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The Ukraine War, A Perfect Case Of The Limits Of The UN

Global politics have gotten in the way of humanitarian aid when it comes to the flooding in Ukraine. Zelensky points the finger towards a deep, structural UN shortcoming.

Rescue Operations Save Residents Of Ukraine's Flooded Kherson Region Following Kakhovka Dam Destruction

Members of Ukraine's police force, military, and emergency services have been leading efforts to evacuate people - and in some cases, their beloved pets.

© Cover Images via ZUMA PRESS
Pierre Haski


PARIS – Humanitarian disasters often reveal political contradictions. The catastrophic floods caused by the partial destruction of the Kakhova dam on the Dnipro River, in southern Ukraine, are a case in point.

First, there is the now expected oppposition between the Ukrainian and Russian leaders' reactions. Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky – as he has done since the beginning of the war – was on the ground, among the civilians in distress, despite ongoing Russian bombardments.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, was filmed in the Kremlin talking to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, accusing Ukraine of being behind the disaster. Two distinct atmospheres, two political styles.

Then there are the accusations made this week by the Ukrainian President against the United Nations. Zelensky points out one of the major contradictions of this war: the UN's withdrawal, in all but two major areas — nuclear power and grain movements.

Powerless in New York

But it's also an unfair criticism, as the UN is not an independent actor, but the sum of its member states: when they are divided, the UN becomes powerless.

When the aggressor is a permanent member of the UN Security Council Council, with veto power, it is unrealistic to expect the UN to maintain its role.

A photo circulated around the world yesterday showed a UN car in Kyiv, tagged as "Useless" in large graffiti letters. Clearly, Ukrainians have decided it's time to denounce the situation.

It's true that in wars all over the world, the UN normally deploys members of its specialized agencies to help the local population. Admittedly, Ukraine is a country with infrastructure, and is less dependent on such assistance. But above all, the obstacle is political — Russian, to be precise.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Emergency Meeing on Kakhovka Damn Destruction

Zelenskyy chairs an emergency meeting of the National Security and Defense Council on the situation at the Kakhovka Hydro-power plant, at the Mariinsky Palace in Kyiv.

Planet Pix via ZUMA Press Wire

Moscow's red light

Moscow is not letting the UN get involved as it should. A green light from the Security Council would be needed, and therefore, a lack of Russian veto. This absence is cruelly felt on the Russian side of the Dnipro River, where witnesses report meager rescue efforts.

Relief has become a political question. The Ukrainians are relaying calls for help from inhabitants of Russian-occupied villages on the left bank of the Dnipro, who have been left abandoned on the roofs of their flooded homes.

Ukrainian videos even show volunteers on boats rescuing civilians in the Russian zone — high-risk operations, but good for Ukrainian publicity. Kyiv went further, with Zelensky calling on international organizations to rescue "those whom the occupier has condemned to death," those left in Russian occupied territory.

This call is unlikely to be heeded, as Moscow will not let UN aid workers into its occupied zone, in the middle of its defense lines. But, at least, Ukraine will have been able to clearly point the finger at those who oppose humanitarian aid.

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In The Shantytowns Of Buenos Aires, Proof That Neighbors Function Better Than Cities

Residents of the most disadvantaged peripheries of the Argentine capital are pushed to collaborate in the absence of municipal support. They build homes and create services that should be public. It is both admirable, and deplorable.

A person with blonde hair stands half hidden behind the brick wall infront of a house

A resident of Villa Palito, La Matanza, stands at their gate. August 21, 2020, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Guillermo Tella


BUENOS AIRES – In Argentina, the increasing urgency of the urban poor's housing and public services needs has starkly revealed an absence of municipal policies, which may even be deliberate.

With urban development, local administrations seem dazzled, or blinded, by the city center's lights. Thus they select and strengthen mechanisms that heighten zonal and social inequalities, forcing the less-well-off to live "on the edge" and "behind" in all senses of these words. Likewise, territorial interventions by social actors have both a symbolic and material impact, particularly on marginal or "frontier" zones that are the focus of viewpoints about living "inside," "outside" or "behind."

The center and the periphery produce very different social perceptions. Living on the periphery is to live "behind," in an inevitable state of marginality. The periphery is a complex system of inequalities in terms of housing provision, infrastructures, facilities and transport.

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