Talk to Al Jazeera

Miroslav Lajcak on Jerusalem and UN reforms

The UN General Assembly president discusses UN reforms, Trump’s Jerusalem move and the GCC crisis.

For decades, people have looked to the United Nations to resolve conflicts and alleviate suffering around the world.

As war stretches on in Yemen and Syria and the number of refugees worldwide continues to rise, whether the UN can now fulfil the lofty ambitions on which it was founded is in doubt.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Miroslav Lajcak, the president of the UN General Assembly, says that the UN is still the best option for world peace, but that reform is necessary, particularly in the Security Council.

The composition of the Security Council as it stands now does not represent the realities of the 21st century; these are the realities of 1945.

by Miroslav Lajcak

Veto powers held by its five permanent members – China, France, Russia, the UK and the US – create an uneven balance of power.

“There is a general understanding that the composition of the Security Council as it stands now does not represent the realities of the 21st century; these are the realities of 1945. The [reform] process is happening … It’s a process and we can only go as far and as fast as the member states are willing to. But in the General Assembly, there is no veto, in the General Assembly everybody’s equal,” Lajcak says.

The power of veto has drawn criticism from many, most recently when the US vetoed a draft resolution rejecting US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

One-hundred-and-twenty-eight member states voted in favour of the draft, with nine against and 35 abstentions.

While it was described as a “pointless exercise” by some Palestinian activists, Lajcak says the session, which he led, sent a strong message.

“This session showed that we cannot take multilateralism for granted and therefore we all have to stand up for it,” he says.

“We have to stand up for a strong role of the United Nations because the General Assembly is our global conscience, it’s the only platform where 193 member states are presented and have equal rights and equal say … Sometimes this moral message is more powerful than a legally binding one.”

Despite the US decision and subsequent stalemate in peace negotiations, Lajcak echoed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ statement that there is no plan B for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The two-state solution is the only solution we support … no one has ever presented any other solution and no one has ever proved that any other solution would be better,” says Lajcak.

Shortly before the interview with Al Jazeera, Lajcak had visited Kuwait and the UAE to discuss the ongoing GCC crisis. Lajcak is confident a diplomatic solution can be reached and has “a lot of trust” in Kuwaiti mediation efforts.

“The Gulf is definitely a very powerful voice and this voice is missing right now because of this internal situation in the region and that’s why I believe it’s in the interest of every country that belongs to this region to find a solution … The international community is worried but also believes that there will be a solution, there will be a negotiated solution, which will be regionally led,” he says.

His advice to all parties involved is to “stay calm to avoid any provocations and, of course, to resort to dialogue.”

In his interview with Al Jazeera, Lajcak also discusses the UN’s role in the ongoing refugee crisis; why the US should not pull out of the Iran nuclear deal; Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis; and the North Korea nuclear threat.