8395th Security Council Meeting: Maintenance of International Peace and Security Part 2

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09-Nov-2018 04:00:00
Rising nationalism threatens multilateralism’s 70-year ‘proven track record’ of saving lives, preventing wars, Secretary-General tells Security Council at 8395th meeting.

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Seven decades into the world’s grand experiment in multilateralism — with the United Nations firmly at its core — a rising tide of nationalism and deepening divisions now threaten to derail strides made in reducing poverty and preventing a cataclysmic world war, the Security Council heard today, as it discussed ways to further strengthen international relations and combat complex global threats.

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said in just days the world will observe the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, “a colossal tragedy and a frightening harbinger of bloody decades to follow”. While the global structures established seventy years ago have a proven track record of saving lives, generating economic and social progress and preventing war, multilateralism today is under immense stress. Warning that trust is declining within and among nations, he added that people are losing faith in political institutions and seem less able to cooperate, even as complex global challenges are on the rise.

Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani (Qatar), Vice-President of the General Assembly, declared: “A fragmented, go-alone-approach to peace and security is not sustainable.” The General Assembly, the Security Council and other United Nations bodies all play crucial, complementary roles, she said, emphasizing that multilateralism in no way represents a threat to national sovereignty. Affirming the Security Council’s pre-eminence in matters of peace and security, she also said it has nevertheless become clear that peace is not just about the absence of war. Instead, today’s development, security and human rights challenges are all interlinked and mutually reinforcing.

Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, President of the International Court of Justice, said multilateralism is critical to sustaining an international legal order. In fact, without a framework for predictability and stability, the rule of law would disappear. Describing multilateralism as the result of human experience and civilization in a world in which all have become neighbours, he said bilateral relations cannot create institutions that are able to decide cases on the basis of objective, established principle. Emphasizing that international law has arisen as a result of the needs of an international world, he spotlighted the emergence of new areas of common concern, stressing that unilateralism is particularly unfit to address them.

Throughout the debate, more than 70 speakers took the floor to outline their visions of multilateralism for the twenty-first century. While many commended the lofty ambitions that gave birth to the United Nations, some voiced concern about the largely “unbridgeable gap” between those goals and the Organization’s achievements. Several delegates questioned elements of the Security Council’s work, describing its application of principles as selective and its membership structure as anachronistic. Still others — citing a range of highly effective treaties and peacekeeping successes — warned against the threat of unilateralism and urged their fellow Member States not to give up on dialogue and compromise.

China’s representative — Council President for November and the convener of today’s meeting — spoke in his national capacity, describing the debate as a clarion call for enhanced multilateralism to better confront today’s challenges. Citing a proliferation of factors driving uncertainty and instability — along with a new resurgence of unilateralism — he said such global threats as terrorism can only be confronted through deeper cooperation. Stressing that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States must be respected, he also joined other speakers in demanding a greater voice for developing countries.

“To blame multilateralism for the dismal situation of the Council,” said India’s delegate, “is […] like blaming Madison Square Garden for the failure of the New York Knicks” basketball team. While the Council has expanded its remit to address more emerging crises it has nevertheless remained rooted in the past. In particular, the Council’s membership structure diverges from today’s global reality, leading much of the world’s population to feel disenchanted. In that vein, he warned against decisions reached by a few powerful States in a “subterranean universe”, ostensibly on behalf of the entire United Nations.

The Head of the European Union delegation — one of several regional blocs participating in today’s debate — observed that, against today’s complex backdrop, diplomacy must be global, regional and local at the same time. Multilateralism is not only a more democratic way to deal with international affairs, but the only realistic way to address national interests. Europeans have advanced those interests over the past 60 years through multilateralism, rather than in spite of it. No State is big and powerful enough to address today’s great challenges alone, he emphasized, adding: “The alternative would not be the rule of nation States; it would be complete chaos.”

The United States’ representative, striking a different tone, said that the taxpayers in her country — the largest contributor to the United Nations — have at times wondered whether multilateralism has been a bad deal. Underlining their right to expect a return for their contributions, she stressed that “multilateralism is not good in and of itself but is a means to an end”. That principle fails when it does not support the goals of peace, security and human rights, or when United Nations bodies such as the Human Rights Council give abusive regimes a pass. Those activities do not deserve the support of the United States, she stressed, warning the United Nations not to take its most generous donor for granted.

In contrast, the representative of the Russian Federation cautioned powerful States not to use their dominance to brazenly circumvent the Council’s resolutions or behave in unilateral ways. Citing attacks on the Middle East peace process, violations of World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements and withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change — based largely on “imagined sins” by other States — he recalled that false pretexts were also used to justify interventions in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011, with disastrous and lingering results across the region. Meanwhile, in the Balkans, States are being dragged into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), he said, emphasizing that such alliance-based mind sets are catastrophic for the principles of multilateralism.

Iran’s representative stated: “True multilateralism is founded on inclusion instead of exclusion, cooperation instead of confrontation.” Echoing concerns about the doctrine of withdrawal from international instruments and institutions practiced by a member of the Council, he said that included its exit from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme. “The world should not allow the United States to pursue its unilateral, arrogant and self-centred policy,” he stressed, adding that such actions would result in a world order founded on power, not law.

Venezuela’s delegate, speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, echoed concerns about the growing trend in some States to resort to imposing unilateral sanctions that undermine the Charter of the United Nations and international law as a whole. Stressing that all global challenges should be approached in a just, equitable and collective manner, he expressed concern over the plight of innocent civilian victims where force is used or when sanctions are imposed — including by the Security Council. Calling upon all States to promote the principles of the non-use of force and the peaceful settlement of disputes, he also urged the Secretary‑General to make greater use of the International Court of Justice, the main judicial body of the United Nations.

Ethiopia’s delegate, urging the United Nations to learn not only from its past successes but also from its mistakes, said the main question now is how to render the Organization more effective and efficient in facing twenty-first century challenges. Underlining the need to remain true to the Charter’s preamble — “We the peoples” — he said change must begin at the top, with the Council’s permanent members. Also underlining the continued importance of the Charter principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and non-interference in States’ domestic affairs, he said the United Nations must remain at the core of the world’s multilateral system, adding: “It’s ultimately an Organization we can’t live without.”

Also speaking were representatives of Sweden, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Poland, France, Netherlands, Equatorial Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Bolivia, Peru, United Kingdom, Liechtenstein, Japan, Mexico, Slovenia, Italy, Guatemala, Australia, Pakistan, Spain, Algeria, South Africa, Tunisia, Switzerland, Republic of Korea, Estonia, Argentina, Singapore (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Hungary, Azerbaijan, Canada, Germany, Cuba, Rwanda, Qatar, Turkey, Brazil, Lithuania, Portugal, Egypt, Ireland, Indonesia, Norway (for the Nordic countries), Georgia, Colombia, Latvia, Kenya, Armenia, Oman, Morocco, Viet Nam, Belarus, Mali, Belgium, Philippines, Ecuador, Malaysia and Bangladesh, as well as observers for the African Union, Holy See and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 6:05 p.m.

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