Shaped by war, Bosnian leader chides UN inaction on Ukraine

President of Bosnia and Herzegovina Sefik Dzaferovic addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022 at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Bosnia’s leader decried the failure of the United Nations to prevent the war in Ukraine, saying Wednesday it was a chilling repeat of his country's own brutal conflict three decades ago.

Addressing the U.N. General Assembly, Sefik Dzaferovic, the chairman of the three-person presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, criticized the Security Council’s inability to adopt a binding resolution or statement on the war.

“The United Nations system was unable to prevent or stop the war in my country ... Unfortunately, that happened again,” Dzaferovic said. The Security Council, he said, "is evidently unable to fulfill its obligations.”

The Security Council’s post-World War II structure gives veto powers to five nations — the United States, China, Britain, France and Russia, the aggressor in the Ukraine war. Russia’s presence on the council has thwarted more substantive actions. The larger 193-nation General Assembly, which doesn’t have vetoes, adopted resolutions demanding a cease-fire in Ukraine and the withdrawal of Russian forces.

Referencing the cease-fire resolution, Dzaferovic said: “Although this resolution does not have the power to stop the war, it does have the power to stop the lies.”

The Bosnian War started 30 years ago, in 1992, when Bosnian Serbs, with the help of the Yugoslav army, tried to create ethnically pure territories with an aim of joining neighboring Serbia. More than 100,000 people were killed and millions were left homeless during the worst bloodshed in Europe since World War II.

The 1992-1995 war pitted Bosniaks, who are mostly Muslims, Serbs and Croats, against each other and ended with the U.S.-sponsored peace agreement that created two regions.

Deep tensions persist, but Dzaferovic, a Bosniak Muslim, said the nation was strong enough “to persevere” despite internal movements he called “part of the broad wave of right-wing populism in Europe.”

Economic and energy crises, Dzaferovic said, go hand in hand with that populism, cautioning of dangerous modern-day echoes today of Nazism’s rhetoric of racial supremacy that led to war and, ultimately, the establishment of the United Nations based on the principle that all people are equal.

“Almost eight decades later, we can hear voices openly or implicitly denying those fundamental tenets,” he said. “It only takes one step from those ideas to violence.”


AP National Writer Matt Sedensky can be reached at and For more AP coverage of the U.N. General Assembly, visit