UN chief calls for effective, inclusive multilateralism

PTI

File photo of UN chief Antonio Guterres.

File photo of UN chief Antonio Guterres.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has underlined the need for “effective and inclusive” multilateralism that functions as an instrument of global governance when needed, lamenting that multilateral instruments such as the Security Council have teeth but “show little or no appetite to bite.

As the world body on Friday commemorates the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Charter, the founding document of the Organisation, Guterres said there is a need to re-imagine the way nations cooperate.

We need a networked multilateralism, bringing together the UN system, regional organisations, international financial institutions and others. And we need an inclusive multilateralism, drawing on the indispensable contributions of civil society, business, cities, regions and, in particular, with greater weight given to the voices of youth, Guterres said at a virtual press conference Thursday.

Underling that in the 21st century, governments are no longer the only political and power reality, he said we need an effective multilateralism that can function as an instrument of global governance where it is needed.

He pointed out that the problem is not that multilateralism is not up to the challenges the world faces. The problem is that today’s multilateralism lacks scale, ambition and teeth. And some of the instruments that do have teeth, show little or no appetite to bite, as has recently been the case with the difficulties faced by the Security Council, he said.

Guterres underscored that the international community must give multilateralism the capacities to confront current challenges, not only to meet immediate needs, but to enable future generations to meet theirs.

The UNSC has been strongly criticised for its inaction and lack of leadership in dealing with the COVID19 pandemic and its failure to adopt even a single resolution on the global health and humanitarian crisis caused by the outbreak.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for reformed multilateralism and reform of multilateral system as essential to ensure that the international system is inclusive and caters to requirements of all countries, which will in turn facilitate stronger action.

Reforming multilateral systems is one of the five key priorities for India when it sits in the Council as a non-permanent member for two years beginning January 2021.

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti has said that as the UN commemorates its 75th anniversary this year, it is clear to us that United Nations and indeed multilateralism itself need to change to reflect contemporary realities to enable them to remain effective and credible.

Guterres acknowledged that it is difficult to have a meaningful transformation of the mechanisms of global governance without the active participation of the world powers.

Let me blunt, their relationships today have never been more dysfunctional. But I firmly believe that an awakening will come when we recognise our shared fragilities when the factors that today divide instead begin to force people to finally understand that division is a danger to everyone, starting with themselves, he said.

He said he looks forward to discussing these matters with world leaders during the high-level UN General Assembly session in September in whatever format necessary. We absolutely must come together to reimagine and reinvent the world we share.

In response to questions, the UN chief said while many negative things have happened in the 75 years since the UN founded, at least the Third World War so many people have predicted was avoided. We had what many called the long peace’ with many small conflicts, but conflicts in which the big powers did not get involved against each other.

While the high-level UNGA week looks all set to be held virtually this year due to COVID19, Guterres said he hopes that a summit of China, France, Russia, UK and the US – the five permanent members of the Security Council – will be possible before the General Assembly.

It will be very important to address some of the contradictions that still, to a large extent, paralyse very important issues in the Security Council, he said.

The UN chief said he wishes that through the summit, the big powers will understand independently of what divides them, that they need to come together and mobilise the world to defeat the pandemic, defeat climate change, put some order in relation to the cyberspace and create conditions for recovery to a more sustainable and inclusive economy and society.