particularly troublesome in part because the General Assembly, in a rare reprimand less than three months ago, demanded that the Myanmar junta re-establish the ousted government, release political prisoners and allow humanitarian access to the country.

Anti-junta activists, anticipating that Myanmar’s generals will support their demand to replace Mr. Kyaw Moe Tun, have rallied to support his continued siege. Eleven experts in international law, working in collaboration with the Myanmar Accountability Project, a humanitarian group based in London, drafted a legal opinion arguing that the behavior of the junta disqualifies its legitimacy.

“The implications of this issue for the people of Myanmar are immense,” said Damien lilly, human rights specialist within the group. “Accepting the powers of the military junta would further strengthen the regime, giving the green light for continued repression. “

Unlike the Burmese conflict, with rival demands for the seat, the new Taliban government did not, this weekend, designate a replacement for the Afghan envoy, Mr. Isaczai. But with the overthrown government not claiming it still holds power, Mr. Isaczai’s claim to the siege of Afghanistan may be tenuous.

Yet Mr. Isaczai continues to act as Afghanistan’s envoy. His Twitter account describes him as the ambassador, he attended UN meetings and was warmly greeted by other diplomats – and he commented on the Taliban “cruel and inhuman” behviour.

The Taliban are considered an international outcast for their legacy of brutality: the group has long been on a UN sanctions list and on terrorism watch lists as a threat to peace and stability. The Security Council demanded that a new Afghan government be “United, inclusive and representative – including with the full equal and meaningful participation of women”. So far none of these conditions have been met.

Larry D. Johnson, former Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, said in a article on the Just Security website that the uncertainty of how the Taliban will behave in the future was one of the reasons why the accreditation of a Taliban representative remains speculative.

But Mr Johnson said a Taliban request for accreditation could possibly be rejected on the basis of the group’s “heinous and illegal policies and its inability to be guided by the Security Council’s request.”

There have been several. But perhaps the most famous are the cases of China and South Africa.

China, a founding member of the United Nations, was denied representation at the UN after the Communist Revolution of 1949 which sent the defeated nationalist government to Taiwan, which retained China’s siege.

During the Cold War, the United States blocked China’s attempt to reclaim the siege until 1971, when the General Assembly voted expel Taiwan and recognize the communist government in Beijing “as the only legitimate representatives of China to the United Nations”.

South Africa became increasingly isolated in the organization during the 1950s and 1960s due to its racist apartheid policies, and was suspended by the General Assembly in 1974, his seat left largely vacant. South Africa’s representation at the UN was fully restored 20 years later when apartheid was abolished.



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